President Hage Geingob’s failure to publicly pronounce himself on the swindled Kora millions (N$24m), the astronomical legal fees for the genocide case (N$47m) and the lost N$200m from the SME Bank, sets a bad precedent for Namibia, political analysts have said.
The analysts called on Geingob to break his “troubling” silence on rampant abuse of public funds, adding that the president’s silence is puzzling, especially after he promised to fight corruption and ineffectiveness in Government.
Political analyst, Phanuel Kaapama, said Government, as the primary custodian of national interests, must answer to the public.
“Besides the Bank of Namibia case for the liquidation of the SME Bank, as well as the ongoing money laundering criminal case that is being investigated by the Namibian Police Force, the Government of the Republic of Namibia, not only as the majority shareholder, but also primarily as a custodian of the national interests as well as public welfare, has a case to answer to the public. Especially regarding whether those entrusted with these functions on behalf of the State should not be held liable for negligence in the performance of their fiduciary responsibilities as directors of this company.
“And should this be the case, Government will be duty-bound to pronounce itself on the measures that it would not only be prepared to take, but is also legally obliged to institute in the interest of good and transparent governance, as articulated under pillar one of the Harambee Prosperity Plan,” Kaapama said.
Social commentator and political analyst, Ndumba Kamwanyah, said Geingob is all talk, but no action and needs to pronounce himself because the buck stops with him.
“The knowledge that the president, who promised to fight corruption and ineffectiveness in Government tooth and nail, is silent is puzzling, if not troubling. Actually, it is becoming a pattern of President Hage Geingob of not saying anything in public about cases involving the squandering of public money.
“He hasn’t pronounced himself publicly about the swindled Kora money; the astronomical genocide fees that have been siphoned out of the country under dubious circumstances; and now the SME Bank and its missing ‘investment.’ In the court of public opinion, it is fair to say that his silence is likely to contribute, and rightly so or not, to the perception out there that the president is all talk, but no action,” Kamwanyah said.
Kamwanyah further argued that it does not serve Geingob well as the president to have culprits and individuals, who headed institutions that have squandered public money such as Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta; Secretary to Cabinet, George Simataa and Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala, in his Cabinet.
“The president perhaps wants to allow the laws and procedures to take their course, therefore, leaving the matters in the hands of responsible individuals. I think it is time for him to pronounce himself on those dubious matters because the buck stops with him.
“It does not serve the president well, if the person who is in charge of the SME Bank is the same secretary of his Cabinet. Perhaps, in Namibia it works differently, but in other countries the people under whose watch the Kora, SME Bank and the genocide money got looted, lost or swindled, would be in big trouble. The problem in this country is that people who misuse public funds, whether intentional or not, are rarely held accountable. Not holding the people, who were in charge of the now collapsed SME Bank, is a bad precedent.
“The point here is not to blame Geingob, but to stress that he sits on a lot of information about these issues and questions, assuming that he gets briefed on them, which he can use to explain and clarify misconceptions . But when he remains zipped, I am afraid the ordinary folk is going to think the other way round,” Kamwanyah said.
A prominent lawyer, who gave his views on condition of anonymity, said: “Who remembers the Avid case that involved a mere N$30million? Now N$200 million is at stake and no one is held accountable. It definitely speaks volumes about justice for the non-politically connected and the connected persons.”
In many of his recent speeches, Geingob has been quoted as saying, “We are deeply convinced that accountability and transparency are important for shared, inclusive and sustained economic development, which in turn is required for poverty eradication.
“For an act of corruption to take place, there is always a corruptor and a corruptee, each as corrupt as the other. I plead with the private sector to report corruption and not participate in it.”
Leading professor at the University of Pretoria, Henning Melber, said Geingob has repeatedly stressed the need for transparency, accountability and promised reforms, but the looting has continued unabated.
“He promised reforms and was applauded for his declared anti-corruption statements. Like during the Pohamba era, his policy in this regard suggests to be more words than deeds, when it comes to a lack of consequences.
“The looting has continued unabated, as the recent scandals underline. In some of the shady deals, members of Team Hage seem to be directly involved, either as beneficiaries, by sharing responsibility for the plundering of public assets and coffers or for being remunerated for jobs they failed to properly execute. They should actually face disciplinary measures and close scrutiny, if the president means what he says,” Melber said.
Melber added that individuals who misuse public funds make Geingob a vulnerable person, as he relies on them for ‘Team Hage’ support ahead of the elective congress in November.
“This creates a problem for the president at the current juncture, when all energy seems to focus on the forthcoming party congress. Being the acting president of SWAPO, he needs to secure his proper election as party president to create the condition for a second term as Head of State.
“Following the ongoing power struggles in local and regional constituencies, one cannot take it for granted that his election is sealed and done. That makes him vulnerable and dependent upon those in Team Hage, who have supported him before.
“This also means that he possibly cannot afford to act against those in his team, who should be held accountable for failures and misconduct or simply unethical (if not criminal) violation of their duties in the offices they hold.
“He cannot risk a fall out for taking disciplinary action against them, and as a likely result, lose their support at this crucial moment in time.
“On the other hand, his reluctance to act, and to leave matters to others, means that he is not willing to be proactive in following up what he preaches. By this, he risks, like in the case of Pohamba, losing support in the electorate, which had welcomed his original declarations.
“But voters’ support and approval are, in the current constellation, less important than the support of a majority of delegates to the next party congress to elect him as party president. This might explain why Geingob remains passive now, though it comes at a price in terms of his credibility among an increasingly frustrated population.
“It might well be that once properly elected as party president he will become more active in cleaning the house to make him more popular again among the ordinary voters in an effort to restore confidence in him. For now, his silence and passivity erodes his moral legitimacy among them, but seeks to maintain his support base inside the party among those, who were the beneficiaries of the unwillingness to walk the talk. As at least a temporary consequence, the culprits could feel safe, if not even encouraged, to continue business as usual,” Melber explained.
President Geingob did not answer to questions sent to him through his Press Secretary, Albertus Aochamub, on Tuesday.