Following what one thought may have been a consensus and an agreement between President Hage Geingob and the labour unions to engage on May Day in a national clean-up operation, media headlines seem to have it otherwise.
Later, the President ate humble pie and bowed to pressure, but for what exactly?
One would have thought the president could only have been fed humble pie and said to bow to pressure if the decision to have a clean-up campaign on May Day was his own unilateral decision.
Certainly, the unions have much explaining to do in this regard against the background of media headlines giving the impression that the president rammed this decision down their throats. This goes against the very essence of consultations, which was the reason why the unionists had an audience with the head of state to exchange ideas on this issue and others.
One such issue, which necessarily may not have been on the menu of the unionists but which ensued, is May Day, and the national mop-up campaign. Certainly, this could not have been a complex issue to catch the unions by surprise when it arose, as it may have with the president proposing that the day also be used for the envisaged mop-up campaign.
It is hard to believe that the unionists, given the nature of their meeting with the head of state, may have been presented with a fait accompli. Meaning they must have been at liberty not only to air their principled feelings but also to make counter-proposals. One finds it hard to believe that indeed the unionists made their principled feelings known there and then to the head of state and he was negative to the point of forcing the matter on the unionists.
Nor would one want to believe that the president, by suggesting a tidy up on May Day, maliciously intended to downgrade the day. If anything, it surely must have been an oversight on the part of the head of state, which the unionists, as it behoves them, as the champions of the rights of the workers – and thus the custodians of May Day – must there and then have pointed out the undesirability and incongruousness of such an idea, which vicariously and unintentionally may have denigrated the day. One understands the unionists requested to meet the president. Thus, they must have gone there with their agenda. Surely, one such pertinent issue must have been the celebration of May Day. Indeed, May Day being an important day on the yearly calendar of the workers, and thus the unionists, if not the most important, it must have featured prominently in these consultations. To have been rammed down their throats reversely from its usual celebration and substituted for a tidy up campaign, if the unionists indeed did allow this to happen then they simply betrayed the workers. In all honesty, how and for what can one really blame the president? For daring to suggest a clean-up campaign on May Day? Why blame him if the unionists themselves could not put a foot down and impress upon him the impermissibility and unacceptability of relegating such an important day on the yearly calendar of the workers. Simply, the president consulted on this noble task to be carried out and one is sure he must have been open to suggestions.
One really finds it bad faith on the part of the unionists who had the opportunity to make their position clear to the president but did not seem to have done so only to warrant the intervention of the International Trade Union Confederation (ICTU) to convince the president about the unacceptability and indecency of his proposal. Only to implicate the president in unwarranted negative media publicity insinuations and innuendos that he intended not only to hijack the day but also to denigrate it. Certainly, the unionists who met the president owe the public an explanation.
One cannot but be conscious of the fact that unions affiliated to the Swapo Party of Namibia, of which Dr Hage Geingob is now the president, are an important cog in the party’s governing works. It goes without saying that they must have more influence than they would realise. It is thus baffling that they are unable to convince the president about the sacrosanctity of the day to them and the workers, only to run to ICTU while that opportunity is and has been all along at their doorsteps. Unless the unions want to tell us they are now only a shadow of their former selves and the alliance partnership in Namibia has never been. If the unions are really not able to make the president wise on such a basic issue (for which surely he cannot need much brain-bushing for someone of his calibre and conviction), can they really be trusted to ensure more fundamental and cardinal matters on behalf of the workers they represent on the national agenda, given that much still needs to be done regarding the rights of workers in