12 February 2013

Namibia: Farmworkers' Union Suspends Top Brass

THE ongoing squabbles within the Namibian Farmworkers' Union (Nafwu) show no signs of abating as the union suspended three of its senior members on Friday.

The president of Nafwu, Ronell de Jong, allegedly served letters of suspension on the union's acting general secretary Rocco Nguvauva, his deputy Moses Katifa and an office administrator Gweneth Phillip.

Nguvauva confirmed that he had received a letter of suspension from De Jong but said no reasons were given.

"The letter only stated that I will be informed of the charges and any disciplinary hearing within seven days," Nguvauva said.

He hinted that the move to suspend them was done unconstitutionally but was not prepared to divulge more information, allegedly out of fear of victimisation. He referred all further queries to De Jong.

The Namibian is reliably informed that the suspension letters also instructed the suspended unionists not to talk to the media or donors of the union.

The latest shenanigans in the corridors of Nafwu came shortly after its former general secretary Alfred Angula was fingered in alleged financial irregularities involving donor money from Belgium.

Angula, who is now the acting secretary general of the National Union of Namibian Workers, the umbrella union movement under which Nafwu falls, is accused of financial irregularities running close to N$500 000, according to recent media reports.

He is said to have requested funds from Nafwu coffers for various union activities although he was no longer tasked with the day-to-day running of its affairs.

Some staff members allegedly did not receive their correct salaries when Angula was in charge.

Angula denied any wrongdoing and said that any investigation into the financial matters of the union would vindicate him. The international donors, who discovered the alleged financial irregularities after an audit, are now considering pulling the plug on further funding of the union unless Nafwu gets its house in order.

The Namibian could not establish whether the suspensions were linked to suspicions that the information about alleged financial irregularities were leaked from within the union offices.

The suspended three were allegedly instructed not to enter the premises of the union but defied the order and reported for work yesterday.

This allegedly prompted De Jong to threaten them with police action while she also promised to change the locks of the offices to keep the suspended leaders out.

Angula denied allegations that he had exerted undue pressure on De Jong to have the three members suspended. He could also not confirm whether any link exists between the suspensions and the alleged financial irregularities.

"I first have to consult with the president of Nafwu (De Jong) before I can tell you anything. All I know is that Nafwu held an executive committee meeting last week where various issues concerning the union were discussed," he said.

De Jong did not respond to a voice message left on her mobile phone after she earlier indicated that she was in a meeting.

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