WINDHOEK - The verbal brawl between the Namibian Public Workers Union (Napwu) and the umbrella union National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) has turned the Napwu congress at Rundu on its head.
Napwu’s acting president Sarafina Kandere has accused the umbrella union of “promoting antagonism within the NUNW family” and of acting as a rival union to Napwu.
Kandere also accused the NUNW secretariat and its secretary general Evilastus Kaaronda of taking unilateral decisions and using “smokescreens to promote discontent among [Napwu] members and misleading [Napwu members] in getting rid of their democratic elected leaders”.
The long-standing difference of opinion between Napwu leaders and the NUNW’s Kaaronda turned into a public spat at the Rundu congress, with Napwu barring Kaaronda from entering the congress venue.
This is amid allegations of name-calling, hidden agendas and possible election rigging at the congress, where the current Napwu general secretary Petrus Nevonga is set to be re-elected to the position for another term.
The relationship between NUNW and Napwu soured over the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) where more than N$660 million of civil servants’ pension money was squandered through dubious investments involving highly placed individuals.
Nevonga served as GIPF trustee when the squandering of money took place and is alleged to have benefited directly from some of the business dealings.
Subsequent investigations found that GIPF trustees did not carry out their fiduciary duties to protect civil servants’ pension monies.
NUNW’s Kaaronda, along with a concerned group of civil servants, have been calling for action to be taken against the trustees and the business people who benefited, many of whom did not pay back their share of the N$660 million that they received as loans.
There have also been calls for Nevonga to step down as the head of Napwu, which represents the civil servants.
An upbeat Kandere urged over 300 delegates at the congress not to be confused, asking them to refuse to be used to “achieve imperialistic objectives”.
“Assisted by imperial forces, our competitors now concocted programmes based on promoting social dialogue and encouraging our members to belong to so-called strong and independent trade unions,” said Kandere.
She accuses the NUNW of publicly declaring to unseat Napwu leaders through a GIPF debate that is not on the congress agenda.
Kaaronda allegedly set the mood when he showed up at the congress, something that angered Napwu leaders.
The Kavango Police Regional Crime Investigation Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Willie Bampton, vowed that police would be deployed at the congress venue to maintain peace and security during the congress.
“We do not want the same situation as last year during the Nabta congress where things got out of hand – therefore we will monitor the situation during the congress because we are mandated to do so,” said Bampton.
He added that the police were not invited by anyone, as reported in some local dailies, adding that the Namibian police need no invitation to any gathering.
Burning issues that are said to be haunting Napwu such as its financial report, election of a new leadership and some issues regarding the constitution of the union, will be tackled.