Tuesday 13 April 2021
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Frail Ngatjizeko rakes in over N$1 million in salary, benefits

•    MP misses 121 of 125 parliamentary sittings
•    Analyst wants immediate resignation
•    Opposition leader ‘too soft’


By Staff Reporter

Taxpayers have forked out over N$1 million to pay for the salary and political perks of the now backbencher and Former Cabinet Minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko who has only attended four of the 125 sessions of the National Assembly over the last 18 months.
Ngatjizeko, by virtue of being a backbencher in the National Assembly is entitled to a gross salary of around N$57 000 a month.
However, the MP has failed to perform his legislative duties, which includes passing, amending laws and executing oversight duties over state-owned enterprise and other government institutions.
The former Trade Minister was relieved of his duties due to ill health from Cabinet in 21 February 2018.
He was the Presidential Affairs Minister at the time.
When President Hage Geingob appointed Ngatjizeko into that portfolio, he told the nation that he did so to monitor the latter’s health condition closely. The Presidential Affairs Minister operates from State House. But after 14 days into his new position, it would appear that Geingob was convinced that Ngatjizeko was unfit to hold the position and therefore showed him the door.

‘Clinging onto power’
Ironically, Ngatjizeko has since held onto his position in the National Assembly, despite being unable to deliver on his elected mandate.
Although the law does not compel Ngatjizeko, or any MP to relinquish their position due to health reason or absence, political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said it does not take a genius to realise that it is best for the politician to step down.
This, he said, would allow for another Namibian to serve in the position and contribute to policies and laws in the furtherance of Namibia’s development agenda. “It is a sad situation because nobody wants to comment on it because it involves the health of an individual because the body is failing him. But our system must be improved in order to excuse those who are unable to do their work. It is not in the best interest of the honourable [Ngatjizeko], the party [Swapo] and Parliament,” Kamwanyah said. An MP shall for among other reasons surrender their membership in the legislative organ of the State if they cease to be members of the political party which nominated them.
Another scenario for disqualification of an MP is if they are absent during sittings of the assembly for 10 consecutive days without having obtained a special leave according to the Namibian Constitution. Further, a member vacates his seat through resignation, their political party is entitled to fill that vacancy by nominating a person on the party’s election list compiled for the previous general election.
In the event that Ngatjizeko vacates his seat, Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun is next in line to fill his position according to Swapo’s 2014 election list.  In addition, he said, Swapo’s failure to recall an ailing member from Parliament only gives credence to the existing theory that those in the top echelons of Swapo have deliberately kept Ngatjizeko in Parliament to prevent Namundjebo-Tilahun from making it to the legislature for political differences.
“The party [Swapo] is thinking more of who is next on the list rather than the void created and what the individual must produce. It tells you the level of our politics which overrides performance. The absence has severe implications on performance of parliament, ordinary Namibians and Swapo,” he lamented.
In 2017, Namudjebo-Tilahun teamed up with the now disbanded Team Swapo which contested tooth-and-nail against Geingob’s Team Harambee during ruling party’s intra election.
Team Swapo was annihilated by Team Harambee.
What followed next was the reported cleansing in Swapo of those who challenged and who are believed to be anti-Geingob and his faction’s at congress in what appeared to be a political witch-hunt from positions of influence in the party or government.
At the time, Swapo gave directives for the demotion of local authority councillors who were perceived to be anti-Geingob, while Geingob’s perceived allies, notably Nangolo Mbumba and Veikko Nekundi were elevated to vice president and deputy minister positions respectively.
A reconciliatory Geingob who stated as he accepted his election as party president “this is our moment to light a new candle of camaraderie. It is our moment to turn our backs on petty politics. It is our moment to turn towards each other in the spirit of unity and resist the temptation to fall back into personalised squabbles”.
Shockingly, a few weeks later, Geingob removed former deputy minister of health Petrina Haingura from parliament, a step which was interpreted to mean that the party president was not interested in party unity and reconciliation.
The sacking of former youth and home affairs ministers Jerry Ekandjo and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana for challenging for Swapo president and deputy president positions respectively followed hot on the heels of Haingura’s dismissal. Geingob defended his decision to remove Haingura from the August House saying that it was due to her loss of secretary of the party’s women council’s position to Eunice Ipinge in November 2016, The Patriot reported at the time.


The honorable thing
Additionally, the analyst said in mature democracies, individuals know when to call it a day. According to Kamwanyah, the politician’s continued stay in the assembly is to the detriment of the taxpayers and may as well have negative repercussions on his own health.
“It [not resigning] is making him look bad because the productivity of Parliament is being affected because of the vacancy [void] he is creating. It is creating inefficiencies that could have been avoided,” he said.
To Kamwanyah’s dismay, logic escaped the powers that be when it came to dealing with the Ngatjizeko situation. “It’s just really common sense. It does not take a labour expert to know that when a person can no longer perform their duties, they must be excused to allow them to focus on their health. I don’t know how common sense escaped when it came to this matter,” he said.


Should Ngatjizeko choose to vacate his sit, he would not be the first to do so, recent history suggests. When the late Nicky Iyambo tendered his resignation from the Executive in 2018, it was on health grounds. The same year, the then Deputy Minister of Labour, Alpheus Muheua also resigned from Parliament due to ill health.

Venaani lands in hot soup
Leader of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) McHenry Venaani has courted criticism for being ‘soft’ on Ngatjizeko instead of demanding his resignation.
“We have no record of his recovery thus we can humanly wish him well and a speedy recovery. There is no law that forces one to leave office if there is no medical certificate certifying retirement on ill health so it’s a delicate matter,” Venaani was quoted earlier this week.
During a heated debate on a certain WhatsApp group by the name ‘Global Africa Unity’, seen by The Patriot on which Venaani is a member, one of the members questioned Venaani’s remark: “Are you related [to Ngatjizeko]? Why did you not call for him to resign and let others replace him to make a meaningful contribution to this country?”Another post reads: “Interesting!!! An opposition leader is defending an old, tired and unfit Swapo MP [yet] our money is being paid to a person who will surely never return to work because biology can’t be cheated.”
In his defence, Venaani replied: “You see, you want me to fight your Swapo battle for you. The old and unfit was voted by yourself, not me or the PDM…stop voting for old people who call themselves young.”
It remains unclear if Ngatjizeko will return when the assembly resumes on 10 September 2019.

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