Zorena Jantze & Marthina Mutanga
IN what could only be described as a dragged-out affair of waiting and desperate pleas to stop the liquidation of Air Namibia, employees through different representative unions handed their petitions to the government, as well as the SWAPO party.
The protest march to save the national airline from imminent liquidation saw two different protests in the capital, whilst the cabin crew workers opted to march from Khomasdal under the leadership of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA) to Zoo Park, the bulk of the workers marched from the headquarters of National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW)to the headquarters of the SWAPO party in Katutura.
With protestors growing impatient after waiting an hour, the Secretary-General of the SWAPO Party, Sophia Shaningwa arrived at the headquarters at 11 AM and received the petition from the emotionally charged workers.
Reading the petition to Shaningwa, a representative of Air Namibia and an affiliate of the national workers’ union, Beata Kane expressed shock at the mistaken Cabinet decision to liquidate Air Namibia.
She added that the NUNW acknowledges that Air Namibia like any other airline has experienced financial challenges and as a result has been receiving subsidies from the government.
Kane stated that NUNW agrees that given the financial challenges, Air Namibia needed some form of restructuring as a turnaround strategy.
“NUNW is therefore aware that there are alternatives to liquidation which could serve as a turnaround strategy and continue to serve its mandate, and the decision to liquidate the airline was malicious and sabotaging,” Kane said.
She said public enterprises minister, Leon Jooste acted in a dishonest manner, by underrepresenting and deliberately misdirecting the Cabinet to take a decision that is tantamount to violation of Article 95 of the Namibian Constitution on state policy.
Kane further chastised the public enterprises minister for not presenting to Cabinet professional reports as well as viable proposals presented to him in order to turn Air Namibia into a profitable entity.
Receiving the petition, the Secretary-General of the SWAPO party, Sophia Shaningwa said: “Thank you for expressing that you came to your mother, your mother means SWAPO and not the Secretary-General. If you are affiliates of the NUNW, it simply means you are members of the SWAPO Party. If not, coming here doesn’t mean you have a war with SWAPO Party, but rather that you have a problem with the decision that was taken. Your problem is not with the organization, but you are querying that the decision to liquidate Air Namibia be revisited. We will study the petition and we will get back to you. I should also indicate that in your petition, there were workable proposals to help out the airliner not to be liquidated. Whoever is having copies of those, please submit it to my office.”
Moving from the SWAPO headquarters to Zoo Park, protestors almost clashed with police as they opted to continue marching to Parliament to meet Prime Minister Saara Kuukongelwa-Amdhila.
The protesters’ decision did not sit well with law enforcement.
After waiting outside parliament for 30 minutes, a group of 50 protestors was finally allowed to enter the premises and hand in the petition to the Prime Minister.
Ndapewa Amupanda, an affiliate of the NUNW expressed disappointment at the Prime Minister and stated that it was rather difficult for the aggrieved workers to reach her office or even get her to come and meet the workers at the Zoo Park.
“As a mother, and a woman, speaking to another woman in a leadership position, I am very disappointed,” Amupanda said.
Receiving the petition, the prime minister said: “I have received the petition and I am going to convey it to the government and Head of State. I want to assure you that the government is concerned about the anxieties of workers. Cabinet will ensure that the best interest of workers and Namibians will be protected,” Kuugongelwa said.