By Emma Kakololo
Meet Nahas Angula, the ‘stand-in president’. Since President Hifikepunye Pohamba ascended to the presidency in 2005, Nahas Angula has had to act as president on a number of occasions in the absence of the incumbent when he was on official business outside the country.
For the better part though, Namibians have never taken notice that they had a ‘different leader’ in the President’s absence. Things have simply remained the same with business as usual.
Sub-Article 1 and 2 of Article 34 of the Namibian Constitution calls upon the President to nominate a person who can deputise him whenever he is out of the country or because of work pressure.
This person can either be the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister or a person appointed by Cabinet.
So far, only Prime Minister Nahas Angula has had to act ever since Pohamba became President, a position that the Prime Minister described as tough, in an exclusive interview with New Era recently.
“I would not say it is an enjoyable job. I simply don’t enjoy it,” the Premier remarked jokingly yet meaning each word.
“You know, things can happen and you are put under pressure because you cannot make certain decisions, although you know what to do.
“Then you try to contact the Head of State and the telephone lines are sometimes not that good, or he is in a meeting somewhere and the situation is perhaps deteriorating, then you are a lame duck,” said the Prime Minister.
Angula recalled three incidents that got his knickers in a twist while acting.
In all the three cases, the President was outside the country.
The first was when unidentified bandits plagued the northern regions.
“This was a security issue and we had to respond to it. It was a security threat in the sense that also we did not know who was doing it. But later on, we found that these bandits actually came out of Angola.
“The bandits were followed and the villages in Angola confirmed to have seen them and they also left their items there. So, we were not able to find them but were able to follow their footsteps and established from where they came from.”
The second incident, he said, was when the President left the country to addresses the United Nations General Assembly for the first time and the National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) staged a strike; and lastly, a demonstration by ex-combatants when the President was attending a meeting in the United Kingdom earlier this year.
Angula said although it was a basic right for people to demonstrate, this was an embarrassment to the President too.
“It is especially not nice when you are out of the country that such things happen. It was not something thought out… and in that regard somehow we had to deal with it in the absence of the President, ” he said.
“Again, this is the right of citizens to do it, but it is not nice to do it when the Head of State is meeting foreign leaders. It gives the impression that there is no stability in your country,” he said.
According to the Constitution, the acting presidency is a temporary position filled when the President is absent, too busy or inconvenienced.
“I actually don’t become Acting President, I become a form of Deputy President. I cannot for example declare a war, or call up an emergency Cabinet meeting. The President still remains President and if something serious comes up, I still must consult with him,” said the Prime Minister.
But on smaller issues such as general management of the country, the Deputy President only needs to consult fellow ministers.
“If there are issues of just managing the country, I don’t really need to consult the President, all I need is to consult my colleagues, the ministers who are available, because every sector has got somebody responsible.
He added: “If an issue arises which is not of a security nature, such as issues of governance, that one can handle with your colleagues. The administration of the country in the context of Cabinet is managed mostly through Cabinet committees. Depending on what issue I am dealing with, I can always call upon the Chairman of that specific committee to call the committee and deliberate on the issue.
“If I think the issue needs the attention of the President, then obviously I must consult him to take the decision. You cannot just in your acting capacity call an emergency Cabinet meeting, or unless the situation is much too urgent you can do this and report to the President later, but in normal circumstances this is not allowed,” said Angula.