The decision by President Hage Geingob to recall former Health and Social Services Deputy Minister, Petrina Haingura, from Parliament is a step too far which implies that the president is no longer interested in party unity and reconciliation,
analysts warned this week.
The decision to recall Haingura follows hot on the heels the sacking of former Home Affairs and Immigration Minister, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Sports, Youth and National Services Minister, Jerry Ekandjo.
Haingura claimed in an interview with the Windhoek Observer this week that her dismissal letter was pushed under her office door by someone she does not know.
Analysts say that Haingura, just like Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana, was being punished for challenging Geingob and his slate during the party’s elective congress in November last year.
According to Geingob, he decided to recall Haingura from parliament “due to her loss of Secretary of the party’s Women Council position” to Eunice Ipinge in November 2016.
Haingura expressed her disappointment with Geingob over the manner in which she was recalled.
“I received the letter on Tuesday. I did not receive a call, but it was pushed under my office door. By whom? I still don’t know.
“As leaders, one would expect to be called and told openly about this decision, but nothing like that was done. It is inhumane to do that. It is not leadership. We preach about democracy almost every day, but what democratic country do we live in if one cannot be free to say certain things? The move was no surprise. I take it. It is his prerogative,” Haingura said.
Deputy Director of the University of Namibia's Centre for Professional Development and Teaching and Learning, Ndumba Kamwanyah, argued that recalling parliamentarians is a stretch too far which implies that the president is no longer interested in party unity and reconciliation.
“Geingob himself was the victim of mean politics. That’s the context that brought him to power. People who supported and campaigned for him were tired of disunity, name-calling and revenge politics. They brought him in to fix the infighting in the party and the country. After the 2012 Congress, Geingob embraced unity and eventually when he won the presidency he appointed two of his rivals in his Cabinet. Again, when he defeated Team Swapo Geingob preached unity and reconciliation. That’s what leaders do.
“His latest doing, under “The Year of Reckoning” dictum is certainly a diversion from his previous stance. It is fine to remove them from the Cabinet, but recalling them from Parliament is a stretch too far. It actually suggests that he is no longer interested in party unity and reconciliation.
“What is he going to do with all the Team SWAPO supporters who are in government and party structures? Shy away from dealing with them? If this is how the Year of Reckoning looks then, I am afraid it is a misplaced reckoning,” Kamwanyah said.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Executive Director, Graham Hopwood, warned that the danger of appointing only loyalists to Cabinet positions is that the executive ends up composed mainly of ‘yes’ men and 'yes' women.
“One understands that this is politics and that there may be some settling of scores after watershed moments like the congress of last year. However, it is important that key dismissals and appointments are made to improve the effectiveness of government rather than simply out of political revenge.
“Sometimes people who are not totally in the prevailing camp or faction can provide constructive criticism,” Hopwood told the Windhoek Observer.
Visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, Henning Melber, said that although loyalty does matter in politics, it should not be at the expense of good governance and democracy.
“It is understandable and was to be expected that Geingob rewards some of his closest supporters. But when replacing others for merely party-internal political reasons with followers who seemingly have little more to offer than their uncritical loyalty, the biggest victim will be democracy and good governance. Consolidating an empire is a temptation one should resist, especially when it risks to happen at the expense of competence to deliver.
“If the replacements are adding value to governance, not much can be criticised. But if they only serve to eliminate people who are considered as unwanted elements while doing a good job and having support at the base, we are moving in the wrong direction.”
Melber added that a full-fledged vendetta against all considered to have opposed Team Hage does not serve the country.
“One also needs advice from those who do not, as happy clappers, only reconfirm and praise what one wants to hear. Politics requires people who dare to share differing opinions with the one who calls the shots. And one needs to appreciate such contributions as another form of loyalty - an act of patriotism seeking to improve performance.
“During the campaigns for the SWAPO Party congress some lines were crossed by the competitors. That Geingob, after his triumphant victory, would react is not a surprise. A somewhat measured realignment of positions could be expected. But a full-fledged vendetta against all considered to have been not in support of Team Hage borders on a witch hunt. This is not a good sign for party-internal democracy and does not serve Namibia,” Melber said.
Some of those who opposed Geingob and his slate at the November elective congress found themselves on the chopping board, just a few days after congress.
New SWAPO Party Secretary General, Sophia Shaningwa, is alleged to have given directives to demote some councilors who were considered to be anti-Geingob.
Former Walvis Bay Deputy Mayor, Hilka Erastus, was demoted to an ordinary member position, replaced by Penelope Martin.
Tobias Nambala was also demoted to ordinary council member from his post as chairperson of the Management Committee (MC).
Ndishoshili Ngilumbwa, who was a member of the MC, is now the new chair.
On the other hand, key Geingob allies such as former SWAPO Party Youth League Acting Secretary, Veikko Nekundi, and former SWAPO Party Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba, were promoted to government posts as deputy minister and vice president, respectively.
Government sources claimed this week that Iivula-Ithana will also be recalled from Parliament.
The Windhoek Observer also understands that Geingob will replace governors that did not give him support in the run up to last year’s elections.
In a recent interview with the Windhoek Observer, Landless People’s Movement (LPM) Henny Seibeb expressed his reservation at President Geingob’s sincerity when it comes to having an efficient administration.
He said the president had requested CVs from professionals, but later ignored those qualified and experienced when he made his appointments to public office.
“He goes more for nincompoops that can only agree with whatever he [says] - the yes-men and yes-women.
“How many skilled people are there in Namibia and yet you are appointing somebody who does not even have a Grade 12 certificate? That’s an insult to students that are studying public administration. We are not serious about development and about leadership,”Seibeb said.