In their assessment of Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s first year in office, political analysts and observers have remarked that following the release of President Hage Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) she would become more prominent as the leader of government business.
Some suggest that during her first year as PM, she was overshadowed by President Geingob, who at the time was establishing his authority and providing clear direction on what he wanted the prime minister, the vice president and other members of Cabinet to do.
Others feel that she has the toughest task of all Cabinet ministers, including that of overseeing the business of government, as well a variety of special projects. This is said to be an indication of her abilities and because of these Geingob entrusts her with matters of importance, as he trusts she will perform well.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is of the view she did her utmost best to live up to her constitutional mandate and other responsibilities.
Constitutional expert Nico Horn explained that given the large and growing bureaucracy, some appointed office bearers found it difficult to know exactly what to do. “It is only now that everything is clear and people know exactly what the President wants and how to play their roles. It also now clear that Vice-President Nickey Iyambo will take on a more ceremonial role,” Horn said.
He recalled that during the first year Iyambo had faded into the background while Kuugongelwa-Amadhila took on a less prominent role in her portfolio as prime minister. Horn stressed that much of the implementation of the HPP will be coordinated by Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s office.
Thus she will become more prominent in dealing with key issues around the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) Bill, among others. According to Horn, the PM could be central to the president’s consultations with stakeholders on the NEEEF and explaining how this, coupled with poverty eradication processes, fit into the plan.
“The PM is now expected to really come to the full expectation of the position. When Geingob was PM he was very prominent, but we saw that [prominence] declining with Theo-Ben Gurirab and Nahas Angula [as prime ministers],” Horn further explained.
Geingob was the country’s first prime minister, succeeded by Gurirab, then Angula and Geingob again before Kuugongelwa-Amadhila took on the role last year.
“It is difficult to follow in the footsteps of such a charismatic person and we’re not expecting her to be a Geingob, although there are great expectations of her, while Iyambo is expected to take on the more ceremonial role,” Horn opined.
Maximilian Weylandt, a research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research, is of the opinion that a lot is placed on the shoulders of Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. “Perhaps the most high-profile of these projects is the PM’s work on the empowerment bill, NEEEF,” Weylandt explained.
“Unfortunately, government’s communication strategy on the issue could have been better. They produced a document for consultation that seemed rushed and created more concern than confidence,” Weylandt said.
This is a pity, as government has repeatedly said it wants to work with stakeholders to craft the bill, he said. Weylandt believes had they first consulted before producing the draft, tensions would not be running so high.
“That said; the PM seems committed to making sure the end result of the Bill works out in the best interests of everyone. With a Bill that is this important, it is important that the right person shepherds it through the process. Few cabinet ministers could do better than her.”
He added that Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s performance agreement contains a long list of initiatives, many of them broad and ambitious. Many of these targets, Weylandt highlighted, are concerned with improving internal processes in government in order to speed up service delivery.
“We have no easy way to see how much progress she has made in changing how things are done, as it takes a while to turn around such a massive operation. But the PM has so far made a consistent impression of competence, married with quiet ambition. Her tasks are numerous, but she has the skills to meet those challenges,” he noted.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila told New Era that over the past year she had, among other pressing tasks, chaired Cabinet meetings, coordinated the performance management system in the public service and established a framework for the declaration of public servants’ financial and business interest.