State House yesterday lifted the lid on a range of issues that dominated newspaper headlines in recent weeks, including speculation that former Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) president Hidipo Hamutenya is being lined up for an advisory role at State House.
Reports that Hamutenya and former National Assembly Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab would soon be appointed as advisors were described as “far-fetched”.
Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi said contrary to perceptions portrayed by the media, President Hage Geingob is fully aware of problems, such as poverty and the escalating cost of living, facing the country.
The Presidency also provided clarity on speculation regarding the alleged lucrative remuneration packages of presidential advisors, and the increase in politicians’ allowances for water and electricity, which was reportedly raised from a base of about N$200 to around N$4 500.
The allowances are for elected politicians in the National Assembly, regional governors, advisors and professionals elected to public office, according to a recent report by The Namibian newspaper.
“I agree the percentage could be very high, from where it was. It (the increase) is significant. It has been like that for many, many years, but really we thought, or the commission that made the recommendation to the president, felt that either give them a real allowance or do not give them anything,” Kapofi said.
The recommendations by the Public Office Bearers Commission (POBC) include one to increase the remuneration of office bearers by six percent, a recommendation that is currently receiving consideration by the president, according to Kapofi.
He says it is the POBC that made the recommendation to increase allowances for office bearers and not President Geingob, or the politicians themselves.
A statement issued by the director of the POBC, Oscar Muyatwa, said: “In order to depoliticise public office bearers remuneration and conditions of service, the president endeavours to not alter the recommendations of the commission. The criticism of the president for acting on the recommendation of a body created by an Act of parliament to look after the needs of our elected leaders is, therefore, unfortunate.”
Muyatwa said the public should also bear in mind that a sizeable number of office bearers maintain two homes on account of their responsibilities away from home. “The added cost of rented accommodation makes many of them struggle to meet even basic needs. Many of them live in the kind of conditions not befitting their status as our national leaders. The need for increasing their utilities benefit was, therefore, not only apparent but long overdue,” Muyatwa said in a statement.
Kapofi says much of the speculation and media reports about the remuneration of presidential advisors is far from the truth.
Neither these newly created positions, nor the advisors, are getting paid huge amounts of money as speculated, he argued.
“They were paid higher where they were [previously]. What they get now has significantly reduced [their earnings]. They took a knock on their salaries,” Kapofi said.
“It is a global practice for any head of state to have suitably experienced and qualified advisors.
“Every president has the right to choose and seek whatever advice he wishes to have to do his job,” Kapofi argued.
He, however, rejected as “unsubstantiated and devoid of any truth” reports that Geingob is poised to appoint as advisors former Speaker Gurirab and Hamutenya. The latter re-joined Swapo in August.
“Both comrades are active members of the Swapo Party and have no roles pending in government as advisors. Such false allegations are not healthy for public discourse and taint the image of professional journalism in Namibia,” he said.