Africa-Press – Namibia. Kuzeeko Tjitemisa
President Hage Geingob, who this week decided to cancel State visits to Jamaica and Cuba to attend to the potential nationwide civil service strike, has warned against intimidating non-striking workers.
He made this call on Monday in response to the over 42 000 civil servants who voted overwhelmingly to go on strike on a date to be announced after all procedures had been finalised between the government and bargaining unions, Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu).
While noting the voting process as having been peaceful and orderly, Geingob described it as an “unfortunate” decision by the civil servants inside the bargaining unit to vote in favour of an “ill-conceived strike”.
“The Namibian government would like to appeal to those who voted for the strike not to pressurise civil servants who are willing to work,” he said.
He said the government is fully aware of opportunists who would want to leverage the situation of striking workers to their advantage to foster divisions through populist rhetoric by advancing impractical solutions that will never work in the current difficult economic environment.
He said the government negotiating team (GNT) presented a new offer that increased the total value of the benefits (housing and transport) from the initial offer of N$226 million to N$335 million.
“The GNT reiterated to both Napwu and Nantu that the offer takes effect from the 2022/23 financial year (1 April 2022) and not from the 2021/22 financial year as per their initial demand,” he explained.
“The government has been emphasising the fact that under the current circumstances, it is necessary for cool heads to prevail and think hard about the socio-economic consequences of any industrial action on the part of the civil service,” said the Head of State.
According to Geingob, there are Namibians who lost their livelihoods as a result of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
Therefore, he said, those who are gainfully employed should show solidarity with those who are unemployed. “As some are seeking to proceed with a strike, it is crucial for all to understand that the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin,” he said.
Geingob said over the past seven years, the country has gone through the most challenging period in its 32-year history.
Since 2016, he said, revenue declined significantly due to a combination of weak global demand, low commodity prices, protracted droughts and low SACU receipts.
He said the government undertook remedial action to stabilise the economic situation, which included managing revenue through a fiscal consolidation strategy, which yielded the necessary results with a reduction of about 8% of government spending.
“Our fiscal consolidation strategy was internationally lauded, and the economy was projected to grow by 3% in 2020,” he said. However, Geingob said, the outbreak of Covid-19 eroded economic gains and prospects for a recovery, with significant government revenue dedicated to fighting the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus.
In addition, Geingob said, upon taking office for a second term in 2020, he cut the number of substantive cabinet portfolios, including the number of deputy ministers and special advisors to governors and ministers, as well as the benefits received by political office holders, such as the ability to buy new cars, which saved close to N$200 million.
Furthermore, he said, he does not only travel for the sake of it but at the invitation of other heads of state and government as well as established Multilateral Institutions and International Organisations, including the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“These official missions are not unique to Namibia but also standard practice across the world,” Geingob said.
Meanwhile, the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement yesterday issued a statement, saying: “Despite playing a crucial role in the growth of our children and the country as a whole, the government of the day relegated them [civil servants] to second class citizens.
“Our educational system and the profession itself have subsequently been devalued as a result of this predicament. As the movement of the people, we support all public servants and salute them for speaking out against the self-serving government.”
AR also said, “We caution all civil servants that it is during times like this that the capitalist unionists sell your voice to the self-serving government for their individual political expediencies. As a result, approach all feedback from them with vigilance and seek clarity of purpose from their reports.”