About 200 workers have gone on a wildcat strike in protest against the sacking of a union leader, disrupting production at the Exxaro Rosh Pinah zinc and lead mine in the South.
Strikers have been blocking the Rosh Pinah mine's main entrance since Sunday, vowing to continue with the strike until the company reinstated the local branch chairman of the Mineworkers' Union of Namibia, Petrus Amakali.
In addition, the workers are calling for the immediate removal of Rosh Pinah Zinc Corporation General Manager Christo Aspeling. "Aspeling is known as a dictator in South Africa, he must be deported," some of the placards brandished by the workers read.
The strikers claimed Aspeling had trumped up multiple misconduct charges that led to the union leader's dismissal from his post as laboratory technician. The company said Amakali had been sacked for insubordination, instigation of fellow workers, violent behaviour and for being in possession of a traditional knife at the workplace - claims he has denied.
Amakli told The Namibian that he regarded his dismissal as unfair, claiming that normal disciplinary procedures had not been followed. "The company is out to silence the union's voice by getting rid of a person advocating workers' rights," he said.
But the mine's human resources manager, Kondja Kaulinge, disagrees. He said normal procedures were followed and an outsider was brought in to chair the disciplinary hearing for the sake of transparency.
Kaulinge said the workers had embarked on an illegal strike and would not be paid during their absence from work. He said the workers' demands were unrealistic, and reinstating Amakali was out of the question. He said there were proper channels - such as internal or external labour procedures to appeal against the dismissal - through which an amicable solution could be reached.
Kaulinge appealed striking workers to return to work immediately to minimise anticipated production losses. "Our economy is heavily affected by unwarranted industrial actions," he said. MUN Secretary General Bro Joseph Hengari yesterday described Amakali's dismissal as intimidation of union leaders.
Hengari did not rule out calling on other unions to join the strike in solidarity if the company failed to meet the workers' demands. By yesterday afternoon the parties had not yet entered into official talks, according to Hengari.
The Rosh Pinah mine produces some 70,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and about 28,000 tonnes of lead annually. The zinc concentrate is sent to Zincor's electrolytic refinery in Springs, South Africa, for processing.