12. March 2015

Top government positions announced

President-elect Hage Geingob's choice for the top three positions in government has dashed hopes of several Swapo leaders who had hoped to score big. Geingob made veterans' affairs minister Nickey Iyambo the country's first Vice President, while finance minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila becomes the country's first female Prime Minister.

Announcing the appointments in Windhoek yesterday, Geingob also revealed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, will become the deputy Prime Minister.

Iyambo's new appointment does not come as a surprise as it was already believed in party circles that he was earmarked for one of the top four posts in the government especially considering the fact that he is a long time Geingob ally and that he supported his campaign for the party vice presidency at the 2012 Swapo elective congress.

It is perhaps Nandi-Ndaitwah's elevation to deputy Prime Minister, that has raised eyebrows. Those in the know pointed out that Nandi-Ndaitwah, one of President Hifikepunye Pohamba's favourites, was tipped to be Geingob's number two in government.

There is a school of thought that this was part of the agreement for Pohamba's support for Geingob's bid to retain the party vice presidency at the 2012 elective congress.

After the congress, it looked as if Pohamba's supporters were well in charge of the party because of having been in the majority in the party's Politburo.

Until the constitutional changes were made, talk in the party was that Nandi-Ndaitwah was going to become Prime Minister and local government minister Charles Namoloh would replace her as foreign minister.

Geingob, at the briefing yesterday, said one of the reasons for giving Nandi-Ndaitwah an additional portfolio is to cut costs.

Party sources however said it was a compromise to please Pohamba by appointing her in the top four of government and also to prevent Nandi-Ndaitwah feeling demoted since the deputy Prime Minister's post has historically been more of a ceremonial post with very little to do.

There were also some people in the party who expected agriculture minister John Mutorwa to be appointed the deputy Prime Minister.

Geingob said the Vice President should be a person able to consult and advise him. “Somebody who is not scared of me and will not tell me what I want to hear. An equal, a calm person, a cool cat, I am hot,” Geingob said, adding that he wanted someone who should be able to deal with difficult issues and have the right temperament.

The 78-year-old Iyambo is a medical doctor and was the first minister of health at Independence in 1990. He also served as local government minister, mines minister, agriculture and now veterans' minister. Iyambo said he is humbled to be the chosen one and looked forward to serving in his new portfolio.

Helmut Angula, who served as a minister and deputy minister in five portfolios between 1990 and 2010, said: “Iyambo is cool.” “He has wisdom because of his age and knows how government works. He does not get excited and emotional when tackling issues,” said Angula.

Geingob said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila's financial background is key because another role of the Prime Minister is to oversee the implementation of government projects. “Therefore, having someone with sound financial fundamentals at the helm will be an advantage,” he said.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said she is humbled to enjoy the trust of the outgoing Prime Minister. She admitted that there are many challenges and that there will be a process to solve them. “The idea is to have a public service that renders excellent services,” she said.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila's upward movement could mean the long-awaited appointment of Director General of Planning, Tom Alweendo, as finance minister. Talk of Alweendo taking charge of the finance portfolio already started in 2010 when he left his job as governor of the central bank.

Party sources said Geingob will face an uphill battle when appointing his Cabinet in two weeks' time.

Three main reasons for his headache will be the fact that the National Assembly has increased in size giving him a larger pool to choose from. He will have to balance his appointments by regions, ethnicity and party factions.

The incoming President admitted that the decision to increase the ministries will be costly but said there are mechanism to ensure efficiency of the governing system.

Geingob also said he is not going to “run the show” and would need the support of everyone. “One thing I want the nation to understand is that I will never run a one-man show. However, as the person elected to become President, I will always take responsibility. I will be consulted and advised but the buck stops with the President's Office,” he said.

Meanwhile, Geingob also spoke out for the first time about the land crisis warning that people should not resort to grabbing land as that will destabilise the peace. “We are all together on the land problem. We are all concerned about land,” he said. He admitted that the willing buyer willing seller approach had failed to deliver enough land but he said the situation can be corrected to ensure prosperity for the people.

Geingob also lashed out at people who have been approaching him so that they can be given top jobs. “Shame on them,” he said. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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