Government’s announcement last weekend that it has reached consensus with Nantu and Napwu to all but end the ugly teachers’ strike of last week, was unfortunately followed by nasty exchanges that threatened the spirit in which the agreement was reached.
Moments after the agreement was reached at State House, the teachers’ union rushed to its headquarters to address a hastily convened press conference, at which it fired salvos in the direction of Education Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa.
Hanse-Himarwa would not take it lying down and she herself had something to say to Nantu’s Basilius Haingura – much to the chagrin of the watching public.
The spat between the two leaders left much to be desired and could go a long way in destroying what is left of the relationship between the institutions they lead.
If the two had anything to say to each other, they should have used the many meetings they had to sort out what now appear to be personal differences – and not a clash of principles, as the public was initially made to believe.
For starters, it was because of the two institutions’ egotistic and hard-headed stance that classes were suspended for two days countrywide and important Grade 10 and 12 exams postponed.
This makes us wonder whether failure to reach consensus on the teachers’ salaries was due to genuine differences of principles between Nantu and the ministry, or what appears to be beef between the two leaders.
Haingura and Hanse-Himarwa cannot speak in conciliatory tones at State House, but get onto each other’s throats moments after the adjournment of the meeting at which the landmark agreement was announced.
It is, therefore, our call that the two leaders deal with their differences maturely, so that when they meet again at a negotiation table in future – which is quite likely to happen – the focus will be strictly on the welfare of their respective constituencies and mandates.
Teachers, learners and government should no longer get caught up in squabbles they have nothing to do with.
We will not go into the mathematics of their arguments and take sides as to who was right or wrong in this emotional confrontation.But quarrelling mere moments after they shook hands and proposed a toast to healthy deliberations in the future was untenable and undermines what the nation thought was a wage negotiation process where consensus was reached in good faith.
It is time for the ministry and Nantu to smoke the peace pipe for the sake of future relations and for the sake of our children’s education. What happened last week – teachers downing chalk and chanting in the main streets – was scary and, we dare say, un-Namibian. We are grateful though that consensus was reached.
In closing, we want to express our displeasure that President Hage Geingob has to unlock almost every dispute in the country. The President must nevertheless be commended for his wisdom and negotiating acumen, but it is time he is rested from some of these quarrels.
President Geingob’s mandate is far bigger than sitting in on every meeting to resolve things that government institutions should be able to handle and amicably solve.
The President’s humility to attend to things miles below his direct mandate is commendable, but perhaps it is time everyone else comes to the party.