Reshuffle echoes existing concerns

09 February 2018 Author  
The expected cabinet reshuffle has hit the fan.  About most of the moves now made by the president, we can only say:  “We told you so.” 
Since the beginning of the Geingob Administration, this newspaper has reported factually and with journalistic integrity, many of the faux pas, misjudgements, unfortunate health considerations, and questionable legal/ethical decisions that negatively impacted Namibia, perpetrated by most of the Ministers who have been shifted. 
For the now-justified positions we have taken regarding most of the ministers reshuffled, this newspaper has been lambasted by irate letters, threats, angry rebuttal editorials, and boycotts that have caused our reporters’ queries on other issues to be ignored. 
We would have advocated complete dismissal on the grounds of negligence and poor performance for a couple of the ministers who have been reshuffled (and some who were not), but are reluctantly resigned to this country’s wasteful penchant for moving their troubles around as a ‘solution’ to real problems. 
Nevertheless, we accept the current re-shift as affirmation of many of our continuously printed concerns.
Former Attorney General, Sakeus Shanghala, was long past his performance sell-by date.  While we question the move of a non-attorney to run the Justice Ministry, we applaud the fact that he is no longer in a position to make hugely expensive out of court settlements, unbudgeted legal ‘deals’ in foreign countries, or unilaterally act as the lawyer (without credentials) for the government.
We recount our long string of articles and editorials including those where we stated concerns about Shanghala’s decision-making. 
We reported on his discussions with UK experts to research the issue of possible phosphate mining in Namibia (WO-November 3, 2017) and presented an opinion carrying a N$4.5 million price tag for their consultancy work. 
This was on the heels of his complete mishandling of an unbudgeted N$47 million payment to lawyers in the UK for questionable work (WO-July 7, 2017).
Subsequently, we received complaints from the AG’s office accusing us of slander, unfairness and a raft of other expletives for our accurate and credible reporting. 
Regarding the retirement of Nickey Iyambo, this newspaper repeatedly pointed out, with respect, our continuous and sincere concerns for the very real health challenges faced by our liberation movement stalwart and the now former first Vice President of Namibia (serving in government since 1990). 
We urged the octogenarian’s retirement with dignity on medical grounds and questioned the efficacy of even having an Office of the Vice President (WO- September 8, 2016, Oct 7, 2016, July 7, 2017 and February 2, 2018).
We received an exceedingly hostile letter on State House official letterhead in July 2017 from an official working for the former Vice President which called this newspaper various rude names, when we commented on Iyambo’s fitness for office. 
As we have stated in many editorials over the past two years, it is our opinion that the entire office of the Vice President should be abolished with immediate effect.  Not only as an urgently needed cost-saving measure, but because the office is unnecessary to the functioning of the State.  And yet, as a political reward for services rendered in the election campaign at the SWAPO Party Congress (which we also predicted in an early editorial) the former SWAPO SG, Nangolo Mbumba has been installed in that superfluous post as state VP.
We have expressed our continuous concerns for the stamina and overall health of Minister of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development, Immanuel Ngatjizeko (who joined Cabinet in 2003) and questioned his continuation in office. 
According to sources, major decisions have been made by his ministry where the minister was none the wiser about what was happening in his name. 
We carried several stories about this over the last two years.  In particular, we ran a story about the appointment of the Director of Industrial Development, Petrina Nakale, to the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) as a representative of his ministry where the Minister had no idea it had happened (WO-May 5, 2017). 
We also reported about the inflated sale of a rundown property in Katutura to the government via the ministry of trade for an astounding N$18 million price tag where Ngatjizeko again stated that he had no idea that it had happened (WO- Oct 13, 2017). 
These and other examples fuelled concerns that the minister, out of office repeatedly due to health issues, is not physically able to run his own shop.
That Ngatjizeko has been re-shuffled to the unnecessary post of Minister of Presidential Affairs so that the president can “monitor his health” is astounding.  State House carries no medical assessment credentials, so we are uncertain what is meant by Geingob’s justification for moving the ailing former trade minister.  Let him rather be immediately released from public service to attend to his serious health issues.
Minister Alpheus !Naruseb who has served in Cabinet since 1997 has been moved to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, but has had negative performance in his former portfolio at the Ministry of  Works and Transport (MWT) since he took up the post. 
His rule since 2015 has been riddled with disasters at SOEs residing under his ministry resulting in well-reported chaos at NAC, judicial management (bankruptcy really) at RCC, a runaway train of financial wreckage at TransNamib and the usual massive budget drains and the continued lack of a permanent MD at Air Namibia. 
His ill-fated positions on lawsuits against government and his public reticence in dealing with Public Enterprises Minister Leon Jooste when the latter made serious attempts to ease the situation at SOEs still residing under !Naruseb’s remit, further weakened his credibility.  (WO-May 20, 2017; December 1, 2017).
In our view, the president didn’t go far enough. We would have liked to have seen movement in the Environment and Tourism portfolio where the approval for the now-lost KORA N$24 million came from Minister Pohamba Shifeta.  Someone must be held accountable for those missing funds.
It is not enough to say that such matters are being handled in civil courts, when State funds have been mishandled, possibly criminally, by public servants.   Civil action does not preclude criminal proceedings and job terminations where gross negligence is evident. 
If the reshuffle was about corruption, poor performance and discontent, we also point out that the Minister of Land Reform, Utoni Nujoma who joined government in 2005, remained untouched by the changes.  The debacle over the cancelled Lands Conference, accusations about government purchased farmlands parcelled out unfairly and the unclear status of the sensitive issues around the government’s land purchase policies should indicate that a change in that portfolio was also in order.
This paper’s commitment to journalistic integrity and accurate news reporting as well as analytical and insightful editorials remain intact. 


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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