Thousands turn out for May Day celebration

WALVIS BAY: Thousands of Namibians packed the Kuisebmund Stadium here and joined millions of others worldwide in observing Workers’ Day on Friday, 01 May.

For several years, the turn-out for May Day celebrations in Namibia had been disappointing.

Some trade unionists attributed this apathy to the closeness of the day to another public holiday – Cassinga Day on 04 May – when people tend to take extended leave from work and spend time focused on other matters.

Many Namibians, however, on Friday braved the cold coastal weather to attend the Workers’ Day celebration, which was expected to be addressed by President Hage Geingob, who could not attend due to other national commitments.

More than 10 Cabinet Ministers, deputy ministers and Members of the Diplomatic Corps attended the event.

The Ndilimani Cultural Troupe entertained the gathering with their music.

Speaker after speaker emphasized unity among workers and unionists.

In a speech read on his behalf by Minister of Labor, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Erkki Nghimtina, Geingob said May Day is a celebration for all workers – blue-collar or white-collar, and irrespective of cultural, political or ethnic orientations.

The president said the spirit of a Namibian ‘house’ must be reflected on days like Workers’ Day.

“Let us learn to hold hands rather than build fences. Let us learn to communicate rather than close doors. There is no ‘us and them, employers and employees’. We all need each other so there is only one Namibia, one nation and one workforce,” said Geingob.

Erongo Regional Governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua, urged the unionists to unite and focus on issues to address the workers’ problems rather than fighting each other.

“Learn the good example of the Swapo-Party that after the congress where leaders are elected, they embrace each other for the sake of development of the country,” he said.

Also speaking at the celebration, Immanuel Petrus, who is the chairperson of the Namibian Seafarers’ United organization, called for an end to division among unions and their affiliated confederations.

“This must stop, as the ones who suffer at the end of the day are the workers. Let us hold hands and eradicate all aspects that divide us in the Namibian house, and try to build Namibia for the new generation,” he urged.

May Day commemorates workers’ struggle for better conditions and has its origins in the labor union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest in 1886.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) elected new leaders last week.

Job Muniaro was elected as secretary-general (SG) in Swakopmund on Wednesday. He had been acting SG since Alfred Angula was suspended from the union in 2013 on allegations of fraud. Angula replaced Evilastus Kaaronda who was expelled in 2012.