Geingob eats humble pie

29 March 2018 | Local News

President Hage Geingob on Tuesday backed down on his proposal to dedicate Workers' Day celebrations to a nationwide clean-up campaign, after sharp criticism from local and international unions, who blasted the suggestion as an attack on workers and the unions.

A letter addressed to Geingob from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), sent last week to State House, warned that changing the “scope of May Day represents an attack against the legitimate activities of trade unions in Namibia and are a blow for the whole trade union movement around the world. We strongly denounce it.”

The ITUC emphasised that Workers Day celebrations internationally “are recognised as the cornerstone of democratic societies, and they represent the achievements of generations of working people struggling for their rights”.

On Tuesday, letters sent to cabinet and unions, signed by the president, announced the retraction of his proposal, based on his wish not to “create the impression that I want to detract attention from the singular significance of May Day in our calendar”. The ITUC letter followed after they were briefed by the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) two weeks ago “about the attack on the May day”, secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha told Namibian Sun yesterday. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow in the letter urged Geingob “to quickly withdraw the Clean Day proposal and to keep May Day celebrations dedicated to the labour struggles around the world”.

Kavihuha said yesterday the union was grateful to ITUC for “promptly responding to the uncalled for behaviour of the president, and for their support of trade unions, and not allowing anyone to tamper with the achievements and sacrifices of workers”.

The unionist said the president's withdrawal of the proposal indicated that “he also realised he was playing with fire”.

In a letter addressed to the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNWU) on Tuesday, Geingob wrote that “after careful consideration of external pressures bearing on the labour movement, with regard to the choice I made on May 1, 2018 for the clean-up campaign, I have chosen to consider another date beyond Labour Day for the activity”.

Geingob wrote that the labour movement has played a “central role in our liberation struggle, with our call for freedom informed to a large extent by better living conditions for Namibian workers”.

The clean-up campaign has now been rescheduled to take place on 25 May, on Africa Day, the president stated.

In a letter to George Simataa, secretary of cabinet, Geingob said that in preparation for the clean-up day, regional governors and local authorities have been instructed to coordinate the process nationwide, by mobilising communities in their respective regions to “clean up our towns, suburbs and villages”.

Environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said a national clean-up campaign complements the ministry's newly launched national waste management strategy.

“All Namibians should support this initiative wholeheartedly,” he said, referring to the president's call for Namibians to join the effort to keep the country clean.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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