President Hage Geingob has repaid former SWAPO Secretary General, Nangolo Mbumba, with the second highest office in the land after helping him secure the ruling party’s presidency in November.
Geingob appointed Mbumba as his deputy during a Cabinet reshuffle announced on Thursday, which some analysts have described as uninspiring.
Mbumba was accused by his critics of continuously violating SWAPO’s constitution and dishing out preferential treatment to Geingob or to those aligned to him in the run up to the SWAPO Party elective congress last November.
Visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, Henning Melber, said while he was happy that Vice President Nickey Iyambo was now taking a “well-deserved” rest, he was disappointed that Mbumba was appointed to a “symbolic” position as compensation for the role he played in ensuring a Geingob victory at the party’s elective congress.
“That the VP position does not remain vacant is largely due to the required recognition and compensation of Nangolo Mbumba, who has his whole life been loyal to the party and to Geingob.
“I continue to hope that there will be another constitutional amendment, which will reverse the unfortunate decision to add such a largely symbolic post,” Melber said.
During the announcement at State House, Geingob thanked Iyambo for his service to the country, describing him as a sober advisor.
“I would like to announce the resignation of the Vice President, Comrade Nickey Iyambo, due to health reasons. I would like to thank him, son of the soil, my sober advisor, for the excellent service rendered to Government throughout his political career,” Geingob said.
Other changes saw National Planning Commission Director General, Tom Alweendo, swapping places with former Mines and Energy Minister, Obeth Kandjoze.
Former Attorney General, Sackeus Shanghala, also changed places with former Justice Minister, Albert Kawana, who previously held the AG position between 2008 and March 2015.
Former Presidential Affairs Minister, Frans Kapofi replaced the fired Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana as the Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration while former Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Minister, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, becomes the new Presidential Affairs Minister.
Ministry of Information and Communication Technology Minister, Tjekero Tweya, has been moved to the trade and industry ministry.
John Mutorwa is now the new boss at the Ministry of Works and Transport, swapping places with Alpheus !Naruseb who goes to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.
Peya Mushelenga, who has been the second Deputy Minister at the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, takes over from Sophia Shaningwa as the new Minister of Urban and Rural Development.
Erastus Utoni is now youth and sports minister while Stanley Simataa, formerly deputy minister, takes the number one post at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
Commenting on the reshuffle, political analyst, Phanuel Kaapama, said the Cabinet reshuffle was nothing out of the ordinary.
“There is really nothing out of the ordinary with the reshuffle, but more of a realignment and reorganisation of the political personnel at the disposal of the president,” Kaapama said.
“In particular, the placement of Dr Mushelenga at Urban and Rural Development seems not to be based on his specialisation as per his CV, but may provide him with the neccessary exposure and experience as a full Cabinet minister after years of deputising.”
Institute for Public Policy Research Executive Director, Graham Hopwood, said although the changes were “overall not very exciting or inspiring”, he was happy that ministries which have been sites for high-level corruption are now headed by politicians he considers to have high levels of integrity.
“The term ‘Year of Reckoning’ suggested there would be some kind of clear-out or at least the dismissal of a couple of non-performers. Instead, this reshuffle continues SWAPO’s tradition of constantly recycling ministers within the same patronage system. As long as that happens, efficiency and service delivery will be undermined,” Hopwood said.
“Having said that, there are some encouraging aspects, particularly the promotion of deputy ministers. Stanley Simataa has good technocratic knowledge when it comes to ICT while Peya Mushelenga can now prove his ministerial mettle at Urban and Rural Development. “I’m (also) impressed that some of the ministries which have been sites for high-level corruption are now headed by politicians I consider to have high levels of integrity such as Tom Alweendo at mines and John Mutorwa at works. Hopefully, they can clear out the corrupt elements.”
Hopwood, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision by Geingob to retain Ngatjizeko as minister.
“I don’t understand the point of keeping an ill minister like Immanuel Ngatjizeko in the Minister of Presidential Affairs post. Surely that is just the waste of a salary which couldn’t be justified in good economic times, never mind the fiscal crisis we have now,”Hopwood said.
Melber said Geingob had missed an opportunity to promote gender equality further.
“It would have been an achievement to see more women assigned with ministerial responsibilities instead of shifting around mainly elderly men. Having said this, there are a few minor tectonic shifts which could point in the right direction,” he said, adding that it was pleasing to hear that Shanghala had been moved from the AG position.
“That Shanghala is now relieved of the AG position is for me among the most pleasant news. I also welcome that he is not - as earlier speculations suggested - transferred to State House, where he might have been able to continue plotting his unsavoury deals,” Melber said.
He applauded Geingob for choosing Alweendo as the new Mines and Energy Minister, saying that he is a good choice for such an important ministry.
“I think Tom Alweendo is a good choice for one of the most important ministries with strategic importance for a largely mineral resource based economy. The swop makes sense to me assuming that Kandjoze - like Alweendo - is able to communicate with his predecessor/successor and also impacts on other relevant ministries.
“It is high time that the NPC gets the status it deserves and becomes more influential. Tom Alweendo did a good job there, but did not have the power to turn ideas into policy.”
Asked whether the new changes will help in the fight against alleged corruption and improve service delivery in the public sector, Melber said it is now up to the president to monitor performance and act with rigour when delivery is missing.
“What is comforting is that the finance minister remains untouched, which I take as an approval of his policy and efforts to curb mismanagement and embezzlement. I also appreciate that the president singled out in his speech some of the more recent public concerns over certain shady deals. Naming in such a context is almost shaming, which is good.
“If this is indeed the year of reckoning, then actions must follow. They speak louder than words,” Melber said.
Political analyst, Ndumba Kamwanyah said ministers were reassigned without considering their skills, knowledge, experiences and education.
“Nothing particularly new about this reshuffling, but your typical reallocation or change around. It appears to me that people were reassigned without considering their skills, knowledge, experiences and education,” Kamwanyah said.
“In that sense we have some misalignment in this reshuffling exercise. All I can see are old faces, including the non-performers, given new responsibilities. Reassigning a non-performer is not strategic.
“One can argue that the president had few options because the quality and capability of the parliamentary list from which he was supposed to choose from was limiting in terms of skills and knowledge.
“Shifting a non-performing minister from one position to another is not reckoning. All what you are doing is shifting the same old problem to the new ministry.”
New appointees speak
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer, Kapofi said that he is happy with the new task assigned to him.
“Well, I am ready to do what is expected of me. I don’t have any regrets. I am happy,” Kapofi said, while Ngatjizeko said his new assignment means Geingob has confidence in him.
“This is not the first time I am being moved from one ministry to another. Therefore, I feel that the president has confidence in me. I just have to do my best,” Ngatjizeko said.
Kawana said he is honored to be the new AG.
“I will serve him and the people of Namibia the best way I can and to the best of my ability. It is indeed an honor. I was the AG before, I know what the job entails and the challenges there, but with the assistance of colleagues, I will succeed,” he told the Windhoek Observer.