Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Swapo Women’s Congress: Paving The Way For ‘A Neutral’?

THE outcome of last weekend’s Swapo Party Women’s Council congress has given many following the 2012 Swapo succession debate much food for thought.

While, for instance, there were attempts by both camps of the two main candidates for the vice presidency race in Swapo to block the incumbent women’s league secretary Petrina Haingura from re-election or even standing, she thrashed her opponent and came out tops with a huge majority.
Her victory was not entirely surprising but the huge number of votes gave an indication that there is a third group – the silent majority – who prefer neither Hage Geingob nor Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana as the party’s candidate for the 2014 national presidential election.
That group could be key in next year’s congress of the party and President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s recent outburst against the two candidates indicates that he was driving home a message that Geingob and Ithana should remember that other possibilities do exist.
I can safely mention the likes of Deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku and Speaker of the National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab as two of the possibles.
Both are in the mould of Pohamba and having either of them will mean that the “ship will remain as steady as Pohamba kept it”. That’s continuity in Pohamba’s eyes and mind.
He likes to play it safe and under Hausiku or Gurirab, we will neither make a big leap forward nor deteriorate significantly.
A ‘neutral’ like those two would also be a surprise to all those who have so far invested in one way or another in the underground campaigns of Geingob and Ithana.
So when we see attempts fail, like the one to remove Haingura by lobbying Pohamba, it gives us an indication that the President has made room for an outsider in the race, in the event the two key candidates do not toe the line as he requested.
Of course we know that Haingura had to be wheelbarrowed in by former President Sam Nujoma (as one of his 10 choices for the National Assembly). Therefore, the former nurse from Rundu was seen as one of Nujoma’s favourites and it was not a surprise that Pohamba gave her a deputy minister position when he took over in 2005.
It is worth pointing out that although Ithana supported Haingura to become the SPWC secretary during the Rundu congress election five years ago, much has changed since then.
For instance, Ithana’s camp included those who blamed Haingura for failing to push the party top structures for a 50/50 representation which would have ensured that more women were elected to Parliament. Geingob’s people also supported the push which failed to materialise.
But Haingura managed to shrug off both sides, thanks to support from the neutrals.
Many would then ask how it was that Ithana topped the list but was not able to convince the congress to elect her candidate of choice.
Swapo’s voters, especially at congress, have a voting pattern that perplexes me continually.
When they target one person, they seem to forget another opponent.
In simple terms, the women were out to stop Karin Nghishidimbwa from becoming secretary of the SPWC and that is where their energy was concentrated. In the process they ‘just ticked’ the name of Ithana without realising that they were voting for her!
It has happened in the past.
When they targeted Ithana because she was a supporter of Geingob at an earlier congress, she was not even able to make it to the top 15 of the SPWC.
So Ithana being number one on the list could also only last until the next chance they get to vote. I think she knows this very well!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Should We Continue To Call Them Honourables?

A STUDENT was recently expelled from a youth skills centre for asking whether councillors should indeed be called “Honourable”.

