Workers Must Unite against Dishonest Employers – Iilonga

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By William Mbangula OMUNTELE The Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Peter Iilonga, has appealed to workers to unite in order to protect and safeguard their interests. He said employers who use divide and rule tactics, through victimisations such as retrenchments or restructuring, are abusing workers rights and dignity with impunity. When it comes to labour matters, dishonest employers have realised this weakness (disunity) among the workers hence their continuous exploitation of such shortcomings. Iilonga said this when he addressed Workers Day celebrations at Omugulugwonime village in Oshikoto Region on May 1. Speaking under the theme of the day’s celebrations, “Social movements affirm to fight for rights of workers with disabilities, a living wage and to fight against retrenchments and unemployment”, he noted that unlike during the colonial era when the workers were vocal in their fight for their own liberation, today s workers do not act in unison. Iilonga cautioned workers to fight against racial discrimination and tribalism, factors that he thinks could hamper cooperation and progress within the labour movement in the country. As a result of disunity, the workers do not attend labour rallies in big numbers as was the case before independence. On labour hire companies, which he described as a new system of slavery, the deputy minister told his audience that the Swapo government could not allow such an unacceptable system. The situation of labour hire companies, he pointed out, which are headed by some cabinet ministers has reached a high proportion and should be outlawed as a matter of urgency. Concerning the HIV/AIDS pandemic, he cautioned the nation to take care of itself by being faithful and to use condoms or abstain from sexual activities. He said: “If we continue to behave in such an irresponsible manner, we will all die of Aids and foreigners without even a fight will take this country.” The deputy minister told the rally that he had come to meet the people of Omuntele constituency to express appreciation for having offered him sanctuary during the war when he was a guerrilla fighter. He spent about two years (1977/1978) among the community here without being reported to the colonial authorities. Said Iilonga: “I am happy to be back with you here because I feel much safer to be with you. If you did not betray me to the enemy then I am comfortable to be with you as my comrades whom I should not forget.” According to Iilonga, he spent two years in the Omuntele area with the Johanna and Eino Nanyanga family operating underground. The couple, who are recipients of medals of bravery and commitment to the liberation struggle, also attended the rally at Omugulugwonime. Iilonga was eventually captured in the south of the country in 1978 and spent eight years on Robben Island. After his release in 1985, he and other former prisoners resurrected various labour unions under the Swapo affiliated National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) with he being elected the General Secretary of the Namibia Public Workers Union (NAPWU) until his election to parliament in 1999. He is now an associate member of the central committee of the NUNW.