Nurses, Unionists, Hypocrites and Capitalists

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Allow me space in your esteemed newspaper to comment on the recent state of affairs in the trade union movement in the country. The trade unions are a very important sector in any given community as they are entrusted with protecting the true movers of the various economies, being the workers, Despite the fact that it is the workers who normally get the work done, it is their capitalist bosses who at the end of the day pocket the huge profits and quickly forget about the workers who have provided for the huge profits they have. The founding fathers of the country, convinced of the importance of the trade unions and therefore enshrined the right to join, and from trade unions in Article 21(1) e of the Namibian constitution which states that: All persons shall have the right to freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations or unions, including trade unions and political parties. It is because of this capitalist tendency by the employers in this country that the unions have a huge task on their shoulders in ensuring that the interests of the workers are at all times protected and that they get a fair share of what they produce. Trade unionists should always bear the interest of the workers at heart and they should advance the interest of the workers at all times without fear, favour or compromise. This brings me to the current red-hot issue of the nurses and the tug of war between the two unions claiming to represent the interests of the nurses. The Namibian Public Workers Union (NAPWU) believes that the industrial action by the Namibia Nurses Union (NANU) was unprofessional and uncalled for. NAPWU went further by accusing NANU of misleading the nurses in this country. Both unions claim they have the majority of the nurses behind them but, as to who really enjoys the majority, only the ballot can tell. However, before we speak of elections in the hospital corridors for the nurses to have their bargaining agent, allow me first to critically analyse the current state of unionism and how the workers in this country are being sold out by the unions. The recent incident involving the nurses is a classic example of the divide-and-abuse strategy by the country’s political elite and indeed the entire the community of petty bourgeoisie where unions are pitted against one another by the employers to abuse the workers. The politically affiliated trade unions in this country have for a very long time been used as a stepping stone towards political glory by the opportunistic hypocrites who claim to have the interests of the workers at heart. We should remember that Mr Shopati, the secretary-general of NANU, is a nurse by profession, and Mr Nevonga who is the secretary-general of NAPWU has never been a nurse in his entire life yet he has the audacity to claim that he knows the nurses conditions better than Mr Shopati and the other nurses in NANU. At all times when NAPWU spoke against the NANU demonstration, not a single nurse sat by his side, thus leading to the laymen believing that not a single nurse supports his opportunistic attempts to please his political bosses in SWAPO, and betraying the nurses in this country. Mr Shopati, a nurse by profession, knows the pain, pressure and suffering of nurses better than Mr Nevonga who should just let the nurses represent themselves in their union, like the teachers. The nurses have every right under Article 21(1)e of the constitution to form their own union. He is just compromising the rights of the nurses with his political opportunism of trying to please his political bosses. We should at all times remember that Mr Nevonga’s union NAPWU is a member of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) whose president is a member of the management structure in the Office of the Prime Minister where negotiations for conditions of service for civil servants take place. Mr Muheua is a senior employee in the public service and is at the same time the most senior NUNW official who presides over the likes of Mr Nevonga, and others. This means that Mr Muheua employs public servants at a monthly salary and simultaneously claims to be representing his very employees as a trade unionist. That is hypocrisy of the highest order and indeed an abomination because a trade unionist cannot sit in the lobby of the employer or employee. The government is the biggest employer. Therefore, where does Mr Muheua’s loyalty lie? Is it at paying his bills with the salary he gets from government as a senior employee in the civil service or in his political ambition of using the workers to get to parliament? He should redefine his role and know what he wants in life. Mr Muheua has shamelessly admitted to compromising the interests of the workers by stating on national television that he remains neutral on negotiations between the government and the unions. The role of a trade unionist is not to remain neutral during negotiations but rather to steadfastly fight for the rights and well-being of the workers without fear, favour or compromise. The situation as narrated above means that the interests of the Namibian workers and especially the civil servants are being compromised by NAPWU, and indeed the NUNW. All progressive citizens in this country should rally behind the nurses and provide them with unwavering support and solidarity as they seek for the betterment of their service conditions. It is indeed the nurses who are being insulted day in and day out in the corridors of hospitals and clinics and are under extreme pressure levels which the likes of Nevonga, Muheua and many others like myself can only imagine. We should, as a nation, appreciate the tireless efforts and dedicated services of nurses despite their poor pay. These are people who work under extreme emotional pressure as they witness people passing away on a daily basis, a scene many would wish not to see at all in their lifetime. The least we can do for the nurses is to appreciate and treat them with highest degree of respect. We should all salute Mr Shopati and NANU for standing firm in their fight for better working conditions, and they should march on with their revolutionary approach towards trade unionism in the land of the brave. Finally, let me conclude by taking those to task who say nursing is a calling and they should not take to the streets. The moment somebody puts that statement across in this capitalist Namibia then that person is deliberately avoiding the truth and is trying to mislead the motherland and her children. Every single profession is a calling and people should not try to fool others by implying that some work is just a calling while the rest are professions where huge pays are demanded. Minister Kamwi, who is at the forefront of claiming that nursing is a calling, should remember that he is a politician , which is more than a calling. It is indeed voluntary work, yet he enjoys a huge salary plus perks and he expects others to work for peanuts. Mr Kamwi is also a nurse who has deserted the calling in search for greener pastures and now expects others to heed the call without proper remuneration. If he is committed to the calling, why did he accept a brand new ministerial Volvo, not budgeted for, instead of letting the Volvo money address the concerns of the nurses? Who is fooling who? He will never allow himself to do his political work for the salary of a nurse and should thus not think of others as being less human than himself by implying that they don’t deserve more than what they earn. The fact that he migrated from nursing to the lavish and luxurious lifestyle, means that nurses are not getting enough. If the calling is so strong, why not go back and heed the call? Minister Kamwi is Minister of Health in this country, yet he doesn’t receive treatment at State hospitals because he knows they are sub-standard. Yet he claims that those who save lives day after day in those hospitals are not deserving of better living conditions – sheer hypocrisy! As for the political opportunists camouflaged as trade unionists, they should just drop their act and shape up or ship out. Mr Muheua should choose whether he wants to be an employer or an employee and should not continue doubling up. The right wing capitalist politics sweeping across the unions should be stopped right away as it is compromising the interests of the workers in this country. The NUNW’s capitalistic approach towards trade unionism is compromising the good work for their SG Evalistus Kaaronda who is trying to re-ignite the flame of revolution in the trade union movement. Let the struggle for the workers and the poor continue without fear, favour or compromise. The politicising of trade unionism by SWAPO is a blatant violation of the constitution which guarantees all citizens in this country the freedom of association. The workers reserve the right to be represented by whoever they want, but not by a union that conspires with the government. Natjirikasorua Tjirera Omukuejuva uopera

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