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Opinion - Are parliamentary presidential appointees a blessing or curse?

2021-04-23  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Are parliamentary presidential appointees a blessing or curse?
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Historically, presidents leaned heavily on party deployees to identify, fill and constitute the national executive (Cabinet) after periodic elections. However, many presidents across the world valued loyalty, competence, campaign support, or other extraordinary characteristics of officials to make determination of such appointments. The Namibian Constitution Third Amendment Act 8 of 2014, made changes to Article 32, which contains the functions, powers and duties of the President by adding sub-article (5)(c), which gives the President power to appoint as members of the National Assembly, but without any vote therein, not more than eight persons by virtue of their special expertise, status, skill or experience, from the initial six appointees made provision for. 

In March 2015, in line with the above stated constitutional powers, Dr Hage Geingob, then newly elected President, announced eight people he felt he will need in his administration when he succeeded former President Hifikepunye Pohamba on March 21 2015. Interestingly, topping the list was Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, who was 63-year-old at the time, a former Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration who had been a member of parliament since independence and was one of those who competed against Geingob during Swapo Party’s internal elections at its congress in 2012. 

Second was then 68-year-old former Robben Island prisoner Jerry Ekandjo, who like Iivula-Ithana, also challenged Geingob during the ruling party’s 2012 congress to take over the party’s reins. Ekandjo was also a member of parliament since independence, serving under several portfolios. Next on the list was Dr Albert K Kawana, 59 then, who had been the country’s Minister of Presidential Affairs since 2005, but failed to make it onto the ruling party’s parliamentary list at the time. Katrina Hanse-Himarwa followed, who was one of the first female regional governors when she assumed office as political head of the Hardap region. 

Zephania Kameeta a pastor by profession, 70 then, served as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia from 2002 until his retirement, and was also the former deputy speaker of the National Assembly from independence to 2002. Dr Bernard Haufiku, a medical doctor, who ran his own private practice, practicing as a general practitioner in Windhoek, was next. The President then appointed Obeth Kandjoze, then the managing director at the State-owned petroleum company Namcor. 

Heather Sibungo, 37 at the time, who was employed as an accountant at the Zambezi regional education office and served as Swapo’s district secretary for Katima Urban completed the list of presidential appointees to the 6th Parliament of the Republic of Namibia.

It is important to note that these appointments of these eight persons are appointed by virtue of their special expertise, status, skill or experience as per sub-article (5)(c). Seven of these appointees were appointed Cabinet ministers, mostly occupying the crucial portfolios in the Geingob administration. 

Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana was re-deployed at Homes Affairs, Jerry Ekandjo at Youth and Sport, Benhard Haufiku got assigned at the Health Ministry and Albert Kawana at Justice. Obeth Kandjoze took helm at Mines and Energy and Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was assigned to the Ministry of Education. The new of Ministry Poverty Eradication was assigned to Bishop Zephania Kameeta. However, just two years later two appointees (Jerry Ekandjo and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana) were dismissed from Cabinet and the National assembly respectively for challenging Geingob’s slate at the Swapo congress again in 2017. 

Katrina Hanse-Himarwa was ordered to resign after being found guilty (of corruption) by the high Court in 2019. Two other appointees (Obeth Kandjoze and Albert Kawana) were reshuffled to others ministries due to corruption allegations. Two years later, another member (Benhard Haufiku) got sacked, only to be appointed as an advisor. This meant that of the seven Presidential appointees to the 6th Parliament, only Bishop Zephania Kameeta remained unmoved. 

When Geingob won his second term during the 2019 Presidential elections, he again chose his eight Presidential appointees to the National Assembly, as mandated by the constitution, in March 2020. President Geingob announced Yvonne Dausab, the former Chairperson of the Law Reform Development Commission, Emma Kantema Goamas, a former Executive Director (ED) at the Youth Ministry, Emma Theofilus, a former Legal Officer at the Ministry of Justice, Natalia Goagoses, a former Chief Regional Officer for the Erongo Region, Veikko Nekundi, a former Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises , Dr Kalumbi Shangula, a former Minister of health, Iipumbu Shiimi, former Governor of the Bank of Namibia and Peter Hafeni Vilho, a former Executive Director at the Defence Ministry. In this instance, majority of them being relatively youthful. Just as we saw during his first term of office, seven of his appointees got appointed to serve in his Cabinet, yet again occupying the most crucial ministries in the executive organ of government. 

However, this time around, four were appointed to lead the ministries of Justice, Health and Social Services, Finance and Defence. The other three got deployed as deputy Ministers in the ministries of ICT, Youth and Sport and Works and Transport respectively. Coincidently, within a period of less than 12 months of the President’s new Cabinet, a presidential appointee got booted out of government just like what had happened to Katrina Hanse-Himarwa who was convicted of corruption in the first term of the Geingob regime. 

However, this time around it was the Minister of Defence, Peter Vilho, who was summoned to state house and ordered to resign from his position, and subsequently removed from the National Assembly for his involvement in alleged corruption.

This is a very sad state of affairs, given that the Presidential appointees to the National Assembly are supposedly appointed based on their special expertise, status, skill or experience for the purpose of administering and executing the functions of government. However more often than not, these are the very same people being accused, convicted, reshuffled and dismissed from government as a result of corruption and self-enrichment. These cases illustrate how bad and good presidential personnel choices are for the presidency and the nation. 

Assuming that the appointees are preferences of the president, has the Geingob presidential appointees to National Assembly been a blessing or curse to our governance? These reshuffles and eventualities do not only reflect the questionable choices of the president, they also affect the efficiency and effectiveness of government. What has emerged clear is that these appointments are not carried about in spirit and pursuant of constitutional provisions but clientelism and patronage. 

As Namibians, we must be concerned of a constitutional provision that is abused and manipulated to smuggle questionable characters into the national executive. More concerning is that this lot ends up occupying crucial positions in our national executive. We must all be concerned. Vladimir Lenin would ask a penetrating question; What is to be done?


2021-04-23  Staff Reporter

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