UNIONISTS have rejected a Cabinet proposal that requires citizens to voluntarily donate 2% of their salaries as a once off contribution to drought relief.
President Hage Geingob officially declared a state of emergency on 6 May due to the ongoing drought that has resulted in the loss of thousands of animals.
The government has set aside N$572,7 million to assist drought-affected farmers and vulnerable citizens.
The executive director in the Office of the Prime Minister, I-Ben Nashandi, yesterday wrote to the secretary general of the National Union of Namibian Workers, Job Muniaro informing him of Cabinet’s decision for a once-off 2% voluntary contribution from the basic monthly salaries of all Namibians, including office-bearers.
Nashandi’s letter invited Muniaro to a consultation meeting with prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila slated for tomorrow.
Muniaro yesterday said that he does not support the proposal, as Namibians are already reeling under extreme drought conditions which have made it difficult for them to feed their families.
The unionist noted that people’s salaries are a private matter, and he, therefore, has no right to decide for them.
Muniaro stressed that the union was left out of planning sessions for drought mitigation, but is now expected to step in and collect money from its members.
“I need to have an understanding before I can comment further. I don’t even know how they came to 2%. I am definitely against this proposal. But I will go and listen, and then we can decide,” Muniaro said.
He added that the union has in the past also asked the government to address the high unemployment rate, to no avail.
Teacher’s Union of Namibia (TUN) secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha also denounced the idea as ‘nonsense’, adding that because the government had not directly consulted his union on the matter, they do not accept the decision as a matter-of-fact.
“We are not impressed by this at all,” he said. “Our members and workers should not be worried [and] we cannot just react to a public statement.”
Kavihuha further expressed dismay that the government would choose to take money out of workers’ pockets.
“We have been proposing that the government introduces tax reliefs for water and take on the full payment of water consumption of farmers and their livestock so that farmers only pay the basics,” he said.
Furthermore, Kavihuha said that it is absurd for the government to take from public servants while they are waiting for increases in salaries.
“The bottom line is that the person who came up with this idea needs to be in a psychiatric hospital,” he said.
Nashandi said in the letter to Muniaro that the initiative would be ring-fenced and directed to address the plight facing Namibians due to drought, and also to fund youth skills and entrepreneurship programmes.
He told The Namibian yesterday that the exercise is voluntary, adding that if only a few participate, the outcome will not be as significant.
Nashandi said if the initiative it extended extensively across all earning levels to include the entire national working class, a substantial amount can be raised.
“We must see this in a positive light. When we were fighting, these were similar modalities that other countries used to support our struggle,” Nashandi said.
It is also not clear when the implementation of this initiative can be expected.
Saima Shaanika, the prime minister’s office spokesperson yesterday said the call would create job opportunities, especially for our youth.
“Our president also made this call during the state of the nation address.
As the president indicated in his statement, Cabinet members have already confirmed their commitment to contribute 2% of their salary for one year to support the said initiatives, while non-executive parliamentarians were still being consulted,” she said.
Shaanika added that the other stakeholders, including those from the corporate sector, were also being consulted in this regard.
The government, she said, will announce the progress on and the outcome of the various consultations at a later stage.
In 2013, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba also declared an emergency, saying more than 4 000 animals had died and about 300 000 people were affected by the drought.