The failure by the country’s largest federation, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), to address bread and butter issues is what led to the formation new labour organisations.
This was the view of Namibia National Labour Organisation (NANLO) Evilastus Kaaronda during an interview with New Era yesterday ahead of Monday’s International Workers’ Day celebration, also known as May Day.
The former NUNW secretary general said it has taken workers a long time to divorce the nostalgia of the liberation struggle from the present-day economic realities of workers and the society in which they find themselves today.
“Looking at life through such a prism of nostalgia resulted in the workers believing that the only vehicle that was capable to deliver the promise of economic prosperity and freedom through workplace struggles was one linked to or associated with the liberation movement that in today’s Namibia became the ruling party,” said the firebrand trade unionist.
“As we have come to learn the workers were wrong. The result of that was the creation of more labour movements in the country, which in itself created the facade of fragmentation within the labour movement in the country,” he added.
Kaaronda says while on the face of it it may seem as if the labour movement is fragmented, the issues that led to the formation of new labour movements and organisations are cut deep and are objectively definable.
He said, despite all this, the country has seen a growing sense of shopfloor awareness, which in and of itself is liberating and uniting. According to him, this because shopfloor issues with which workers are confronted everyday give a greater credence to the unity and homogeneity of the struggle of the working class.
On the significance of May Day, Kaaronda said the country’s labour movement holds a greater promise for true workers’ consciousness and better prospects for stronger shopfloor mobilisation.
In contemporary Namibia, he said, the meaning of May Day is probably somewhat misunderstood and abused by both workers and employers. “Government, of course, helped this state of affairs by adding some political flavour to it like it did with most other national activities,” he said.
He said until workers take charge of their own destiny and recapture the shopfloor and free themselves from the liberation struggle nostalgia, as well as narrow party political loyalties in matters where it is unwarranted, May Day will always be “the lost day”.
Further, Kaaronda said he still has political ambitions and studying the current squabbles in his party (Swapo). “I cannot see why I should not come back and actively put my skills to better use and benefit the Swapo party. The current leadership has been so much a greater part of the divisions within the party that none of them actually deserve to point fingers to anyone,” he said.
“My comrades in the youth league have done more and actually continue to do more damage to the youth league than is necessary. It’s almost as if the party is on autopilot!” he added.
Kaaronda says he is thinking about uniting the Swapo party and remarked that the fact that he is quiet does not mean he approves of the current state of “chaos” within the party and the leadership of the youth league.