Namibia: Wage fight in Kunene is far from over

The Kunene Regional Council may have paid its workers their December salaries last week, but the High Court observed on Wednesday that the lawsuit brought against it by the Namibian Public Workers Union was not yet finalized.

Judge Eileen Rakow said that although the regional council had flip-flopped on its decision to withhold the salaries of its employees, there were orders in the urgent application which have not yet been settled.

The regional council decided to withhold the salaries of more than 120 employees after the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development withheld the salary of George Kamaseb, the regional director, saying his reinstatement had been done illegally.

Kamaseb was suspended with full pay on June 9, 2016 over serious allegations of misconduct in the bidding process. He challenged his dismissal, but lost. On June 6, 2021, however, the board decided to reinstate him. The ministry later went to the high court and also ordered the regional council not to pay him while the case is in court.

On January 5, Napwu, represented by Sisa Namandje, filed an urgent request for a court order restraining the regional council, its president and its management committee from interfering with the monthly processing and payment of salaries of employees.

Napwu also wants the regional council to be barred from enforcing its December 14, 2021 decision not to process employee salaries because Kamaseb’s salary has not been processed. The decision was communicated to staff on December 20.

They are also asking for an order requiring the regional council and its president to pay their employees at the end of each month.

During the court proceedings, Namandje indicated that although the regional council has taken the initiative and paid the employees their December salaries, there remains the question of the cost of the lawsuit and other orders that need to be finalized.

“We are currently in a dispute. If we don’t get orders guaranteeing employees’ salaries, we don’t know what will happen to their salaries in the coming months,” Namandje said.

Judge Racow adjourned the case to February 8 for a status hearing and for Napwu to decide whether they will pursue the case for the remaining orders, or if they will only pursue the issue of the cost of the lawsuit.

The regional council chose not to appear at trial.