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Cut ministers’ luxuries or no 2pct – Venaani

07 June 2019 Author   NYASHA FRANCIS NYAUNGWA
Official opposition leader, McHenry Venaani, has come out guns blazing accusing the Geingob Administration of hypocrisy by living a life of opulence while holding out the begging bowl.
Venaani said the SWAPO Party-led government has proven that it is indifferent to the suffering of the masses by continuing with the “legacy of a gravy train” at a time when there is great economic turmoil in the country.
He said if government wants the public to donate 2 percent from their salaries in order to fight the effects of drought, it should lead by example by introducing a number of austerity measures.
“Government is asking that people should give 2 percent…. but if government wants people to make a contribution towards something, they must also walk the talk. Government cannot continue to do what they are doing….there must be austerity measures …implemented in order to save the country from a longer [economic] contraction,” Venaani said.
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) president accused cabinet ministers of wasting millions of dollars in what he described as “Petrol Gate”.
He claimed that a Cabinet minister who has been in office since independence in 1990 has spent over N$7 million dollars on petrol.
“When you are a senior government official you get free petrol. This petrol gate is costing tax payers millions of dollars.  We have seen ministers running errands on government petrol. You are sitting in line at a government meeting, [but] you are sending your driver to go to your farm on government petrol. You are sitting in a conference in the south, or opening a government function, [but] you are sending your driver to go and buy cement bags to send to your site.
“We cannot afford to have a country where there is a system that is not controlled and that is not checked, so we are calling on government to control the petrol gate scandal. It is the biggest white collar crime that the government is committing. Ministers are having it easy, using government petrol as they wish.”
He proposed that ministers should be given only two full tanks a month in order to carry out their official duties.
“You cannot have a system where there is no limit. The whole system is uncontrolled and we are saying the petrol gate must be controlled. We cannot allow senior government officials and ministers using government petrol at will and running farm errands.”
Benefits of former presidents
The PDM president said he will soon table a motion to review the benefits of presidents in order to put to an end the current practice where former presidents are entitled to a house worth N$40 million on retirement.
He said there is no justification to give a former president, who did not pay taxes for a number of years, a house worth N$40 million.
“That issue needs to be reviewed. A State president must be given an office, security details and staff given the office that he holds, but to give a house to someone who already has houses while the majority are homeless is no longer justifiable.
“You cannot give to someone who already has a pension payout equal to his salary for the rest of his life. If I defeat Geingob, he will not get the house. We will review that law; I cannot give a house to somebody who already has a house. Under my watch, I will not allow any retiring president to receive millions of dollars as payout to soothe their ego so that they do not come back to power.”
Motorcades
Venaani also said it is a shame for Namibian leaders to travel in huge convoys when compared to that of leaders from the first world or with bigger economies.
“If you look at the motorcade of the Namibian prime minister and that of Theresa May who is the prime minister of England, in a first world country, with a much bigger economy, our prime minister’s motorcade is more expensive, the cars she is using are more expensive than the cars that May is using.
“I have just returned from Chile and their president’s motorcade is smaller than that of the prime minister of our country. For a country that has a bigger GDP, a bigger economy, his motorcade is smaller than what the current prime minister is having. We need to stop these motorcades.
“There is no justification for a vice president to have a motorcade of more than three vehicles. You cannot have people who are retired having motorcades of four, five vehicles together with traffic officers.
“One of the things that should happen is that the traffic officers should be used by the president alone. The rest of the government senior officials should not have traffic officers. After all, they have blue lights that alarm traffic users.”
He said he is annoyed that the whole town must stop because the vice president is going on lunch. “We cannot have a country that is run that way.”
“The former presidents should have only two vehicles - their security detail and the one transporting them. These people are on retirement, there are no security risks in the country at all. They have no jobs; all we need to do is to protect them as former presidents.
“I am saying we must seize using these Mercedes Benz that are being used with blue lights. It’s fine for the president, vice and prime minister to travel in bullet proof cars, but the other cars must be corollas.
“Why can’t we use a black Toyota corolla just directing where the prime minister is going, why should it be a Benz on petrol. Why are we doing that?
As PDM, we are saying that if the president wants 2 percent from Namibians he must walk the talk. Cut the cars that the prime minister is using, the cars that the former presidents are using and save money and make sure Namibians have a better life.
“People are in darkness, but we have a motorcade worth three to four million plus a staff compliment. It is a shame. With N$4 million you can give a thousand people sanitation.”