Namibia: Swapo Skirts Around Shoprite Strike

SWAPO appears to be avoiding the ongoing countrywide labour dispute between Shoprite and its workers with youth league secretary Ephraim Nekongo says the ruling party wing will bring the matter to the union.

Nekongo said the nationwide strike has nothing to do with the ruling party and Swapo has no mandate to intervene.

"We can advise but we cannot do what the union is supposed to be doing. We cannot do the job of the union. Imagine me as the secretary for the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) closing down Shoprite. What mandate do I have?" Nekongo asked.

He made these remarks on Friday during his first SPYL national address for the year.

At that event, Nekongo criticised political parties and organisations that have been involved in the Shoprite stand-off saying they were opportunists.

Shoprite employees embarked on a nationwide strike on 23 December demanding better salaries.

The Shoprite Group owns retail stores such as Shoprite Checkers, Shoprite Stores, OK Foods, Hungry Lion and Usave.

The company has stuck to its initial proposal of giving workers between 5% and 10% wage increments without other benefits such as housing and transport allowances.

Nekongo said Swapo will leave the fight for better working conditions for the striking workers to the union representing them.

He also said the government had created an arm responsible for worker's affairs.

"Workers are our members but workers belong to unions as their bargaining units. Ourselves and the bargaining units have that relationship. The National Assembly, which is the parliament, should enact a law on a national minimum wage for all our people," said Nekongo.

He, however, said he supports the strike and wants the issue to be resolved soon.

The youth league leader urged the minister of Labour, Industrialisation and employment creation to protect the interest of the workers.

Meanwhile, the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) has also resolved not to take sides in the Shoprite dispute but help with mediation.

This comes after the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), which is representing the striking workers, asked IPC to help in any way to resolve the matter.

IPC national general secretary Christine Aochamus said the party will not get involved in the matter because its constitution does not allow affiliation or association to trade unions, a position she says allows the party to approach disputes independently and act as a mediator.

She said the party had also resolved not to intervene because Nafawu failed to provide them with relevant documentation for the party to fully acquaint itself with the issue.

She added that the party would also approach Shoprite representatives to get the company's side of the story before deciding on the matter.

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