President Hage Geingob yesterday advised ministers and their deputies who do not support or agree with his Harambee Prosperity Plan (HHP) that they should resign from the government – as they are “knocking him from within”.
Geingob also said all Swapo politicians who publicly condemn government programmes, either in parliament or in the media, and who do not want to follow the state and party processes, should also resign from their positions.
Observers said this is Geingob’s way of getting a grip on his house and getting it in order, to avoid chaos and playing into the hands of the opposition.
Geingob gave the warnings during a consultative workshop with 24 deputy ministers, at which the HPP was briefly discussed.
On Wednesday, Geingob met with regional governors, chairpersons of regional councils and chief regional officers, where he implored them to defend him and his administration while reminding them they are in those offices at his pleasure.
However, some deputy ministers did not take kindly to Geingob’s “threats”, calling him “autocratic and rude” shortly after the meeting, while others could be seen avoiding a group picture with him.
Geingob, who read to them their appointment letter, said there are those who do not want to be part of the Namibian House.
“Some are saying the HPP was never approved by Cabinet. It is my programme, it is not a cabinet programme,” Geingob said.
“It is a president’s action plan but he is consulting people to buy into it. Mass housing was former President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s action plan, not Cabinet’s.”
He stressed that since it is his action plan, he wants to get as many people on board as possible.
“After all, some are appointed by me including you. So, if you do not agree with it…. You cannot sit in a place where there are rules, disagree with it, and still stay. You resign.”
He then took issue with ministers who are condemning, seemingly the HPP, in public or in parliament. He advised them to resign and go out to where they will be able to talk freely.
“But when you are in an organisation with rules, you obey those rules. You disagree, you leave. And then outside you can condemn. So we can formally confront each other. We cannot be together and you are knocking from within.”
Geingob said members of the executive must first register their ideas or concerns with their ministerial management committees or through parliamentary caucuses and then appear before priority committees.
“But a minister and deputy minister saying things out there and just because they are free, come on! Where do you get that from? What culture is that?”
“You are on a party list. The party was elected, not you, and you cannot obey party rules?”
He continued: “Or bring it to me. You people come and see me for nonsense – bring those issues here to me. Write to me.”
Commentator Hoze Riruako is of the opinion that Geingob’s approach should be seen against the backdrop of wanting to get his house in order.
“He wants people who can speak with one language. If people cannot toe the line, then they play the government, the ruling party and the president right into the hands of the opposition,” said Riruako.
“This cannot be taken lightly, because in a situation when the support of the ruling party is dwindling, it cannot be good. As the head of the house, he must lay down the rules on what is allowed inside the house.”
Riruako added that it is always advisable to curtail such tendencies before they get out of hand and become difficult to control.
It is Riruako’s opinion that it is unbecoming and unheard of in Swapo politics for members to go and speak on things without the party caucus. However, he believes that this is a sign of political maturity and a high degree of democratic principles.
Recently, there have been talks that Swapo was looking at reprimanding Land Reform Deputy Minister Bernadus Swartbooi and backbencher Ida Hofmann, after they took a different position from that of the party during the recent National Assembly discussion on controversial debates.
Swartbooi did not mince his words when he disagreed with N$2 billion being used to construct a new parliament building, while Hofmann launched arsenals at the manner in which government is treating the descendants of those killed in the 1904/08 Ovaherero and Nama genocide by the Germans.