I was surprised that no student movement or political organisation came to his defence.
Could I take it that their silence is confirmation that they agree with what has happened to Matuundju Kavaka? And what has happened to freedom of thought or expression?
Kavaka, a young man from Omaheke Region, was a student at the Kai //ganaxab youth skills centre outside Mariental and was doing his internship at the Hardap Regional Council.
Whilst working in the corridors one day, he passed a regional councillor. Kavaka did not notice the councillor and thus did not greet him – something which did not go down well with the politician, who felt the young man was being disrespectful.
According to Kavaka he was later called in by the councillor and told that he should “bow down” to him when greeting and also address him as “Honourable”.
The event ignited something in Kavaka, who put his thoughts in a letter that he submitted to newspapers for publishing, but he was subsequently disciplined by the youth centre.
As a youth who aspires to become a leader, Kavaka was right in asking why politicians should be called “Honourable”.
I agree with his assertion that when politicians need people’s votes they pretend to be humble servants. When you go to their rallies, some would even stand up to give you a chair to sit on or carry water to you. In some cases they’ve been known to bow down in front of the electorate.
But that changes as soon as the results are announced and they are proclaimed victors.
They become pompous (or was it there all the time, just hidden until the votes are in?) and are not prepared to listen to an ordinary member of society.
Some even deny the people the rights which they have sworn to defend, such as in Kavaka’s case where freedom of thought and expression was taken away from him by someone who has yet to deliver tangible results for the voters in the constituency.
Such elected leaders forget that they are people just like anyone else. They should insist that there is no need for them to be called “Honourable”. The title alone will not engender respect from the people. But respect for the people and delivering on promises will!
In Namibia too much time is spent on titles and words such as “Honourable” and “Comrade”. When some Cabinet ministers write letters they refer to themselves as “Honourable Minister”, followed in brackets by “Member of Parliament”.
If we repeat phrases or words such as “Honourable” all the time, and especially when addressing politicians who are known to be useless in society, there is a risk that the words will lose their meaning. We need to break with this verbiage.
Therefore it is sickening to note that a prospective future leader like Kavaka faces the wrath of the authorities when he publicly ponders on the role of leadership in a society.
Instead of removing him from the Hardap Regional Council so that the youth centre that seconded him there will continue to receive favours, the discussion started by the young man should have been encouraged by institutions such as the National Youth Council, Namibia National Students’ Organisation and the youth leagues of various political parties.
The youth centre was wrong to withdraw him to maintain a good working relationship with the Regional Council because the council is an institution that will be there even after the so-called ‘honourables’ are gone.
And the ‘honourables’ should be reminded that they are there to represent people like Kavaka. They are their servants and not their bosses.
We have had enough of ‘honourables’ who are full of themselves and holier than thou but have done little or nothing to keep the promise they made to the people.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cost Of Talk-Shops Is Huge For The Economy

EVERY day around N$1 million in tax money is spend on Subsistence and Travel (S&T) allowances for Government officials.

It makes one wonder whether we actually get good value out of such massive spending.
Travelling on a Sunday, one often sees a fleet of Government vehicles heading towards Windhoek from especially north of Okahandja. The majority are civil servants on their way to one or other workshop. This sight repeats itself almost on a weekly basis.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Nahas Angula had to explain to fellow members of the National Assembly why N$388 million had been budgeted for S&T for this financial year and called on public servants to be "very cautious about the pennies that we spend”.
Some civil servants cash in on subsistence and travel allowances by 'creating' trips outside the office by claiming that they are going work but in some instances many don't even attend the workshops half the time they say they do.
I am not against workshops but having talk-shops just to spout hot air is costing the country not only in terms of S&Ts, but also valuable time.
Too much time is spent on workshops and seminars but decisions taken there are hardly ever implemented.
In some instances such workshops are on the insistence of donors or those who indirectly want to benefit from the amounts donated.
As a result, a lot of time and effort is put into organising them but participants, especially those from outside the city, will spend the time to touch base at head offices of ministries, visit relatives, make appointments for annual medical check-ups or go on shopping sprees.
The S&T payments are fixed amounts per day which are determined through the S&T rate policy for different levels of employment as well as different destinations and officials do not account for the actual spending. Neither do they have to submit receipts.
Very few of those who attend will in all earnest seek to come up with workable solutions or contributions during the meetings.
It is lots of hot air and little action.
We must move away from talk-shops (however well intended) and towards real action!
It is unacceptable that we spend over N$1 million a day on S&T alone (this does not include related costs such as accommodation) yet we do not even make time to reflect on what was decided at a certain workshop.
In some instances, people who attend workshops will return from one and head off to another one the next week without even briefing colleagues.
When will the decisions taken in the first one be implemented?
Isn’t it then right to conclude that in most such cases opportunities are simply created to generate S&T?
Worst is the fact that some officials undertake multiple trips for events that do not even fall within their scope and ambit. Many hog trips so that others cannot benefit.
Cases have already been reported where some officials even sleep in Government vehicles in order to avoid using their allowance for accommodation while others share rooms on trips, especially abroad, with the intention of saving foreign currency.
Those who go on trips to supplement their monthly income normally resort to things such as keeping their meals strictly to canned beef (and maybe bread) throughout their trip.
The end result is that a large portion of an S&T allowance is going towards financing own personal costs.
It is important that Government takes tighter rein on trips and that supervisors become more strict.
For this to happen, leaders such as Prime Minister Nahas Angula need to call the shots and ensure abuse is kept to a minimum.
He and others must demand regular reports on S&T expenses and seriously curb the culprits.
Also, Namibians should demand that either President Hifikepunye Pohamba or Angula, as the leaders of Government business, give regular briefings to account as to how we are doing at S&T level.
My call is not merely to cut S&T expenses but to ensure that those who go on trips do so only when it is essential and the trip will contribute towards improved governance. Ultimately, it will be for the benefit of the people we serve.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Workers Must Oust Napwu Leadership

