WINDHOEK - The NBC nationwide strike, which is now in its sixth day, has become a cause for serious concern, especially for rural communities across the country who depend on its services.
By the time of going to print there was no confirmation that the NBC strike would be on the agenda of today’s Cabinet meeting.
The NBC’s Director General (DG), Albertus Aochamub, said he hoped the strike would be tabled in the Cabinet meeting and said it ought to be treated as a matter of “urgency”. Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joël Kaapanda, did not want to comment on the issue yesterday, asking New Era to call back today.
The DG said the issue has also been brought to the urgent attention of the Office of the President, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General’s office.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Nahas Angula said he had no information about the NBC strike and had received only conflicting reports from the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Finance, and stopped short of elaborating. He said he had no instructions to intervene in the matter.
Angula said that the problem with State-Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) was that their boards sometimes think that they are powers unto themselves and often sign agreements with trade unions without consulting the ministers.
“They can’t deal like that, they are supposed to engage all parties involved,” said the PM. He said that some people were sending SMSes to media houses saying that they do not want the NBC, but fail to think about those in rural areas.
People living in rural areas say that their lives have come to a standstill since NBC employees went on strike last Wednesday, leaving listeners and viewers high and dry.
Many rural communities have been hard hit by the strike, since they can no longer access information on community meetings, death or funeral announcements and other pertinent information that they used to receive through radio.
“We have had a lot of complaints coming in since NBC went dead,” said Vetaruhe Kandorozu, Okakarara Regional Councillor.
He said many pensioners are in the dark about where to go for their monthly pension payouts, while those who want to buy or sell cattle at auctions have no idea where the next auction is taking place.
“The situation is a bit chaotic now, there are veld fires in the area, but people don’t know to what extent they are hazardous,” he said, adding that hopefully people would now see how important the NBC is.
Aminuis Regional Councillor, Erwin Uanguta, said that they felt like they were cut off from the rest of the world. “No news at all. We took the radio service for granted, now we see the shortfall,” he said, adding that a cattle auction is supposed to take place at Onderombapa at the end of this month but people are not aware.
Uanguta said although they heard of the death of the Paramount Chief of the Tswanas, Constance Kgosiemang, due to the interruption in the language services of the NBC, they had no further news regarding funeral arrangements.
The Aminuis councillor said Red Flag Day is this coming weekend and they are supposed to prepare for the memorial weekend together, but now they cannot communicate to all at the same time, and have to correspond telephonically.
“If that MTC tower falls, we will have to communicate like in the old days by sending messengers from one village to the next on horses or donkeys,” he said tongue in cheek.
Ovitoto Regional Councillor, Issaskar Kaujeua, said that NBC service interruption has affected many things in Ovitoto, from cattle auctions to pension payout announcements and general community announcements.
He said that just last week, the Bush Clinic Outreach Programme that attends to patients in the area came, but because people did not know about it they did not assemble at one point, as was always the case.
The councillor said the school board is supposed to meet at Okandjira on August 24, but he wondered how many people will show up since that was supposed to have been announced on radio. “We sent a car into the area to announce the meeting,” he said.
NBC made provision of N$9 million in its budget for salary increments and other demands by employees but did not get the funds in this financial year from government, which led to a deadlock in talks between the union and the national broadcaster.