AT the time of writing, I had just read a letter from the permanent secretary of basic education, Sanet Steenkamp, written to 14 regional councils announcing the availability of Nigerian teachers for schools. The teachers, dubbed volunteers, are to receive beds, mattresses, fridge, stoves, chairs, gas cylinders, medical aid and payment for water and electricity. In this climate, of a legal strike by the teachers, it becomes clear that the Nigerian ‘volunteer’ teachers – awarded beds, mattresses, fridge, stoves, chairs, gas cylinders, medical aid and their water and electricity paid – will surely come in hand in supporting the basic education plans of wanting to define themselves outside the Labour Act. But let us go to the beginning, for proper context.
Our financial troubles, let it immediately be made known, did not start with President Hage Geingob. Indeed, they started with our former unwilling president, the ever complaining His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba. This columnist holds the Pohamba administration, particularly during his second term of office, responsible for the fiscal troubles we are facing. Those who disagree must quickly remember what Tipeeg and Mass Housing were in the Pohamba era. The looting and plundering of state resources did not maintain kilometres from the President himself. You only need to Google the name ‘Kaupumhote Pohamba’ and see what comes up.
But it was under President Hage Geingob, as he was preparing to move his bags to State House, that we witnessed the increase of the members of the National Assembly from 72 to 104. This was an increase with 32 politicians. Where do we think the money came from? Soon after they increased the number of MPs, they discovered that they needed more office space for the many and unnecessary 32 additional politicians. The National Council politicians also increased.
They went to demand, in parliamentary designs, a gym and a restaurant, for their entertainment. Shortly before that, the politicians increased their salaries and their perks, including water and electricity for themselves.
Looting and channelling of state resources to friends and cronies became a norm. We were treated to two deputy ministers whose job descriptions are unknown. Knowing that we have, as this columnist has been alerted, less than 13 Judges, it is evident that the number of presidential advisors are surely close to 60% of the Judges population. It then became clear that what we are experiencing in Namibia is a rudimentary illustration of ‘every man for himself and God for the rest of us’. This message also became clear to the teachers that no one can answer the question but themselves.
They started making clear demands for 8% salary increase. Government gave 5% and statements were made that teachers must be grateful. The teachers refused to budge and continued engaging government as per the provisions of the labour law. With the passage of time, as government and teachers’ union Nantu kept discussing, they eventually reached a deadlock. When it was time to vote, more than 90% of the teachers voted for a strike. Government relied on its usual propaganda and rhetoric of ‘elements trying to destabilise the Hage government’ who aim to disturb ‘peace and stability’. Despite several warnings not to underestimate the intelligence of the thinking people by ever relying on propaganda and cheap rhetoric, politicians still thought that the methods they have been using for the past 25 years (getting what they want through rhetoric and propaganda) will still work. With this in mind, government ran expensive adverts in the media to spread its peace and stability propaganda hoping to dissuade teachers from voting for the strike. Politicians have convinced themselves that they are loved by the masses of the Namibian people and that they are extremely popular.
Governors and high level politicians were used to convene meetings to call teachers in their regions and circuits to spread the peace and stability propaganda. At some meeting, presidential advisors came to speak, not about the 8%, but about the Harambee Prosperity Plan. Most of the meetings could not take place while some saw only chairs and sound system operators turning up. In Oshana for example one teacher stood up to inform Governor Clemens Kashuupulwa that they are civil servants and not politicians. He went to further to enlighten the governor that his job description doesn’t say he must discuss teacher’s remuneration. To redeem himself, governor Kashuupulwa told those in attendance the Constitution gives him those powers. Most teachers started giggling and asking each other as to when Namibians will start voting for governors. Despites all these machinations the teachers, 90% of them, defied the ‘peace and stability’ propaganda and voted in favour of a strike. The celebrity politicians, this columnist has established, are still asking themselves what is going on.
The comedy is not over until Attorney General Edward Sakeus Shanghala enters the stage. He advised government to go to the labour court in order to have the procedural and legal strike halted. What he have in mind, it can be interpreted, is to have the police deployed to police and deal with teachers. It is for this reason that he cited the Inspector General of the Namibian police, who has been readily available for elite manipulation, as a respondent. General Sebastian Ndeitunga, the Police Inspector General, is seemingly tired of being used by elites in their gimmicks. Listen to what he reportedly stated to a journalist: “I do not even know why I was named as a respondent in this matter… imagine how many schools are around the country. I will not have enough resources to deploy my officers to all those places; they [police] also have other things to do, like investigate housebreakings, pickpocketing and bag snatching. ” Indications are that the strike will continue as scheduled. The study and analysis of the manner in which government dealt with this matter shows that politicians still don’t get it.
They are still failing to read the times; to notice that old tricks – rhetoric and propaganda – will not work to an awakened generation. This is what we must advise politicians and our leaders in general; read the times, please!
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015