Same content, different containers, says Dienda on reshuffle

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Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek-While some political experts and analysts have welcomed President Hage Geingob’s cabinet reshuffle as a move in the right direction, Elma Dienda of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) is sceptical of the reshuffle.
The outspoken PDM parliamentarian has described it as the “same content in different containers”.
Last Thursday’s cabinet reshuffle was the biggest since President Hage Geingob took oath of office on March 21, 2015.

Last week’s political earthquake follows the recent dismissal of the Minister of Home Affairs Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and the Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Jerry Ekandjo, from their ministerial positions.
The cabinet shake-up also saw Geingob announcing the resignation of long-serving Swapo member Dr Nicky Iyambo from his duties as the vice-president on medical grounds and the appointment of former Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba to fill the vacancy left by the VP.

Dienda who seems unimpressed by the president’s move said the cabinet reshuffle missed some critical aspects of competence and gender balance.

“This has proven to women that there is hardly an opportunity for them in the executive, given the fact that the reshuffle was in part due to two female ministers, Honourable Sophia Shaningwa and Honourable Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana leaving their positions. This was an opportunity due to female candidates,” she said.
Although Dienda praised Geingob for allowing women to remain as prime minister and deputy prime minister, she said the failure to include any women in the recent changes to the executive is an indication Namibia is regressing in terms of reaching gender balance in legislature and in key decision-making.

She further acknowledged this is not only a practice in the public sector, but the private sector too has a serious syndrome of undermining the competency of women in key leadership positions where there are few female CEOs.
“The fact that the Director of the National Planning Commission, the Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, the Minister of Mines and Energy were deputised by women, those women were supposed to be elevated to executive positions, but they remained where they are. It is very sad that the president has turned a blind eye to this. With the little progress made so far in empowering women in our land, this exclusion sets us some steps backwards in as far as gender equality is concerned.”  

According to the SADC Gender Monitor “the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development aims to empower women socially, economically and politically, eliminate discrimination, and achieve gender equality through gender-responsive legislation, policies and projects”.

The SADC Gender Monitor further indicates that the protocol caters for constitutional and legal rights, governance, education and training, productive resources and employment, GBV, health and HIV/AIDS, peace-building and conflict resolution as well as media, information and communication, among other issues that affect women.
One of the greatest criticisms made of the SADC regional grouping is its habit to make numerous commitments and intentions only on paper without the corresponding practical activity and drive to implement the plans – and the recent cabinet reshuffle provides evidence.

Dienda therefore called upon the president to consider gender in his equation to ensure more women are equally appointed and treated the same as their male counterparts.

“Women in most cases are best performers, less corrupt and obedient, as opposed to men. One can take a very close example of most of the corrupt activities in the country – that less women are involved, and institutions where women are in leadership are performing, and one hardly hears of corrupt practices by the top leadership,” Dienda said.

Her views echo those of some political observers and analysts who had singled out Iivula-Ithana for having done an exemplary job at home affairs where her turnaround strategy was one of a few such interventions in the public sector that have proven effective as she managed to reduce the time it takes to issue IDs and passports, among other important national documents.

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