A marriage of convenience

03 May 2019 | Opinion

The National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) has time after time defended its tripartite alliance with Swapo, even though the government of the day is often accused of ignoring the plight of the working class. The NUNW-Swapo alliance comes a long way and is linked to the ruling party’s formative years when contract workers formed the then Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC), the forerunner of OPO and Swapo. In later years, this association appeared to have been reduced to a marriage of convenience. In recent years, the ruling party politicians have been accused of using unionists in their fight for the Swapo soul. On the other hand, ambitious trade unionists are also ostensibly using their positions as a springboard for political office one day. A number of unionists who were radical in the heyday have seemingly turned a blind eye to the many challenges faced by the workers and dare not question the leadership when it comes to injustices meted out to working class. This long alliance between NUNW and Swapo is now going through its toughest test, judging by the deepening disunity amongst affiliate unions. The last Swapo congress, which elected Hage Geingob as the ruling party president, was not only rocked by Team Swapo and Team Harambee divisions, but unionists equally squared off. The bottom line here is that the union bosses are no longer focused on rebuilding unity and cohesion. Swapo leaders on the other hand are also not helping the cause through a renewal and re-invigoration of the fight for social solidarity and cohesion. It is thus safe to say that Swapo leaders and their Gucci-wearing union counterparts are far removed from the daily challenges facing Namibians, including the working class. They are all weakened and characterised by internal divisions instead of advancing the interests of workers. It is now really a case of “when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers most” as the old African proverb states.

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