Cabinet reshuffle looms large… as Geingob fires Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana
Staff Reporter Windhoek-President Hage Geingob yesterday dismissed ministers Jerry Ekandjo and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, his opponents at the November 2017 Swapo elective congress, with the Head of State expected to announce more changes to his Cabinet between today and Monday. Geingob is expected to announce the replacements of Youth and Sports Minister Ekandjo and Home Affairs Minister Iivula-Ithana, along with other sweeping changes in government. Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana will remain ordinary Swapo backbenchers in the National Assembly. Iivula-Ithana made it to parliament through Geingob’s presidential list in 2015. The President will also announce the new Minister of Urban and Rural Development to replace Sophia Shaningwa, who will take up the fulltime job of Swapo secretary-general at the party’s headquarters in Katutura. Having seconded his press secretary Albertus Aochamub to the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) as acting CEO this week, Geingob yesterday ushered in academic Dr Alfredo Hengari as his new spokesperson. Hengari previously worked as an assistant to Geingob, when the latter was Prime Minister. “He will assume his duties shortly,” a statement said, while thanking former Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) director-general Aochamub for his service to the presidency. The fate of several deputy ministers who supported Team Swapo remains largely unknown, but some may get reshuffled to other ministries if they survive the looming sweeping changes. Also not clear is the fate of Vice-President Nickey Iyambo, whose health has been a subject of much public scrutiny in recent weeks. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he may be relieved of his demanding duties and replaced by new Swapo vice-president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. New Era understands that presidential economic advisor, Dr John Steytler, is also pencilled in for a new appointment. Along with former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Ekandjo challenged Geingob at congress for the Swapo president’s position, while Iivula-Ithana challenged Geingob’s preferred candidate for the Swapo vice-presidency, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. Under the banner of their campaign team christened ‘Team Swapo’, Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana took on ‘Team Harambee’ candidates in a contest for Swapo top four positions, namely president, vice-president, secretary-general and deputy secretary-general. With Team Harambee winning all four positions, Iivula-Ithana announced on behalf of her running mates that Team Swapo was disbanded, having outlived its purpose beyond congress. Weeks after congress, Geingob wrote letters to Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana asking them to explain how they intended on working under him after utterances they made about Geingob’s administration during congress campaigns. Geingob said the two ministers discredited his programmes such as the Harambee Prosperity Plan and the food bank initiative. They were also said to have referred to Geingob as a ‘weak leader’. Geingob said by discrediting his government initiatives, the two ministers were violating the collective responsibility principle of the Cabinet handbook, which obliges ministers to defend at all times decisions taken by the majority members of the Executive. This principle also forbids any dissenting member of the Cabinet from disclosing in public that they opposed the idea when it was being discussed in Cabinet. It also states that in case the dissenting member does not wish to be associated with the decision, the only alternative open to them is to resign. In his response, Ekandjo denied that he was in violation of the Cabinet handbook as he campaigned under the umbrella of Swapo and not government. He was of the belief that suggesting his own alternative policies is normal practice in any leadership contest. In 2012, Geingob, Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana contested for the vacant Swapo vice-president’s position, which Geingob won to qualify as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in the 2014 national elections. Geingob subsequently appointed Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana as his ministers. Iivula-Ithana in particular went on to become one of the best performing ministers, having presided over key improvement of services at the Ministry of Home Affairs. But officials at State House yesterday told New Era that Geingob was not impressed by the two ministers’ campaign rhetoric and their perceived defiant post-congress stance of maintaining their innocence when the President accused them of violating the Cabinet principle of collective responsibility. “Issuing them with dismissal letters was actually just a formality because they fired themselves the moment they defied the Cabinet handbook on collective responsibility,” said an official in the presidency yesterday. Ekandjo said he had no comment when contacted yesterday, while efforts to contact Iivula-Ithana proved futile.
2018-02-02 08:56:08 7 months ago