President Hage Geingob’s decision to appoint a team of advisors at State House is said to have left many ministers feeling unsure about their role in this administration, with claims that ministers and advisers do not see eye to eye. Just months into his Presidency, Geingob appointed for Namdeb MD Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi as his constitutional advisor and private sector interface, for NBC boss Albertus Aochamub as press secretary, John Steytler has been confirmed as economic advisor, Penny Akwenye as policy advisor on implementation and monitoring and Daisry Mathias as the President’s advisor on youth matters.
During a broadcast on national television earlier this week, Steytler denied that there is any friction between ministers and advisors and said advisors are not there to substitute ministers. “All I can say is that we have a good working relationship with all economic ministries including the director general[Tom Alweendo],” said Steytler who formerly worked under Alweendo at the National Planning Commission. The President set tongues wagging further when he introduced his advisors as the “A-Team”, the public was of the view that it is meant to point out that ministers are below the advisors. Geingob later abolished the A-Team tag when referring to his advisors due to the negative connotations thereof.
The Namibian Constitution prescribes that DG should serve as principal advisor to the President on economic matters, a provision which raised eyebrows about Steytler’s appointment. Steytler said: “When it comes to the economy it is not only the DG of NPC, we have the Governor of the Central Bank, Minister of Finance, Minister of Trade, Industrialisation and SME Development and I can say we work well with all ministries.”
When the advisors were appointed last year, several experts such as Phanuel Kaapama and Gwen Lister questioned how the appointments would fit in with the Cabinet ministers as they were appointed to advise Geingob, among other things. “What happens to the constitutional advisers? There is an overlapping and duplication of roles,” Kaapama said while reviewing Geingob’s first 100 days in office last year.
Lister at the time said Geingob made ad-hoc decisions with his appointments, but hopes he will risk unpopularity to drive home his vision. She also touched on Geingob’s “huge government” which she termed a negative and wondered how his “A-Team” will synchronize with Cabinet.
“The big Cabinet may hinder rather than help his key goal of poverty eradication,” On Monday however, Steytler was quick to point out that Geingob places great emphasis on teamwork. “Government is a team and the President is very big on team work and operating on silos. He has it on record saying he cannot deliver alone, we all need to pull together,” said the advisor. He also said advisors are not there to substitute ministers but rather to complement their efforts and to work together. “The relationship I have with them is excellent, I am not a minister and the same goes for the other advisers.
Despite talks about the cost of the advisors and their impact on the ballooning N$23 billion public wage bill, Geingob defended his appointments last year saying it is nothing new and that previously six positions existed for advisors. In this instance, Geingob said at the time, all we have done is to change the titles of some of the advisors such as converting the advisor on politics to the policy advisor on implementation and monitoring and converting the advisor on culture into the advisor on youth interface with a special focus on promoting youth entrepreneurship. Also the legal advisor was renamed to be advisor on constitutional affairs and private sector interface.