By: Kelvin Chiringa
A leaked audio of Erongo governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua in which he advises Husab mine management to weaken the power of the mine workers’ union has received widespread criticism.
The audio was leaked to the AR who confirmed that the governor was indeed selling out the workers to the Chinese by telling them “how to lie to the labour commissioner so that the Chinese can fire the workers”.
Mutjavikua has in the meantime come out in defense stating that the audio was edited.
But the AR is accusing the governor for being corrupt and “seemingly in the payroll of the Chinese” while screenshots of various people sending angry messages to Mutjavikua also emerged by Wednesday afternoon.
The mine is locked in a wage negotiation and this week its workers staged a demonstration demanding improved safety on the drilling and blasting site.
Some openly criticized the presence of Chinese expatriates as undermining local experts, The Villager has reported.
Mutjavikua can be heard in the audio clip saying, “Now this is very bad what I am proposing. If the union hears about this they will be very angry with me. In the Labour Act there is a clause on reorganization.”
“You agree on this (wages), whatever percentage. But you inform the union that I want to reorganize the company. And I want to inform the labour commissioner that I want to reorganize. In the reorganization clause the company take back their power.’’
“You tell the labour commissioner that I have a problem with the company and I want to fix something. But within that clause you have the power to force the union that if you don’t do (this) I will do this. Amongst others, we are proposing a change on the recognition agreement. Then you bring in those things.”
The Mine Workers Union of Namibia has breathed fire against the governor although they said they would be studying the audio and bring out an official statement.
The union’s secretary general Eben Zarondo summed up the audio as a disappointment and insult.
“I am waiting for the whole conversation, where has it started from because our structures from Erongo have called me regarding the issue and I am still waiting for the full report on the incident but we are very much disappointed.”
“One will expect serious action from the appointing authority which is the President. We are very disappointed. Mine Workers Union will not take it lightly and we will take a serious action regarding that audio. It’s an insult to the organisation as a trade union, it’s an insult to the members, and it is also a big insult to the Namibians at large.”
“Because when you hear that the government of the Republic of Namibia is sleeping in the same blanket with the investors who are the Chinese, and you are expecting such advice from the honorable governor advising the company to restructure, because restricting is a very serious term. When we are talking about reorganization, it might also cause retrenchment. So it’s serious advice that the governor was giving to the employer,” said Zarondo.
Job Amupanda voiced that this showed that “We are dealing with people who are concerned about themselves”.
“It’s concerning. Really concerning. We will be assisting our workers. So clearly everything is orchestrated, how much the workers should get is clearly orchestrated. What type of country are we living in? It is terrible,” he slammed.
Meanwhile, in the audio the governor warns the mine that the workers could potentially explode into a strike.
“You are not dealing with NAFAU. You are dealing with the Mine Workers Union. They have millions of dollars. They can sustain a strike for two or three months.”
In the background a concerned official inquires the potential ramification of the proposed reorganization.
“The political ramification will be just that the President will just be on my neck. That’s the only ramification. He won’t intervene, he won’t tell the workers. He will rather support them also.”
“In an election year you can’t just take that voting bloc and….I don’t know. I think you guys must just go back to your principals. But a 6% increase for two years will be possible. You say 6% for two years then you probably force them to agree.”
The governor has stuck to his guns that the audio was indeed edited adding that he did not advise the company to retrench.
“I did make it clear to the company that no one must lose their jobs. Indeed, I referred to re-organisation clause in the labour Act on a question relating to systems and processes which the company wanted to be addressed.”
“The issue of processes and systems became a sticking point in negotiations as the mine insisted on linking half of the annual salary increase on the performance of the company,” he said. My advice to the company was that there is a recognition agreement that is only referring to an annual substantive negotiation, but not the linking of annual salary increases to the performance of the company.
He said the management was referring to a three years substantive agreement that is an arrangement totally contrary to the recognition agreement.
He thus claimed that his advice was that the only legal way to address the issue of system is by following the labour act.
“It is important to state that those who unethically released the edited circulating audio, must release the whole unedited audio on the caucus between the governor and the union as well as the unedited audios of the whole two afternoon negotiations will provide a proper perspectives of whole negotiations process and not the distortion of facts and discussions as is being taken out of context as of current by circulating selective edited audios,” he said.