OSHAKATI - Pensioners and job seekers in the Oshana Region are fuming over the strike by employees of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), which has effectively paralysed the national broadcaster’s radio and television services.
In the rural preserves of the north-central and north-eastern regions, NBC radio has been the sole source of communication and information dissemination, in spite of the fast growing use of cellular phones.
Villagers rely on NBC radio to get messages from the councillors, death notices, vacancies and pensioners’ payouts.
Over the years the entrance to the NBC offices at Oshakati have been an unofficial jobseekers’ centre.
Dozens of young men and women sit there every morning, hoping to be spotted by potential employers.
“But since the strike started everything has changed. It seems that potential employers are now thinking that since NBC is not working they need not maintain a presence there anymore. In fact, normally we advertise ourselves on the radio and that is how potential employers get to know that we are here,” said Popyeni Iithete, one of the jobseekers.
Another jobseeker, Timoteus Nepela, said he and other jobseekers would spend time in front of the NBC premises listening to the radio hoping to hear of vacancies. He said people who need domestic workers, gardeners or farm workers usually send out messages through NBC radio.
“All that is gone now and we are really ruined,” he said.
Nepela who is a regular at the NBC premises said over 20 jobseekers turn up at the national broadcaster’s premises on a daily basis, but since the strike started six days ago, the number has dwindled.
Feeling the worst of the effects of the strike are the elderly. Although she does not have a clear understanding of why NBC employees are on strike, Meekulu Mpingana Johannes from Ekuku village in the Oshana Region, said the strike has inconvenienced the elderly population in the north, who are likely to miss their monthly pension payouts due to the information blackout.
“We hear that the reason why NBC is not working is because some people are demanding salary increments. We don’t know if the money that they are fighting for is for us the elderly or for the youth. But whatever the reason, it is really disturbing,” said Meekulu Johannes.
“Right now I’m coming from a pension payout point at Onatshiku sha Laban village where I met a number of people who came from as far as Ongandjera, because they missed the payout in their areas. We are just here – we don’t really know what is happening,” said Meekulu Mweya Sakaria.
Apart from the pension payouts, the elderly also complain that they are missing out on important funeral announcements about relatives who reside in remote villages.
Meekulu Johannes said she recently learned about the death of a relative only after the person was buried already. She said most of the elderly people do not have cellphones and these days it has become difficult to hear what is happening.
“Apparently there is Omulunga Radio but most people do not even know if it exists. In fact, I just got to know of that channel’s existence recently,” said Meekulu Johannes.