Analysts have criticized State House officials for trying to bask in fake glory by associating President Hage Geingob with American businessman, Christopher Cox, who was introduced as ‘US President Donald Trump’s advisor’.
Analysts said State House’s desperation for recognition from world leaders and businesses have caused an embarrassment to the president, leaving him with egg on his face.
The Office of the President announced in an invitation to local media houses on 8 August that ‘Christopher Cox- President Donald Trump’s Advisor on North Africa and Sahel’ was visiting the country.
It turned out that Cox, is not an advisor to Trump nor does he work in his administration, according to the US Embassy in Windhoek.
DTA Secretary for Finance, Nico Smit, said it is disconcerting that those advising the president or charged with vetting any visitors to the president did not conduct a thorough background check.
“As the first citizen, there is principally no problem with the president meeting and encouraging potential investors to invest in Namibia. If anything, this should be welcomed and praised during these difficult economic times.
“It is, however, disconcerting that those advising the president or charged with vetting any visitor to the president did not conduct a thorough background check prior to Mr Cox’s visit and effectively allowed him to dupe the president regarding the true and exact nature of his role in the Trump Administration. In this case, it may have been a “harmless” businessman, but this should serve as a strong warning to those vetting the president’s foreign guests in future.
“Moreover, the diplomatic fiasco which resulted from this, with the American Embassy having to correct the presidency by stating that Cox has no official position on the Trump Administration opened up the presidency to a completely avoidable diplomatic incident, and exposed the fact that thorough vetting had not been done,” Smit said.
Professor Henning Melber at the University of Pretoria said that Trump, being a leader of the most powerful country in the world, was used for the ‘image and made State House more important to be associated with’.
“I think it has only an embarrassing impact on State House and the president, who were trying to bask in a glory which turned out to be fake. For the country itself, it seems largely irrelevant beyond the borders and is certainly not newsworthy elsewhere. But it puts egg on the face of the president and his staff at home in domestic policy and perceptions, and does not strengthen his image.”
Melber said that it is State House’s task to carefully scrutinise individuals who are meeting with the president.
“The visitor, if scrutinised properly, could have been offered a meeting with some higher ranking officials in the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development to share his plans.”
Affirmative Repositioning movement co-founder and UNAM Lecturer, Job Amupanda, told the Windhoek Observer that President Geingob is surrounded by staff whose pre-occupation is profit with little knowledge and comprehension of politics.
“Generally, this administration’s overall orientation is business and neo-liberalism. The flamboyant president is surrounded by fellows whose pre-occupation is profit with little knowledge and comprehension of politics as the art of possible. They focus more on face value interpretation and managing public opinion.
“The whole political strategy is surrounding one man, his image, his photos, his voice, his anger and his happiness. Most of that lot does not speak for the country, they focus on only one man. Who, among those surrounding the president can be counted amongst serious political thinkers?
“What he has as a team, is a conference of profit practitioners, so this scandal of Cox must be seen, read and analysed in this context.
“I assume that ambassadors and diplomats that are representing their countries in Namibia have broken lungs with laughter. We are a laughing stock in diplomatic circles. People will be saying to each other in their countries that if one can dribble the president of Namibia and get him to transport you with Government vehicles and get to have a closed door meeting with the first citizen then it must be easy to dribble ordinary officials,” Amupanda said.
UNAM Director, Ndumba Kamwanyah, questioned the vetting process conducted by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation.
“It has to do with the recent bad news of the down-grade as well as the current economic situation in which we find ourselves. So, it’s some sort of damage control to show that our economy is strong because world leaders and international businesses have confidence in us and want to do business with us.
“Certainly, the way he was showcased on TV and social media should be an embarrassment to the way how State House and the international relations ministry vet people who visit State House. Nobody really thought that an official advisor of the US president would have come through the US Embassy?
“I am not sure how things at State House work, but I will not blame those who are concluding that it looks like State House is desperate for recognition from world leaders and international businesses. Why?”
Kamwanyah also blamed President Geingob’s security and vetting team for doing a ‘sloppy job’
“The blame should go to the president’s security and vetting team for doing a sloppy job in vetting the guy properly. The mind-boggling question is, was this a mere oversight or something deeper in terms of the competencies of the people responsible for vetting visitors? Yes, in a way, it is an embarrassment to the president and the nation,” he said.
State House Press Secretary, Albertus Aochamub, refused to comment.
“We have responded comprehensively on this matter and have nothing more to say,”Aochamub said.
The US Embassy Public Affairs Officer, Eric Atkins said he does not have information about what Cox does.
“We aren’t interested in assigning blame, and we aren’t in a position to comment about what a private citizen does. Mr Cox traveled to Namibia in his personal capacity, as he told the media here. He does not work for the U.S. Government or represent the Trump Administration.”