What we know:
• Three new ministers appointed
• Nine ministers redeployed
• Nickey Iyambo quits Govt after 27 years in service
• Mbumba to resign from National Assembly
• Elifas Dingara to replace Mbumba
• No women appointed or reshuffled
• Ngatjizeko’s health a concern
President Hage Geingob reshuffled his cabinet in a bid to breathe new life into his moribund government, redeploying at least 9 ministers to different portfolios as he reached the halfway point of his five-year term.
The changes left many asking questions about his motive, but the Constitution gives him full powers to hire and fire as he pleases without having to explain.
The changes come less than three months after Swapo Party’s elective congress, hence the questions about the president’s motive.
While some say the reshuffling of some ministers instead of relieving them made no sense, there are those who feel Geingob’s cabinet shake-up is motivated by a genuine interest to improve the overall performance of his cabinet.
Before Geingob announced the movements in cabinet, he indicated that he had few options to choose from as far as appointing new ministers is concerned.
“When you go to the World Cup or African Cup of Nations you have to submit a list of players you will use, meaning you can only use those players. It is the same in this case, I could only choose from the parliament list,” he said.
There were also calls for Geingob to trim the size of government in a bid to cut costs. This did not happen.
Observers expected a reshuffle in line with the year of reckoning and increased accountability, however Geingob failed to deal with some cabinet members who have been accused of corruption.
Yesterday’s Cabinet shakeup is in a category of its own, and though it was described by many as a “symbolic reshuffle”, its implications are enormous as they are tied to the success of Geingob’s economic blueprint-Harambee Prosperity Plan. The reshuffle was a calculated move by the President in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the government.
The vice president position, is an ill-defined position and was partly designed to allow for a strong character to be the President’s right-hand man. After all, this is the position that was first given to — if not designed for —Dr. Nickey Iyambo, whose request to resign due to health reasons has since been approved.
He is replaced by Nangolo Mbumba.
Mbumba played a huge role in landing Geingob a victory at last year’s Swapo congress and his appointment validates rumours that Geingob would repay him by appointing him as vice president.
And just like Iyambo, Mbumba will have an outsized presence in the presidency, one that would serve as a conduit for the itinerant for those in the executive.
There are claims that Mbumba will not complete the term however.
Sources say the plan to appoint Mbumba is a smokescreen for the grand plan.
“The plan is for Mbumba to retire early and go home with his benefits of being vice president like Nickey Iyambo did.
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will then be appointed as vice president in order to groom her to succeed Geingob.
If this plan indeed succeeds, one can liken it to looting the state,” said a source within the presidency. Mbumba, who currently serves as a member of the National Assembly, will have to resign from the august house.
This means Elifas Dingara, who is next in line on Swapo’s parliamentary list will fill that gap.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who was also rumored to be in the firing line, remains in office and was instructed to take strict measures to monitor permanent secretaries.
Geingob’s reshuffle, is marked by the entry of two new ministers in the form of Peya Mushelenga who will head the Urban and Rural Ministry and Erastus Utoni who will be in charge of the sports ministry. Both served as deputy ministers since 2010.
Surprisingly, both Obeth Kandjoze(former mines and energy) and Sakeus Shanghala(former attorney general) who are seen as Geingob’s blue-eyed boys were given different but reduced mandates.
Kandjoze now serves as the Minister of Economic Planning while Shanghala takes up the role of Minister of Justice.
Kandjoze entered the system through Geingob’s ticket as a presidential appointee.
The duo have been labelled the biggest losers in yesterday’s reshuffle, with many viewing their redeployments as demotions.
Immanuel Ngatjizeko, a long time serving minister, becomes Minister of Presidential Affairs, replacing Frans Kapofi, who was redeployed to fill the vacant seat left by the axed Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry also changes hands and falls to Alpheus !Naruseb. His position at the Ministry of Works and Transport is filled by John Mutorwa.
Tom Alweendo has been moved to lead the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Geingob said various allegations of corruption, maladministration and/or incompetency directed at them, the Ministry of Mines and Energy as well as the Attorney General’s office, together with health and works have particularly been disturbing.
“There may be other Ministries and Agencies too, to a lesser extent.
While I have not been presented with any credible evidence of corrupt practice per se, I believe that whatever has been the cause of public unhappiness has since done a serious damage to the ability of such Ministries, Offices and Agencies to effectively execute their constitutional and statutory mandates,” he said.
“Given the local and international legal instruments obliging us to fight corruption, and recognizing the devastating effects of maladministration, I have been deeply concerned about various reports of alleged corrupt practices, in certain Government Ministries and Agencies. Over the last few months, the public has raised complaints of corrupt practices through media reports, as well as through anonymous tip-offs,” he said.
“It is difficult in our democratic and constitutional setting, to hold people accused of corrupt practice accountable, without the acceptable evidential standard of proof.
I believe however, that in cases of continuous allegations of malpractice, compounded by incompetence, it would be in the interest of the People of Namibia and good governance, to effect changes at political level, from time to time, to rebuild public confidence in those concerned Ministries.”
While in certain instances there may be no direct and premeditated case of corruption, Geingob said he is convinced that sheer-poor-public-service-delivery and incompetence may also result in corruption, because of the lack of controls and poor management.
The President revealed that he wrote to a number of political heads, of some Government Ministries and Offices, requesting them to respond to allegations leveled against them or their Ministries, within a specified period of time. “This will enable me to fully understand the cause for the considerable unhappiness of the public, towards the concerned Ministries.
This exercise would further provide opportunity for those accused to defend themselves or to rebut, in cases where allegations are unfounded, thus enabling me to take corrective measures, where need be,” he said.
Official opposition leader McHenry Venaani yesterday welcomed the reshuffling, but expressed concern over Geingob’s failure to resize his cabinet.
“He speaks of the year of reckoning but in my view he failed to reckon with himself and with his own conscious.
I expected him to streamline the ministries because there is no need for government to operate on a full-scale during a time when the country is faced with economic challenges. I thought he would amalgamate or consolidate some ministries,” said a disappointed Venaani.
Venaani applauded the appointed of Mushelenga, saying “he has shown leadership qualities over the years.”
“It is good to see that young people are elevated to such a level because the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development is one of the most senior ministries in government,” he said.
Venaani expressed concern over Utoni’s appointment however.
“I do not think he has matriculated yet to be a minister, maybe the appointment was fuelled by other political aspects,” he said.
The youthful Venaani also questioned Geingob’s wisdom to keep Utoni Nujoma at the Land Reform ministry.
“He was supposed to move him to another ministry where he is more competent. He lacks the emotional understanding to lead the ministry,” said Venaani. The much awaited land conference is expected to take place this year as per the instruction of the president.
Although he welcomed the decision to appoint Mbumba as vice president, Venaani said “I hope he finishes his term”.