By Anna Ingwafa
It has been found that the labour hire system is not only immoral and indecent, but is equally counter-productive to the idea of a decent work agenda as adopted and promoted by the international Labour Organisation (ILO).
Labour Commissioner Bro-Mathew Shinguadja said this last week during the May Day commemorations held at the Oshakati Independence Stadium.
Shinguadja said that the new Labour Act with the unqualified support from the labour movement and individual employees as well as members of the public has attempted to outlaw what he termed “modern slavery”.
He singled out a labour hire company known as Africa Personnel Services (Pty) Ltd (APS) that has challenged the Government in the High Court over the section that prohibits the “contemporary form of slavery”.
“As it is well documented in Africa and the world beyond, notably in the UK and the USA, any attempt to abolish slavery was met with stiff and hostile resistance, parallel only to that of the liberation struggle for freedom and independence in colonial times. The resistance was and is still coming from these who benefited from the sweat and tears of the exploited employees, hence Namibia is no exception in this fight. What is clear is that this is a moral and legal battle we cannot afford to lose at all,” stressed Shinguadja.
The labour commissioner pointed out that any practice or business of renting human beings in the guise of business freedom is a direct contradiction of the liberation struggle gains and a clear insult to the working class as a whole, and this commodification of labour in search of profit maximization should be rejected completely.
Employees are called upon individually and collectively to support the Government’s efforts to have the labour hire system abolished from the Namibian labour market so as to create a fair, just, moral and decent labour market landscape for everybody.
Another area of concern, according to Shinguadja, is foreign direct investment (FDI) promotion. He agreed with the notion that FDIs are critical for the socio-economic development of every country, and made a call to trade unions to assist the Government in pointing out some “obscure transit investors” for appropriate action.
Despite Ramatex disinvesting in Namibia, all has not been lost, according to Shinguadja. “Many of our own family members who worked at Ramatex are here, and they are here with previously unknown skills, i.e. competencies in garments manufacturing. As a country, a government, a community, a business fraternity and labour movement, instead of moaning over the spilt beans, we need to devise ways and means of ensuring that the skills so acquired are not left to waste but put to good use.”
He pointed out that almost all public schools in Namibia, as well as public institutions like hospitals, law enforcement agencies and many more make use of uniforms which are manufactured outside Namibia.
“We should think of a public policy to have the State and its agencies including state owned enterprises’ uniforms manufactured in Namibia in order to create more jobs not only for the former Ramatex employees but also for other unemployed, mainly the youth.”
Shinguadja continued: “Employees should not be unnecessarily opposed to foreign investors but must be cautious and vigilant on their real motives and intentions. Are they here to create jobs and help us to develop this land, or are they here for quick bucks, exploitation and abuse? Let us learn and improve on them if they have the right skills and techniques for our own socio-economic growth and development.”