WINDHOEK – President-elect Dr Hage Geingob yesterday vowed to continue the legacy set by his presidential predecessors, and announced Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila as his incoming prime minister to help him achieve that dream.
Veteran Affairs Minister Nickey Iyambo was nominated to become the country’s first-ever vice-president, while Foreign Affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has been roped in as deputy prime minister, and will hold an extra ministerial portfolio.
Political commentators have hailed the announcements as wise and sound, but the incoming official opposition, DTA, expressed concern over the fact that the three nominees are all from the same ethnic group.
Motivating constitutional amendments that introduced the vice-president’s position in August last year, Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana said a top-heavy government structure was necessitated by the need for inclusivity and nation building.
“We are still building and reconciling this nation of ours. Positions like the vice-president allow for those leading us, particularly the president, to be able to appoint persons from the diverse spectrum of the people of Namibia, so as to foster nation building,” Kawana said at the time.
DTA president McHenry Venaani said the nomination of the three politicians is inconsistent with what Kawana stated last year, but the DTA leader said he does not question the credibility of Iyambo, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Nandi-Ndaitwah.
Iyambo, who is turning 79 in May, will be sworn into parliament, but will have to resign in order to assume duty as vice-president.
Geingob indicated that Nandi-Ndaitwah would be attached to another ministerial portfolio while serving as deputy prime minister. The deputy prime minister position has over the years been perceived as more ceremonious without many responsibilities attached to it.
The president-elect said the three appointees “are the people I would like to work closely with”.
He added that the vice-president should be at liberty to advise and correct him on any issue, without fear of being reprimanded.
Geingob explained the implications of the new government structure, saying: “Yes, the expanded executive is top heavy and costly but it is necessary,” he said.
The incoming president vowed to be a consultative leader who will seek advice, but was quick to remind the nation that: “The buck stops with the President.”
He said, during the advent of his presidential term, the country would see improvement and the introduction of new ministries, while some of the bigger ministries will be divided.
The number of ministries is expected to increase from the current 22, especially considering the fact that parliament has been expanded from 78 to 104 members.
Geingob also made strong hints about the creation of a line ministry strictly dedicated to addressing poverty matters in the country.
When asked what measures his administration would put in place to address the ever-widening income inequality gap, Geingob was silent on the matter.
So far some of the ministries that might be created are those that will deal with state-owned enterprises and another dealing with poverty matters.
“If you have a problem you must have a frontal attack on it, you declare war by having dedicated people charged to address the problem,” said Geingob while explaining how his administration will tackle poverty in the country.
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) director Graham Hopwood yesterday told New Era that apart from Nandi-Ndaitwah’s appointment, the others were widely expected, saying they are all experienced and proven political performers.
Reflecting on Iyambo’s appointment as vice-president, Hopwood said: “Iyambo is a senior and respected figure in party and government and as such will have the authority needed to deputise for the President.
“The full role of the vice-president is not explained in detail in the recent constitution changes but I would expect him, as a close ally of the president-elect, to act as a key advisor as well as filling in for the president at events and functions.”
On Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s new role, Hopwood said: “After 11 years at the Ministry of Finance, where she is widely agreed to have done a good job, she is due for a promotion.”
Hopwood said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is the longest-serving finance minister in the world and lauded her for successfully getting Namibia through the world economic downturn that started in 2009.
“She also represents a younger age cohort being 47 and to some extent this balances the appointment of Nickey Iyambo who is 79,” Hopwood pointed out.
Hopwood said the only surprising element in the appointment is that Nandi-Ndaitwah has been given the deputy prime minister role, which has in the past been criticised for not being clearly defined.
“If the appointment comes with another portfolio and a clearer job description it could be seen as significant enough for someone who has the experience and proven abilities of Nandi-Ndaitwah,” the IPPR boss said.
“Given her experience and interest areas, it could be that she also gets the minister of gender equality role or continues at foreign affairs,” he said.