Namibia: Geingob Takes Back Seat On NBC

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob has decided to leave the unfolding Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in the hands of prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila after he was asked to intervene.

The Namibia Media Professionals Union (Nampu) secretary general Sakeus Iikela last week requested Geingob to immediately step in to find an amicable and sustainable solution.

NBC workers have been on strike for the last few weeks demanding salary increments and better working conditions after the management allegedly awarded themselves back-dated bonuses amounting to N$5,4 million. However, Geingob, through the minister in the presidency, Christine //Hoebes, responded to Nampu in a letter on Friday saying the NBC employees did not explore all avenues before deciding to strike.

Geingob further indicated that if he intervenes now it will be a top-down approach. "However, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), which is the exclusive bargaining unit, has petitioned the government in the meantime, a matter which the government is seized with," he said.

The president is currently waiting on the outcome of the petition without interfering.

On Friday, the aggrieved workers demonstrated to the parliament gardens where they handed over a petition to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, demanding the removal of the current management and an investigation into the corporation among others.

DARK TIMES

Labour expert Herbert Jauch said the outlook for the ongoing NBC strike is grim and will not be to their satisfaction. Jauch who was speaking on The Namibian's online talk show, 'The Conversation on Friday', likened NBC's state of affairs to the liquidated Air Namibia. However, he was quick to say that the country and government need NBC and cannot liquidate the national broadcaster because it is essential to access information.

"These indications we have of NBC need to be addressed systematically and when you say we are going to cut the subsidy over time then you need a strategy," he said.

Jauch stressed that the government's decision to cut NBC's budget allocation by more than half is unacceptable. NBC received a N$127,5 million subsidy from the government for the 2020/21 financial year, representing a 62% cut from N$334,1 million in the 2019/20 financial year.

He argued that the government should have anticipated the subsidy cut and put an action plan in place.

"They should have had a strategy to say what they are going to focus on and, in the current climate, the side-effects of cutting jobs would mean less tax income, greater strain on households and hunger increasing among school children," he explained.

Iikela, who was also on the show along with Jauch, also blamed NBC's dilemma on the government, the board and management. Both highlighted auditor general reports tabled in the National Assembly year after year, with NBC receiving unacceptable opinions yet the government turned a blind eye.

TO COURT

Meanwhile, Namibian Public Workers Union (Napwu) filed a lawsuit against the government, accusing it of sacrificing NBC employees as part of the government's N$3,7 billion bailout loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Key to Namibia's promise to the IMF was that the government was going to cut its wage bill and sell off or close a number of its assets, especially state-owned enterprises.

Napwu is suing the NBC, the government and finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi on behalf of striking workers at the national broadcaster.

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