Angry union leaders disrupt Sankwasa

WINDHOEK- Union leaders accompanied by about 150 protesters yesterday angrily grabbed the microphone from the Deputy Minister of Works and Transport Sankwasa James Sankwasa cutting short his speech.

Sankwasa was interrupted while he tried in vain to respond to workers petition regarding the awarding of tenders to Chinese companies.

Disgruntled construction workers accompanied by Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu), National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) and Affirmative Repositioning (AR) leadership staged a peaceful demonstration at Dr Antonio Agostinho Neto circle, Ausspanplatz.

Workers and their leaders were demonstrating against a recent announcement by RA and the works ministry regarding the awarding of tender for the Hosea-Kutako dual carriageway and upgrading of the railway line in the Erongo Region to a consortium of Chinese companies.

Unhappy protesters sang songs such as ''Down Chinese Down, Go back to your country we also need jobs, with some carrying placards hand-scrawled, What do foreigners do that Namibians can't do?

The luckless Sankwasa accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Finance Natangwe Ithete and RA CEO Conrad Lutombi while trying to respond to petition with a five page prepared speech was rudely interrupted by the Manwu president Angula Angula who grabbed the microphone from a startled Sankwasa saying We will like to cut the minister short from there and just go back and respond as we demanded as per our petition.

Listen first I am not finished, there was a letter written to you, earlier before the petition, said a visibly perturbed Sankwasa but workers brushed aside his explanation. Manwu General Secretary Justina Jonas-Emvula chipped in saying, Comrade Honourable Deputy Minister, we don't need any response from you now, if you want to talk to us write to us.

But Sankwasa responded angrily by saying We invite you to come to the ministry on the 7th of March 1130, before he walked off.

Nononogogo viva the workers vivaenough is enough, we have visited the ministry of works enough, shouted the workers.

The workers in their petition delivered by Angula said government is messing up their future and that of the next generation while at the same time are enriching other countries without defending national interests.

They claim the country's economy has collapsed because government cannot afford to pay back loans that government has taken from other countries and international lenders.

Workers gave government an ultimatum to respond to their demands on what they alleged is the preferential treatment being accorded to Chinese contractors whom they accuse of taking bread from their mouths.

They want their demands to be addressed before or by March 12.

The workers warn that failure to respond positively to their demands will mean that they (the ministers) should face the same retrenchments that the construction workers face come election time.

In the prepared speech that Sankwasa wanted to read, government said the Transport Infrastructure Improvement Projected is one of the government initiatives for achieving the National Development Goal of Namibia becoming a Regional Logistic Hub for Southern Africa.

The ministry shares the objective of the union with regard to the development of the local construction industry. However, the ministry must take into consideration the national resources, the international agreements and the actual performance of local construction companies. Protecting and supporting the local industry must be combined with exposure, reads the statement Sankwasa only read in part.

The ministry encourages joint ventures between local and foreign companies, stated the document that was issued to media.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia