The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General John Mutwa, has denied allegations of tribalism, favouritism and nepotism in the most recent round of Namibian Defence Force (NDF) promotions.
The allegations arose after the most recent round of high-ranking promotions were announced a week ago.
The controversy also surfaced mere days after President Hage Geingob blasted individuals that are instigating tribalism, nepotism and regionalism. He made the remarks this week while visiting the NDF station in Grootfontein.
New Era has seen three lists of NDF commissioned and non-commissioned officers, who were promoted on February 22. The lists show that – from a reading of their names – almost all those promoted are from one ethnic group and are mainly Oshiwambo-speaking.
Several long-serving members of the NDF have expressed great unhappiness over the promotions, saying their commanders have once again unfairly overlooked them. Their biggest complaint is, however, about alleged favouritism, nepotism and tribalism in the NDF, which they say has become an “unending syndrome” within the force.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, Lieutenant General Mutwa said he is not aware of any nepotism, tribalism or other forms of discrimination in the armed forces. “It’s not true. The issue is very simple. We promote people according to seniority. I do not take somebody who is junior to make him senior over a senior,” he noted.
Mutwa said the board is chaired by the defence minister for scrutiny and consideration. He said the NDF has promotional boards, which look into rankings brought forward for possible promotion and also looks into the qualifications of such members.
“He has to go through all the CVs before he pronounces himself. Mine is to sign, because according to the Defence Act, it is me who has to appoint after the approval of the political leadership,” Mutwa said.
Minister of Defence Penda ya Ndakolo in turn condemned the allegations of tribalism, saying the NDF is there to defend the entire Namibian territory and its people. “We have to recruit according to requirements. We will not allow favouritism, tribalism, nepotism and regionalism in our forces. We promote according to qualifications,” he remarked.
Another serious allegation is that some women get promoted, because they are involved in sexual relations with senior officers.
This seems to be a common complaint in many of the uniformed services in Namibia, but is by nature very difficult to prove.
The police force (Nampol) has also been repeatedly criticised for unfair promotions, whereby several well-connected newcomers have allegedly received preferential treatment ahead of long-serving members.
Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga at the time rubbished such claims, saying all promotions are carried out procedurally and without fear or favour.
On the issue of accommodation for soldiers, ya Ndakolo said it remains a challenge, but the ministry is addressing it.
“We have to sit and see how we can handle that problem. It was one of the issues the President (Geingob) addressed when he addressed soldiers in Grootfontein. He advised us to sit with the Ministry of Rural and Urban Development to see how we can collaborate,” he said.
The NDF suspended its regular recruitment process during the 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial years due to a lack of accommodation facilities. The ministry’s allocated budget for 2016/17 also fell by N$424 million to N$6.6 billion from the N$7.025 billion it was allocated in the previous financial year.