Namibia: NBC Strike 'Deprives Communities'

Tondoro constituency councillor Joseph Sikongo has expressed concern over the ongoing strike at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), saying it is depriving politicians and communities of their constitutional right to access to information.

Sikongo is also the chairperson of the Kavango West Regional Council.

"We are disappointed about the ongoing, unresolved issue of bargaining salaries of NBC employees. Communities, especially in the rural areas depend on radio for news and entertainment. The rural communities are being disadvantaged in this process, not the NBC employees ... We are being held hostage by the strike, and I am really disappointed," he says.

He says the NBC's management should solve the issue as soon as possible.

The councillor says he is currently forced to drive from house to house and village to village to communicate.

Outjo councillor Johannes Antsino says he too finds it difficult to convey important messages to his constituents.

"We have places without network, and we have people who have no access to social media or the internet. It's more expensive to get the message to them now ... We usually write to the NBC to make our announcements in all local languages, but now it's extremely difficult for us to communicate," he says.

Some NBC employees have been on strike for the past three weeks.

They are demanding an 8% salary increase, as well as increased transport, accommodation and medical aid allowances.

They are also demanding that monthly contract workers are offered permanent contracts.

Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) deputy secretary general Gabes Adumba has insisted that employees' demands should be met without compromise.

PENSIONERS FEEL ISOLATED

Selma Kambonde (78) from Omandongo village in the Oshikoto region is one of many senior citizens who are affected by the lack of NBC radio transmissions.

"Life without a radio is like you are left in the dark. You cannot hear what is happening around you, nothing," she says.

"Our councillors would inform us through the radio of anything happening in our constituencies every day in the morning, but that has stopped.

"We would also be informed on our next pension collection dates through the radio, but now ... it's like the world has stopped moving," she says.

Kambonde is pleading with the government to come to the NBC workers' aid.

Amalia Sakeus, another affected pensioner, says: "The radio would discuss issues that affect us, especially us living in the rural areas, because we do not have televisions. Our grandchildren would be informed of vacancies and other important information via radio. Those without cellphones would be informed of their relatives' deaths or of funeral arrangements.

"The government must listen to the workers' plight so they can return to work. Other radio stations air programmes in English only, which we do not understand. We are on our knees, the government must assist the poor workers of the NBC."

Two weeks ago NBC board chairperson Lazarus Jacob said the board was committed to finding solutions to the national broadcaster's challenges.

"We are at this stage seized with finding funds that will ensure the sustainability of the business to be deemed as a going concern," he said.

However, minister of information and communication technology Peya Mushelenga last week said the government cannot afford salary increments.

On Wednesday last week NBC employees marched to parliament saying the broadcaster does not belong to politicians, but to the people of Namibia.

More From: Namibian

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