WINDHOEK – Swapo secretary for information Hilma Nicanor says there is no way the millions spent on renovating the house of the Founding Father Sam Nujoma would have addressed poverty, adding that the government already has programmes in place to address such challenges.
She made the remarks yesterday during a press conference held at the Swapo headquarters on the decision of the Swapo political bureau regarding attacks on Nujoma in light of the privileges he has received from the state.
One such privilege that received negative press coverage came after the government spent N$70 million to upgrade Nujoma’s house – which is perceived by critics as illegal and overpriced.
Others feel such millions could have been diverted to programmes aimed at poverty reduction in which the masses find themselves in.
Renovations on Nujoma’s house, on the outskirts of Windhoek along the Hosea Kutako International Airport road, began in 2015 and was initially estimated at N$20 million in 2014, but this amount ballooned to N$70 million when it was completed in April last year.
“There is in no way we can claim the cost that went into the renovation would have been used for poverty. The government already has programmes to address poverty issues in our country. The cost is very much justifiable. There are programmes in place to look after our entire former presidents. The issue here is an exaggeration as if what government spent to renovate the house is exorbitant,” Nicanor said.
She went on to say: “We have no issue on what the government has spent on renovating the house of our founding president. There is no question on it. He deserves to be taken care of and nothing was done in a manner that would warrant people to question as if it was not justifiable.”
She said Namibians are “so ungrateful”, adding that the Swapo Party government has been making efforts in addressing challenges such as poverty.
“Because the government decided to renovate the house of His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma is equally a right to Dr Nujoma to be cared by for by his own government,” she reasoned.
The Former Presidents’ Pension and Other Benefits Act gives an outgoing head of state the privilege to choose between a multimillion-dollar state-funded house or cash on leaving office.
The law states that a retired president must be accorded “a furnished official residence at any place in Windhoek or at the request of the former president such housing allowance as may be determined by the Cabinet in lieu thereof, including an allowance for telephone expenses and water and electricity charges in respect of a residence other than an official residence”.
Nicanor said the politburo at its ordinary meeting held on Monday noticed with concern the agenda-based, unwarranted, systematic and choreographed attacks on Nujoma by a daily newspaper through its various articles.
She said the politburo noted how the newspaper is trying to portray an image around the matter concerning the upgrading and renovation of the residence of Nujoma.
Further, she said the President in March clearly elaborated on the amounts used to renovate Nujoma’s residence.
Hence, she said the funds used to renovate the house were released in line with applicable laws and policies of the government.
“Let me remind the nation that as a former head of state, comrade Dr Nujoma is entitled to certain privileges befitting a retired statesman as enshrined in the government policy,” she reacted.
Equally, Nicanor said Nujoma was conferred the status of Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation by an Act of Parliament, No. 16 of 2005.
Therefore, she said his image and persona represent and remind Namibians of heroism, inspiration, victory, and freedom.
According to her, Swapo Party equivocally rebukes, rejects and denounces such malice and irresponsible reporting with all the contempt it deserves.
She also rubbished allegations that there is a rift between the Nujoma and President Hage Geingob, saying the two leaders shared trenches together in exile.
“Such is an imagination of confused minds which know the long cordial relations between the two leaders, but deliberately write these things in the hope they will create such a rift,” she said, adding that Geingob enjoys the undivided support of Nujoma as usual and vice versa.