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Governors finally find their home

2022-12-15  Paheja Siririka

Governors finally find their home

Paheja Siririka

Regional governors will no longer serve two masters. The political office bearers, who until now were appointed by the head of state but whose offices and budget resorted under the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, have finally been transferred to the Presidency.

The ministry completed the transfer process of all documentation of regional governors and support staff to the Presidency.

Line minister Erastus Uutoni made this announcement this week informing staff of the changes.

“This memo serves to inform you that to enhance effective performance as well as address challenges related to dual reporting lines, it has been deemed necessary for the governors to resort under the Office of the President, the appointing authority,” stated Uutoni.

He said the necessary procedures, notably the recommendation of the Public Service Commission and approval for the transfer of governors and support staff from the urban and rural development ministry to the Presidency have been secured and finalised.

The transfer took effect on 1 December 2022.

The new proposed structure will include 14 deputy directors, 14 administrative officers, 14 development planners, 14 personal assistants and 14 private secretaries.

There will also be 14 accountants, 14 accounts assistants, 42 drivers, 14 messengers as well 14 cleaners and labourers each.

One of the long-serving governors, Khomas’ Laura McLeod Katjirua, this week gave the move her stamp of approval, saying it will make administration smoother.

“I believe it will make it easier in terms of coordination, administratively and supervision. We were like, there is a minister in the presidency – and then equally there is the minister of urban and rural development,” she told New Era, referencing the chain of command.

She added: “I would think if we are under the Office of the President, people make our administrative work easier. In addition, it may be the issue of staffing, which is a skeleton in terms of governance. So, probably, we will just have to wait and see. But one would want to believe life may be easier because it will be like a one-shop stop”.

Hardap governor Salomon April said they have been talking to the government to get a more responsive structure and things will change, as they have much to do.

“Now that we are resorting under the President’s office, we believe that the change with the structure will help our work, as the staff is too thin,” he shared.

  “We couldn’t be very much effective in the execution of some of the duties and assignments in terms of time, success or efficiency. That is about the structure. So, it is a delight. I think the biggest challenge we have, as governors, is that the funding to the office needs to be relevant in terms of the weight that it carries, specifically the political weight that it carries and the expectations that the residents of a given region are expecting from us.”

He said there are serious funding challenges – and now that they are under the Presidency, they would be able to sit down and probably be discussed or open that conversation.

A long-standing criticism of the governors has been that they are surplus to requirements and because they are not voted for by the masses, they do not have legitimacy.

In 2010, the Namibian parliament passed legislation that allowed the appointment of governors by the President – effectively doing away with their election to this office.

Arguments for the new legislation, which were gazetted into law – just days before the 2010 regional elections, centred on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of governors and creating a ‘direct line’ between regional and national leadership.

Calls for doing away with the appointment of regional governors, and having them elected into office instead, have continued ever since.

When he tabled the Special Advisors and Regional Governors Appointment Amendment Bill in parliament in early October 2010, the then regional and local government, housing and development minister Jerry Ekandjo explained that the Bill “provides for the appointment of regional representatives by the President and (who) shall hold office at the pleasure of the President”.

He also noted that because of the importance of “extending government policies and programmes in our unitary state, it has been deemed imperative that the status of the heads of the regions be elevated to grant such heads with powers at par with the responsibilities attached to the regions”.

Opposition party the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) spokesperson Imms Nashinge questioned the existence and relevance of governors in Namibia, and they have no administrative powers and influence.

“They are just there for decoration. They do not make decisions, they do not vote. They do not participate in the regional councils. So, what is the governor’s role? It’s just adding unnecessary burden on the budget we have,” noted Nashinge.

The best way for the President to address regional issues, according to Nashinge, is to bring about decentralisation to the regions.

Similarly, Popular Democratic Movement’s secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe said the existence and the role of governors in a country like Namibia is “useless” and to a point redundant since the regional council does most of the work.

“If PDM comes to power, the system of the president appointing regional governors will be scrapped and the honours will be left in charge of the people who reside in those specific regions,” he said.

“We will also be looking at the role of governors and the chairperson of management councils. Maybe we will not need the governors to cut costs and so forth because I honestly don’t know what they are doing other than duplicating what the regional council is doing.”


2022-12-15  Paheja Siririka

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