‘NAPWU defies own constitution’, reads the latest headline of a news report on the troubled union for public servants.

There were others like ‘Workers lose confidence in Napwu’ in earlier reports.
Yet, the leaders of the Namibia Public Workers’ Union (Napwu) seem not to realise that they are messing up and that change is needed.
Napwu members need to get rid of people who have long lost the passion to fight for their interests. Many of the leaders only use the offices they occupy as stepping stones to Parliament or other political appointments.
Also, others have demonstrated that their only interest is to ensure that they use the Napwu ticket to make money as directors of organisations, exploit the union to muscle themselves through to higher Swapo structures and use the office telephone to make calls that will line their briefcase companies up for lucrative deals.
Therefore, it is up to the members to now stand up for their rights and demand that the union hold its long-awaited congress to elect new leadership.
Napwu vice president Moses Ikanga was this week quoted as saying that they cannot hold the congress this year due to “logistical difficulties”. But Ikanga knows of other reasons, I am sure.
He is a unionist who has shown he will take no prisoners when it comes to standing up for membership.
That was why he supported a demonstration of workers who demanded action over the Government Institutions’ Pension Fund issue and were shouting “down Nevonga, down” in reference to Napwu general secretary Petrus Nevonga who sits on the GIPF board.
Before the demonstration Ikanga had also held a media briefing where he asked Napwu leadership who they were protecting in the GIPF saga.
Fellow leaders and Napwu employees reportedly did not like that and tried to initiate a disciplinary action against him but Ikanga hit back by stating that the terms of office of those who wanted to discipline him had long expired and therefore he was unfazed by the vote of no confidence in him.
He had also questioned the constitutionality of the regional meeting which was planned to discuss his position and so it all collapsed.
He is not the right person to speak on behalf of the union even though he is the vice president.
I am sure that he is among those who want the congress as in yesterday already because of differences he has with some of them.
What his case showed was the lack of respect which some of the Napwu leaders have for their constitution.
Those who deliberately delay the Napwu congress until next year fear that holding it at such a crucial moment, when members are not happy about issues such as the GIPF, will cost them their positions.
These same people have protection from seniors in the ruling Swapo Party because they are the ‘right campaigners and voting cattle’ at the party’s elective congresses. Therefore, the seniors will conveniently ignore the workers’ calls for change at Napwu for the time being.
I can thus safely say that the Napwu congress will only take place after the Swapo congress when the work has been done at that meeting.
That will be so unless the workers stand up and demand a congress now as is stipulated in the Napwu constitution.
Workers should not condone mediocre service from their elected leaders nor should they allow their employees like the general secretaries to pull them around by their noses.
It is within their right to demand the resignation of those who want to delay the congress. They should stand up and be counted and the time is now.