Swapo member of parliament in the National Council Rosa Kavara said President Hage Geingob is – in the context of the remuneration of other African presidents – underpaid and has urged the legislature to review the president’s salary.
Kavara also called for the review of the salaries of the vice-president, his spouse and the first lady, with a view to an increment.
Kavara made the remarks during a debate yesterday in the National Council on the Presidential Remuneration and Other Benefits Bill, which among others seeks to increase the remuneration of the president and spouse, as well create provisions for the remuneration of the vice-president and his spouse.
“What the president is getting right now cannot be compared to what other African leaders are getting. We cannot risk seeing our head of state in financial constraints, because we are not only reviewing the remuneration of the incumbent president but for the next and other presidents,” said Kavara.
“Our heads of state did a lot for us. They paved the way for us, let us honour them and let’s plan and prepare a good future for our presidents when they retire.”
“The president’s job is very stressful. In the absence of a reviewed remuneration we are allowing an added burden of stress, which is financial stress.”
Kavara continued: “The president is the head of state. You must look at his workload. It does not matter who is the person or the party they belong to, a president deserves to be paid according to his workload.”
During a press conference at State House on December 14 2015, President Geingob – responding to journalists’ questions – said he did not know how much he earns, but maintained he was receiving much less than the N$2 million per annum reported in the local media.
Swapo MPs yesterday argued that a president, vice-president and their spouses should be remunerated according to their workload, while it is the belief of some that a good salary for the two families equates to improving the living conditions of poor Namibians.
One indicated that when presidents and public office-bearers are paid well it contributes to the fight against corruption in public office.
It is the belief of some in the National Council that the first and second families should always look presentable and decent especially in front of the international community, therefore their remuneration and benefits should be befitting.
Weich Mupya, also from the ruling party stable, likened the presidents and their spouses to heads of households.
“You do not want to see the head of the household moving around barefooted – you have to take very good care of the head of the household and in this case the presidents and spouses,” Mupya elaborated.
“We [Namibia] are members of the United Nations, AU and SADC and you do not want to have to go buy a suit for the president when he has to represent the country at international platforms.”
According to Mupya the presidents and spouses have to look decent at all times especially when they deal with the international community.
“They have to be seen equally to other presidents and give a very good impression of our country.”
Also, it was noted that national leaders are ageing and prone to illnesses and the revised medical benefits will go a long way in mitigating the effects of this.
However, the debate hit rock when the politicians could not agree on the number of spouses a president or vice-president should have and whether a female in the post should be allowed to be a polygamist.
The house was caught in a deadlock on the interpretation on whether the president can have more than one spouse, leading to National Council Chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams advising that clarity is needed from a lawyer before the Bill is passed.
In its form the Bill makes suggestions that a black Namibian president is able to have more than one spouse whose salary will be paid by the state.
This interpretation is stressed even more in the Native Administration Proclamation 15 of 1928, which is still enforceable and permits blacks to marry more than one woman.