The Namibian delegation led by President Hage Geingob that left on Saturday for the United States of America (USA) includes only invited ministers and those going with a purpose, as the president will not allow any free-riders to join the trip.
Geingob will use the time to attend the 71st session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and will be in the USA until October 4, during which time he is expected to meet two heads of state, attend the Clinton Global Initiative, speak at the African Policy Forum and have other important officials meetings and engagements.
The delegation consists of 33 people, including security personnel. However, following the announcement of the trip and subsequent media reports questions arose as to why the president was going for so long, while there are pressing issues in the country that need his immediate attention, such as the looming teachers’ strike.
Before leaving for the USA, Geingob explained that he is not merely eager to jump on a plane and to go globetrotting at any given chance. “I do not how many of you are travelling around to feel that some of us who are at this age enjoy travelling around. I’ve been travelling in planes since 1962,” he remarked.
“People are talking about subsistence and travel allowances (S&T). What is S&T? It is a thing that you are entitled to. Where is the issue? But I wouldn’t waste my time to get S&T. As a president, am I not supposed to go the UN or to other international gatherings, especially when my office is full of invitations?”
Geingob added that one is only invited “if people respect you” and there is a belief that one will contribute meaningfully. “I said I’m not going to travel to the UN to just go and sit in my hotel room to have a fifteen minute speech and come back. I said last year that when I’m going to the UN, I will arrange other side activities to make maximum use of the trip there.”
“I’m not going there to sleep and, therefore, I will have other side activities. Being aware of the cost involved, we took action. First, we have reduced the size of the delegation drastically.” He said they also opted to use only one flight crew to save costs and further stressed that everyone who is going is doing so with a purpose.
“They are scrutinised, while some have been asked to drop out – which they have done. We’re mature enough too. We’re not careless people. We’re concerned about poverty in this country and we’re doing everything we can to address that issue.”
The president said this commitment is demonstrated by him opting to stay at a cheaper place in the USA, which costs about N$15 800 a day, as opposed to the recommended hotel costing N$144 000 per day. “We must economise. We’re not children. Some of us are old enough that we’re not enjoying these things, but we do it, because we must do it.