There is no need for any police presence at the picketing points where striking teachers will assemble, Basilius Haingura, the general secretary of the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) said yesterday.
Haingura was responding to the affidavit of police chief Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, who recently said the Namibian police would not be able to contain the strike.
Haingura said teachers are professionals and not unruly hooligans bent on disruptive behaviour.
In court papers filed by his legal representative, Kennedy Haraseb of Metcalfe Attorneys, Haingura stated: “I must unfortunately point out that if the Inspector General intends to say that there is a probability that the strike will automatically cause loss to lives, damage to property and the many other factors of doom and gloom dealt with by him should be accepted by the court simply because there is an intended strike, then, the good general’s affidavit, in essence says, that teachers will never be able to go on strike.
“I demonstrate this with reference to paragraph 18 of the Inspector General’s affidavit – he has 18 000 police members under his command. It is known to the respondent that only 19 473 members will definitely go on strike. I do not believe that the good general can be serious if he suggests, lest there is one policeman per striking teacher available to see that the strike is conducted in a lawful manner, chaos will erupt.”
He further asked the court to dismiss the application, with costs to include one instructing and two instructed counsels.
In reply, Ndeitunga, represented by Khadila Amoomo, said it has come to his knowledge that more than 100 picketing points will be used, as opposed to more centralised points, where teachers will convene to exercise their right to participate in mass industrial action.
“I still maintain that these picket points are too many and would overstretch the capacity of my office,” he maintained.
“I would still prefer that the picket points be more centralised and unified in order to ensure the safety of the participants and other persons.”
According to Ndeitunga, he – notwithstanding the fact that he finds the picketing points cumbersome and too far apart – instructed his regional commanders to conduct a security assessment of all picketing points to assess the security and logistical requirements so as to ensure the strike is manageable from a security point of view.
“Again I emphasise that my constitutional mandate requires me to take measures and to ensure that I supply sufficient human, financial and logistical resources to avert any misconduct, some of which may be criminal, and to ensure that all parties are adequately protected,” the police chief stressed.
He went on to say: “I do not intend to paint a doom and gloom picture, as the first respondent (Nantu) seems to contend. I am merely being proactive in the furtherance of my constitutional mandate.”
According to him, preliminary assessments indicate that the situation is made worse by some of the chosen areas, which are apparently too close to security sensitive areas, such as Ondangwa Airport Open Space near the speed hump.
“This will put my office in a difficult position, because of the sensitive nature of airports and the security detail that is required to secure the area for all users”, Ndeitunga stated.
Another concern, he said, is that some of the picketing points are situated in unidentified riverbeds and amongst trees.
According to him, riverbeds are typical security hazards, because they are stony and bushy areas, making them difficult to navigate in the event it becomes necessary.
The submissions are part of an urgent application brought by the Office of the Prime Minister before the Labour Court at the Windhoek High Court to prevent the looming strike by the majority of teachers in Namibia. The application will be heard by Judge Thomas Masuku today.
The prime minister is the first applicant, the Public Service Commission (PSC) the second and the Minister of Education, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa the third.
The respondents are the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu), the Labour Commissioner, Conciliator Bester Maiba and the Inspector General of the Namibian police.
The government’s application asks the court to interdict and restrain Nantu and the teachers represented by it from embarking on strike action on October 13, pending the outcome of a dispute relating to the strike rules lodged at the Labour Commissioner.
The applicants will further ask the Labour Court to interdict and restrain Nantu and the teachers represented by it from carrying out or performing any activity in furtherance of the strike and to pay the costs of the application.
The applicants are represented by Advocate Raymond Heathcote SC on instructions of the Attorney General, while Nantu is represented by Advocate Andrew Corbett SC on instructions of Metcalfe Attorneys.