Watershed for NUNW

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek Leading researcher at the Labour Resource and Research Institute (Larri) Herbert Jauch has described the upcoming National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) congress as a landmark event, which could either further weaken or rejuvenate the biggest labour federation in the country. He noted that the much-anticipated 4th Ordinary NUNW congress, which is set to start tomorrow in the capital, is definitely a turning point and a defining moment in the history of the federation. It is not important who gets elected at the congress, he said, but it is vital that the delegates view the elections at the congress as free and fair. “However, whoever gets elected will need the support and blessing of all the affiliates to steer the union in the right direction.” Jauch added that the infighting, which has characterised the unions lately, could put the elections at the congress under the spotlight. The researcher added that it is difficult to predict the outcome of the congress because it is the highest decision-making body and decisions that have been taken by the central committee prior to congress such as the nominations of delegates could be overruled. He added that the delegates have not really expressed themselves on the matter publicly and people should not confuse the views of the union leaders with those of the members. “We will get a real good sense once the congress gets underway and the delegates start flexing their muscles.” Jauch believes that the workers will look at the track record of the office bearers to re-elect them or elect new ones and not so much their factional politics. “Workers will review what the office bearers have done in the last four years in addressing the plight of the workers.” He however added that it would be difficult to measure the impact the current leaders have made towards improving conditions for workers. He said the NUNW leadership in the last four years has been preoccupied with political issues, namely the Swapo Extra Ordinary Congress in 2004, the presidential and national elections in 2004 and the build up to its own congress. “Regrettably, issues such as the Ramatex, EPZ and general working conditions have taken a back seat.” Jauch noted that the federation has generally faired poorly and failed to influence policy and has not been in contact with the workers. He is however optimistic that some of the issues on the agenda of the congress are good for the future of the federation. He highlighted the topic on whether union leaders should be allowed to be in management positions in public or private institutions as an interesting topic. “I really hope that the workers take control of the unions and not the union leaders controlling the unions.” He added that the workers should realise that labour power has declined and individuals have used the NUNW as a stepping-stone to top positions in government. The NUNW first vice president Alpheus Muheua appears to be in a strong position to be elected as the new president of the NUNW, while former MUN president Connie Pandeni has also been nominated. Muheua has been nominated as presidential candidate by seven of the nine affiliates of the NUNW. The first vice president has been nominated by the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), Namibia Farm-workers Union, Namibia Financial Institutions Union (NAFINU), Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU), the Namibia Domestic Workers Union, Namibia Music and Arts Association and the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (NATAU), with the MUN nominating Pandeni. Only the nomination of the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) was outstanding at the time of going to press. The nominations from the seven affiliates have also put David Namalenga, Elias Manga and Evilastus Kaaronda in strong positions to become first vice president, second vice president and secretary general respectively. The three union leaders have also 100 percent backing from the seven affiliates who have forwarded their nominations. Kaaronda, who was elected deputy secretary general at the last congress, has been acting as secretary general since the suspension of Peter Naholo almost two weeks ago. The 4th Ordinary Congress of the NUNW will take place from April 28 to 30, 2006 at the Windhoek College of Education and will be officially opened by President Hifikepunye Pohamba. Meanwhile, Nammic has sponsored the May Day celebrations for Monday as well as organising a dinner for the congress delegates tomorrow at the Safari Hotel.