As the euphoria wore off after his resounding 2014 poll victory, President Hage Geingob must have known that his term in office would not be without hurdles, especially public criticism.
He has faced an avalanche of criticism during his time in office so far, even if he made some strides boosting transparency in government.
Geingob’s relationships with business people has also come under immense scrutiny so far.
But, as anyone who has dabbled in politics will tell you, setting the narrative from the get-go will go a long way in wafting away the smoke when fires start to smoulder.
This week, the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Namibian Newspaper hosted a review indaba to analyse Geingob’s time in office so far.
The panelists were Presidential Economic advisor John Steytler, Economist from Simonis Storm; Indileni Nanghonga, Leader of the official opposition; McHenry Venaani and Director of IPPR; Graham Hopwood.
Geingob’s announced as his key focus the total elimination of poverty, enhanced transparency and the rooting out of corruption, but the official opposition this week questioned Geingob’s actions and his rhetoric.
Popular Democratic Movement(PDM) leader McHenry Venaani this week stated implicitly that Geingob’s words and actions are on two different wavelengths.
Accoording to Venaani: “It is illogical that the President is on this rhetorical war path against poverty and corruption, yet Agriculture receives the lowest allocation of the national budget. While this is the one sector that can alleviate poverty and unemployment on a massive scale.
Government is failing at fighting corruption. The President has protected the SME board of Directors where money has gone missing and our SME’s bear the brunt of those massive losses,” he said.
Geingob has also been accused of practising double standards in recent months, he moved three of his ministers-Sakeus Shanghala (attorney general), Alpheus !Naruseb (works and transport) and Obed Kandjoze (mines and energy) to different portfolios after allegations of corruptions were made against them. Critics are now questioning why he is not taking action against education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa who is facing a corruption case in court.
In typical opposition party fashion, Venaani profiled Geingob as a President of rhetoric who knows how to say what people want to hear. “I commend him for declaring his assets and equally laud him for the performance evaluation contracts for public office bearers whilst the increased pension grant has to also be acknowledged because to eradicate poverty, it is important to feed families and it is a known fact that pensioners money by and large is an income stream that directly benefits families” he motivated.
In response, economic advisor Steytler defended the President by stating that the Head of State is indeed championing the fight against corruption. He underscored this by reiterating the standing invitation extended to Namibians to come forward with concrete information on corrupt practices. However, Venaani countered that there is a need for the President to champion investigations and not wait for whistle-blowers who are not even legally represented by any office in the country to come forward.
Venaani further critiqued government spending on defence. “There is no war or threat to our national sovereignty, yet we spend 4.2 % of our GDP on paranoia for conflict potential, almost to a similar allocation like the United States which spends 4.4 % of its GDP on defence. All of this at the expense of socially disadvantaged Namibians”.
During the review on Geingob’s three years in Office and the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) – at half time this week, panelists commended the prosperity plan on its clear mandate. However, the speed of implementing the prosperity plan was said to be a grave cause for concern.
The HPP is the benchmark for measuring the Presidents success on his clarion call to ‘leave no Namibian behind’ and fight poverty in the country since taking office in 2014.
According to Hopwood, what sets Harambee apart from the National Development Plans is its clear vision and timeline. “It is good to have a national plan that is focused and has a clear timeline on when objectives should be attained. In the past events we credited the President for setting a clear framework, however after the rhetoric comes reckoning” he motivated.
“We can be thankful that our democracy remains intact despite unfounded suggestions to regulate the media as advocated by certain statehouse officials. Platforms like these are important to critically follow up on the promises made by government” Hopwood further analysed.
Nanghonga commented on the economic advancement pillar of the plan saying that Namibia is well on its way towards recovering from recession. She however admonished that the proposed tax policy by the Ministry of Finance needs to be sound as it has potential as a vital revenue stream for the state.
Comments from the floor included critique the absence of a gender focus in the Harambee plan and a call was made for Harambee to include gender because poverty eradication is interlinked with gender specific challenges and opportunities. Furthermore, a suggestion was put forward for an economic summit that will bring clarity on whether Namibia is a democratic state with a capitalist or socialist market system as this uncertainty misinforms fiscal policy decisions.