The People’s Editor (TPE)
As I pen today’s editorial, I find myself overwhelmingly perplexed by the extent to which President Hage Geingob is willing to go as far as insulting our intelligence is concerned.
For far too long, the president has consistently shown and continues to show Namibians that he is not an individual who can stick to his promise(s).
And this he does with impunity.
In this piece, I will draw your attention to a few examples where Geingob has unashamedly and unquestionably reneged on his promise(s), yet continues to behave as though it is business as usual.
This piece is more relevant as it comes in the ‘Year of Accountability’ but wherein accountability is zilch.
At first glance, through Geingob’s rhetoric, he is a man with good intentions and policies to support the same.
It is, however, the implementation of these well-crafted policies and articulated speeches that leaves much to be desired, from a laymen’s viewpoint.
When pursuing his PhD, as a student at the Leeds University, Geingob in his thesis posited how Namibia was being governed under the stewardship of Founding President, Sam Nujoma:“Head of state and head of government, commander in chief, tatekulu, revolutionary, founding father, etc, as had been the case in Zaire under president Mobutu, and in Malawi under president Banda.”
In essence, the former Prime Minister raised concerns over the dangers of concentrating power in the hands of one individual, Nujoma in this particular instance.
Fast forward it was 2017, and Swapo was to elect its new leadership.
There were two camps: Team Harambee (composed of Geingob as its presidential candidate and his chosen three, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah for vice president, Sophia Shaningwa as secretary-general and Marco Hausiku as her deputy).
The other faction: Team Swapo had former premier Nahas Angula and then Cabinet minister Jerry Ekandjo contest against Geingob for the party’s much-sought-after position.
The rest is history, Geingob’s faction had it its way, taking all four of Swapo’s top positions.
I specifically want to draw your attention to Geingob’s key campaign message at the time, (1) he urged his competition to rise above pettiness by presenting what they would do for the party should they assume power.
“Play the ball and not the man,” Geingob would often say at rallies.
Secondly, Geingob being Head of State – warned that the Swapo would implode and become ungovernable if a situation is allowed whereby the party and country’s president were two different individuals.
Geingob wanted “one centre of power”, meaning power, both at State House and at the Swapo Headquarters would be concentrated in his hands.
Remember 2004, when Geingob forewarned us about too much power being in one man’s hands?
In any case, Geingob had it his way, convincingly so, by annihilating Team Swapo.
What is further astounding is the double standard in the application of Geingob’s “one centre of power”.
Have you ever wondered to yourself why – if in fact the ‘one centre of power’ narrative is genuine – Netumbo Nandi-Ndiatwah, being the Swapo vice president is yet to ascend to the same role at State level? Or is it only applicable to Geingob?
Interestingly, Namibia does not need to go to an election as all powers to appoint the country’s VP lies in Geingob’s hands, which he effectively used to elevate Nangolo Mbumba, a long-time ally of his.
Thirdly, during his victory speech at around 04h30 on 27 November 2017, Geingob preached unity and promised to work with his adversaries and promised to harmonise the ruling party.
Ironically three months later, he fired two of his fiercest rivals from his Cabinet in the form of then Home Affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Sport minister, Ekandjo who challenged his ‘Team Harambee’ at Swapo’s intra election.
At the time of her firing, Iivula-Ithana was one of the best performers in government and this did not matter to Geingob.
Today, the country is without passports, a situation that was unimaginable under Iivula-Ithana.
More so, in 2016, the President Geingob remarked: “I would like to inform all business people and entrepreneurs from inside and outside of the country – don’t try to negotiate with me on tenders and deals.”
Three years late, Geingob had seemingly reneged on this stance when he hosted Mexican billionaire, Alberto Baillères in July 2019 at State House.
The media was barred from this meeting and when it queried why the President engaged a business person at State House behind closed-door, Geingob said “it’s none of your business”.
This response came from an individual who has been on record to say freedom of the press is guaranteed for as long as he is Head of State and whose presidency is said to be anchored on transparency, accountability and trust.
In a bid to tighten the noose of government’s uncontrolled expenditure, the Presidency in February 2018 issued a directive to ban all foreign and local trips to be undertaken by senior government officials, including the President who promised to undertake only important trips.
However, by November 2018, Geingob had travelled to 16 countries, spent 64 days abroad and qualified for an estimated N$850 000 in travel allowances, it was reported.
As if this is not enough, barely has a week gone by since the turn of the year without hearing that Geingob is travelling out of the country.
Just this week, Geingob made known his intension to visit each of the 14 regions between 11 July and 13 August 2019 to review the progress on drought relief.
According to the Presidency, through the national tour, Geingob wants to hold town hall meetings to identify bottlenecks in order to scale up interventions in drought relief.
Whether this is genuine or politically motivated being an election year is a discussion for another day but it does not take an Albert Einstein to realise that the president is being reckless with the State purse to say the least.
Questions that come to mind include but not limited to: With 14 regional governors at his behest and the Office of the Prime Minister having a fully-fledged disaster management department that is directly in charge of the drought relief program, why does he need to travel? Are those charged incompetent?
Further, and most important, how much will it cost taxpayers to transport the president and his expensive entourage?
These are just some classic examples where the president has promised to one thing, and did the exact opposite.
At a time like this, Namibia needs individuals who stand for something, or otherwise, we risk falling for anything as a nation.