'Fire him, Hage'

The Swapo-affiliated umbrella union has demanded Cleophas Mutjavikua's resignation or his dismissal, but the Erongo governor says his comments were edited.

28 February 2019 | Labour

The National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) has accused Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua of instigating mass retrenchments in the mining sector, after recordings were leaked of the politician giving advice to a Chinese mine manager about how to 'reorganise' the Husab uranium mine workforce.

The union has called on the governor to resign. They said if he failed to do so, President Hage Geingob should fire him.

Mutjavikua was adamant yesterday that he had never used the word “retrenchment”.

“The circulating audio recording has been edited and is only a fraction of the total conversation,” he said at a press briefing.

According to Mutjavikua the audio recording was made last week after he was called in to mediate in salary negotiations.

“We negotiated for two days,” he said, describing this as an annual event.

He admitted that he had used the word “reorganising”, but insisted that was in the context of “systems and processes” at Husab.

“The reason is that they want to link the annual salary increases to the performance of the company, which will then be a completely different ballgame,” he said.

“But I made it abundantly clear that no job must be lost. On the contrary, we are constantly negotiating with Swakop Uranium ... to create even more jobs.”

In the leaked audio recording Mutjavikua and a Chinese mine manager allegedly discuss the “reorganisation” of Husab mine. The governor can be heard stating that President Geingob was unlikely to support the “reorganisation” plan since it was an election year.

NUNW secretary-general Job Muniaro yesterday accused Mutjavikua of instigating public violence in the Erongo Region. As Muniaro was speaking, NUNW members shouted slogans such as, “Down Mutjavikua, down!”.

Muniaro said the NUNW was “peacefully requesting” Mutjavikua to resign and join the ranks of the unemployed.

“If he does not resign, President Hage Geingob must fire him with immediate effect ... We will fight until he is unemployed like the mineworkers who lost their jobs in the region.

“The rights of workers in the mining sector of Erongo have been tampered with by the governor and his so-called good friends, the Chinese, at the Husab mine.”

Muniaro said the NUNW condemned the reorganisation suggested by the governor.





Muniaro stressed that Mutjavikua was supposed to be fighting for workers but instead he was calling “secret meetings” to make sure that workers lost their jobs.

“We thought Erongo had a leader. It is so painful that people entrusted with our votes betray us like this,” the union leader said.

Muniaro said the governor was advising the company how workers could be retrenched.

He alleged that the governor suggested using a clause in the Labour Act to reorganise Husab by “lying to the labour commissioner”.

According to Muniaro, the governor wanted to make sure that the mine's recognition agreement with the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) was cancelled.

“He also told them that the unions would be upset when they heard what he was advising the managers [to do]. If this advice was truthful, why was it leaked? You trapped yourself with lies.”

Muniaro further claimed that Mutjavikua had instigated the recent closure of mines in the region, which led to thousands of workers being laid off.

“It is clear it was instigated by him. The price of workers losing their jobs must be paid by him. He must join the unemployed.”

Muniaro also wanted to know what Mutjavikua was referring to in the recording when he said it was an election year and that Geingob would be angry with him.

“Does this mean you do not need workers at all, but they are only needed by the president, because you are just appointed? Does it mean workers must not vote for your appointing authority?” he wanted to know.

“Mutjavikua is in fact embarrassing the president, who is tirelessly fighting for employment,” said Muniaro.

“He is betraying the president. The governor of Erongo is a liar. All the liars that have been appointed must go. They are destroying lives.”

Muniaro said Namibians should stop trusting Mutjavikua because he was not worthy of their trust.

“You failed and betrayed all workers and must live with that failure until the day we bury you.”

Muniaro said NUNW would fight for the protection of the workers.

“This country is for Namibians and not those fighting to become Namibians and who are passive robbers.”

He further threatened that if “the Chinese did not behave” in Namibia, the unions would take the law into their own hands.

After the leaked recording spread like wildfire, the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) also called a media conference where they condemned the governor's statements.

“We demand a public apology,” said regional MUN chairman Abiud Kapere.

According to him the term “reorganising” was just a “nice word” for retrenchments.

He expressed shock that “those who have been elected or appointed to advocate for the interests of Namibian citizens are in fact in bed with the enemy, under the pretence of advancing foreign investments”.

ELLANIE SMIT & ERWIN LEUSCHNER

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