Minister Warns of Grave Consequences By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi has issued a warning to nurses throughout the country that if they involve themselves in the planned strike this month they must be prepared to face “grave consequences”. “No one is above the law. My suspicion is that the consequences are likely to be grave for those who will not listen. On that fateful day, nurses should be reminded that they will be handled individually and not collectively,” said Kamwi during an interview with New Era whilst on his working holiday to the north yesterday. “Those with muscles who want to fight the law or confront GRN, so let it be, because the law will then take its course and government will respond swiftly and efficiently to realise that the laws of the republic are respected,” he stressed. The cautionary remarks come just two days before the crucial consultative meeting the health minister will have with Prime Minister Nahas Angula tomorrow, as well as the officials from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Labour Commissioner Bro-Mathew Shinguadja and the government’s negotiating team. “The meeting Wednesday is called by the prime minister as head of government and the Public Service Commission as the appointing body of government. I will be briefing him on the latest situation of the nurses and be given advice from the labour officials – so that we all speak one language. Then it is up to the Prime Minister to see which way to take forward on the matter,” explained Kamwi. He added that the health management of the ministry would continue to stamp out the ignorance over the nurses’ issue. “Government will not allow patients to suffer at the expense of workers who deliberately go out on an illegal strike, knowing that the laws are in place. The republic’s laws must be respected,” said Kamwi. Besides the meeting, Kamwi will also brief the Head of State President Hifikepunye Pohamba before Cabinet resumes duties on Tuesday next week. The latest developments in the health sector come against the background of an imminent strike by nurses this month over what they claim to be the non-payment of overtime and poor salaries. A demonstration that was organised by the Namibia Nurses Union (NANU), which is not recognised by the health ministry as a bargaining union with government, was held late last year. This ultimately prompted the health ministry’s authorities to conduct urgent meetings with the nurses throughout the country to try and ease the situation and inform the nurses not to be misled about policies and the law. So far the health minister has visited nursing staff, representatives of the local and regional councils, church leaders and Swapo Party regional coordinators on the matter in several regions since last month. These include the regions of Karas, Hardap, Kavango, Caprivi, Erongo, Omusati, Oshana and partly Otjozondjupa. The Deputy Health Minister, Petrina Haingura, was also assigned to travel to Grootfontein yesterday and will take on Okakarara today (Tuesday) finishing off her mission in Gobabis in the Omaheke Region. Kamwi, who is currently having meetings with the nursing staff in the North, says that so far the message to nurses from government’s side is “getting out there loud and clear and it is up to the nurses to take the right steps”. Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Namibia Nurses Union (NANU) Abner Shopati informed New Era that their deadline of January 21st for government to resolve their grievances still stands. “Only after the expiry date of the deadline, then we will see what next step of appropriate action our members will be taking,” said Shopiati in a brief interview with New Era. He added that NANU’s members would also be holding a press conference tomorrow (wednesday) to map the way forward.
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