Police ‘unable’ to handle teachers’ strike

 

Windhoek

The Namibian Police Force will not be able to handle a strike of the magnitude of the impending nationwide teachers’ strike, the police chief Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga stated in a submission to court.

“I unfortunately do not have sufficient resources at my disposal to enable my office to manage a nationwide strike or industrial action by teachers, which is set to take place countrywide and at multitude gathering places,” Ndeitunga said in papers filed by his lawyer, Khadila Amoomo.

According to Ndeitunga, he, like many other police officers, knows that industrial actions, public gatherings and or demonstrations carry with them inherent likelihood dangers, which may occur intentionally or inadvertently.
“This requires my office to be ready, on standby, and to be proactive not only when same occurs, but also to prevent the occurrence of same,” he said.

Loss of lives, malicious damage to property, intimidation and injury of persons, deviation from rules of engagement, infiltration of security threats and persons, and medical emergencies amongst police officers as well as civilians are just some of the dangers, Ndeitunga stated.

“Unfortunately, because of the nature of the inherent dangers that are likely to ensue during industrial actions, my office must, in order to prevent and react, proactively ensure at all times that I deploy sufficient human capital, financial resources and logistical resources.”

According to him, he simply does not have the human capital, financial resources and logistical equipment to manage a nationwide strike at different assembly points, picketing lines and/or gatherings.

He went on to say that the deployment of human resources, logistical resources, and financial resources is a necessity in the event of any public gathering, demonstration and/or industrial action.

But, he said, with less than 18 000 members of the police force, he fears that this number is not sufficient to attend to a nationwide strike with nationwide meeting points because of the inherent dangers already mentioned.
He further said that the number of officers is not only insufficient, but the majority are not trained in the management of – by way of prevention and reaction tactics and strategies – the inherent dangers mentioned.

According to him the unit of the police that is specially equipped to manage such events is the Special Reserve Force, but they number not more than 300 members altogether.

This will make it impossible to attend to all picket lines and gatherings, especially on the outskirts of towns and at rural schools.

Much worse, Ndeitunga said, even if he had the human capital, their deployment at all picketing and gathering points will be impossible because of dire financial and logistical resources.

Resources such as sufficient police vehicles, rioting equipment and medical emergency helicopters are just not available, he said.

“I am clearly overstretched and this may threaten internal security and the maintenance of law and order in the country.”

Ndeitunga concluded that he wants the Labour Court to take his submissions into consideration when it decides on the application the Office of the Prime Minister brought before the court to stop the impending strike by teachers.

According to Ndeitunga’s lawyer Amoomo, the submissions are not directed at stopping the strike action, but simply to illustrate the difficulties the police will have in containing the industrial action.

The application was supposed to be heard yesterday by Judge Thomas Masuku, but was postponed to today to give the respondents a chance to file their papers and for the applicants to answer.

The Prime Minister is the first applicant, the Public Service Commission the second applicant and the Minister of Education, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa the third. The respondents are the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu), the Labour Commissioner, the Conciliator Bester Maiba, and the Inspector General of the Namibian Police.

The application asks the court to interdict and restrain Nantu and the teachers represented by it to embark on a strike scheduled to commence on October 13, pending the outcome of a dispute relating to the strike rules lodged at the Labour Commissioner.

The applicants will further ask the Labour Court to interdict and restrain Nantu and the teachers represented by it from carrying out or performing any activity in furtherance of the strike and to pay the costs of the application.

The applicants are represented by Advocate Raymond Heathcote, SC, on instructions of the Attorney General, and the union by Advocate Andrew Corbett, SC, on instructions of Metcalfe Attorneys.

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