Wednesday 14 April 2021
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A parliament of the elderly

The term gerontocracy is not well known in modern day literature, but it is more likely to be a distinguishing feature of the Namibian legislature over the next five years.
The Patriot this week took a look at the composition of the National Assembly where the majority of members are above the age of sixty. The oldest parliamentarian is National Assembly Speaker of Peter Katjavivi who is turning 78 years in May this year. Should he get enough votes at the upcoming Swapo Electoral College that will qualify him to be a legislator, he will be 83 years-old in the next five years. He has served at various senior positions since his appointment as vice chancellor of the University of Namibia.
He is in the same league with President Hage Geingob and his vice president Nangolo Mbumba who are both turning 78 this year.
Katjavivi previously served as Namibian ambassador to Germany as well as director general of the National Planning Commission from 2008 to 2010. He ignored questions sent to him by The Patriot on whether he will retire or not.
The second oldest politician is Poverty Eradication minister Zephania Kameeta who is turning 74 on August 7. Kameeta had been deputy speaker of the National Assembly until his resignation from Parliament in 2002.
Next in line is Erkki Nghimtina who has been a parliamentarian for 24 years. He joined parliament in 1995 when he was appointed as deputy minister of defence. Nghimtina is turning 71 this year. Speaking to The Patriot on Tuesday this week, Nghimtina said he would retire next year.
“We need to give the chance to the young people while they have a lot of energy. I have been in parliament for 24 years. I am going to my house to rest. The experience I got all those years is a lot. I was a deputy minister of defence, I was a minister of mines and energy, I also served as works minister, now I am the minister of labour.”
Another pensioner in the National Assembly is Defence deputy minister Billy Mwaningange who is 73 years. Mwaningange joined the National Assembly in 2009. He previously served as Ohangwena regional governor.
Former youth minister Jerry Ekandjo is another one of the senior citizens in the August House. He joined the house in 1990, also serving government in various ministries. His last appointment was minister of youth and sport in 2012 from which he was recalled in February 2018. Ekandjo is 71 years-old. Others who have been members of Parliament for a long time include International Relations and Cooperation minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa and former minister of home affairs and immigration Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.
Nandi-Ndaitwah and Iivula-Ithana have been parliamentarians since 1990. They are both turning 67, so is land reform minister Utoni Nujoma. Should they secure for themselves seats in the National Assembly next year by the time they will finish the five-year term they will be 72 years-old while Safety and Security minister Charles Namoloh will be 74 year-old in 2024.
This week Swapo’s long serving parliamentarian, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila who joined the National Assembly when she was just 27 could not say whether she would call it a day or not.
“As an MP who was elected to Parliament on the Swapo party ticket, this is something that I would discuss with the membership of my party through the established internal party platform,” she said.
Agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb (64) is also one of the long serving ruling party legislators, having joined the National Assembly in 1995. He has been a member of Cabinet since 1997. His predecessor John Mutorwa (61) has served in the National Assembly and Cabinet since 1992. He is now the minister of works.
Two weeks ago, Minister of Justice, Sacky Shanghala heeded the call of the youth for ageing politicians and individuals in key leadership positions to pave the way for young Namibians to take over saying that 70 and 80-year-olds can no longer continue to hold positions.
“I do not think there is anyone born knowing that they will be the president of any country. No one was sent to school to become minister of justice. Yet here we are. Are we wrecking the country? I challenge any one on that score,” Shanghala stressed.
“Therefore, we should be given the opportunity to stand [for] positions in the party and in society at large and from there, prepare ourselves for the next responsibilities in society, gradually. Truly, how can we be competent if we are not prepared? Give us the opportunity. Yet it is also incumbent upon us to make distinction between child’s play and serious work,” he said.
Former health minister Bernard Haufiku proposed for ministers to serve a term of 10 to 15 years and then make way for an infusion of fresh and progressive leaders.

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