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Namibia: Meeting Expectations?
March 23, 2016 (160323)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"During his first year as President," according to a new report from
Namibia's Institute for Public Policy Research," Geingob has been
saying all the right things from declaring an all-out war on
poverty and declaring his assets as a means of promoting
transparency and accountability, to providing tangible action [on
other issues]." The actual record is mixed, however, and the
president himself has stressed that "it is time to turn words into
With a Gini index of income inequality of 59.7, Namibia ranks among
the most unequal in the world (http://tinyurl.com/mn8how), only
slightly below South Africa's rating of 62.5 (for comparison, China
is 46.9, Mozambique 45.6, the United States 45, and the Netherlands,
Sweden, and Denmark all approximately 25). Now in its second
quarter-century after gaining independence from South Africa,
Namibia still faces the legacy of the apartheid system embedded in
its social and economic structure. Yet the mood is still one of
cautious optimism, as President Hage Geingob begins his second year
in office, and Namibia is rated by Afrobarometer as the most
tolerant among 33 countries surveyed (http://www.africafocus.org/docs16/tol1603.php).
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a review of
Geingob's first year, by Nangula Shejavali of Namibia's Institute
for Public Policy Research. The IPPR report contains commentary and
ratings from 10 Namibian commentators, as well as an overview by the
For background articles with an analytical and critical perspective
on the dominance of Namibia's ruling party, written before the
election of President Geingob, see Henning Melber, "Post-liberation
Democratic Authoritarianism: The Case of Namibia"
(http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02589346.2015.1005790) and "From Nujoma to
Geingob: 25 years of presidential democracy,"
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
One Year Of Geingob: An Analysis of the Namibian President's Hits
and Misses during His First Year in Office
Special Briefing Report No. 11 , March 2016
By Nangula Shejavali
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
"After 25 years they (Namibian citizens) want food, clothing and
shelter. They want jobs, better housing and good nutrition. They
want a leader who will bring prosperity to the nation and they want
that leader to act quickly." President Hage Geingob, 21 March
On 21 March 2015, President Hage Geingob was inaugurated as the
third President of the Republic of Namibia. Having received an
overwhelming 87 per cent of the vote in the Presidential election
on 28 November 2015, the popular Geingob assumed the role of Head
of State with an enormous level of public confidence and great deal
of public expectation.
Taking place on Namibia's 25th Independence Anniversary, Geingob's
inauguration was a euphoric occasion, and the excitement in the air
was palpable. Perhaps it was the promise of a fresher approach to
governance. Or it may have been the fact that the new President
hailed from a minority ethnic group, signalling a new era of
tolerance and a profound sense of na tional unity. Geingob's
inauguration speech set an impressive and inspiring tone that
stressed inclusivity, promised that, "No Namibian should feel left
behind!", and cemented this euphoria.
The new President committed to addressing a number of priorities for
his administration, clearly stating that addressing "the
socioeconomic gaps that exist in our society" would be the main
focus of his administration. In this vein, he declared an "all-out
war on poverty and concomitant inequality" and promised to work
towards "catapulting the economy into a new period of faster
growth, improved job creation and improved service delivery".
Beyond the socioeconomic priority stated (and presented in more
detail below), the President also promised to strengthen the
governance architecture to ensure that government is able to
effectively respond to these priorities; and called on the Namibian
people to "stand together in building this new Namibian House."
It is against this background that this briefing paper provides a
critical assessment of President Geingob's first year in office,
drawing insights from a slew of documents, speeches, press releases
and media reports issued since the President's inauguration. The
paper also incorporates insights and scorecards from a handful of
political, social and economic commentators. In his State of the
Nation Address on April 21, which coincided with the opening of the
6th Parliament in 2015, Geingob made a recommitment to the many
promises made in his inaugural address, this time adding more
specifics to his plans.
The President's Promises
During Geingob's first few weeks in office, he delivered some key
speeches that set the tone for what his priorities would be during
his presidency. Chief amongst these speeches in terms of
highlighting his administration's priorities early on were his
inauguration speech |21.03.2015| and his State of the Nation
Address (SoNA) |15.04.2015|. These two speeches form the basis for
In his inauguration speech, in addition to emphasising continuity
(President Nujoma had represented peace, President Pohamba
represented stability, and Geingob would represent prosperity),
Geingob clearly outlined his priorities.
"The main priority for the next administration will be addressing
the socio-economic gaps that exist in our society. Therefore, our
first priority will be to declare all-out war on poverty and
concomitant inequality. Our focal point will be to address
inequality, poverty and hunger and that will involve looking at a
range of policies and inter- ventionist strategies to tackle this
In this regard, he noted a revised Government structure for his
first term, that would better align existing Ministries to
Government's objectives, enhance efficiencies, and make government
more responsive in meeting these goals, i.e.: "poverty eradication
and reduction of inequalities and disparities; sustainable economic
growth and economic diversification; job creation; and improved
In his State of the Nation Address on April 21, which coincided with
the opening of the 6th Parliament in 2015, Geingob made a
recommitment to the many promises made in his inaugural address,
this time adding more specifics to his plans.
Eradicating poverty again featured prominently as a national
priority, and the President used the opportunity to announce
various initiatives in this regard, including an increase in the
old age pension, and the introduction of a food bank. He also
highlighted the need to tackle poverty using a multifaceted
approach. "We will, therefore, tackle poverty from all fronts,
through safety nets, access to quality education, and by creating
jobs and growing the economy," he said, highlighting the renaming
of the Labour Ministry to the Ministry of Labour, Industrial
Relations and Job Creation.
With regards to overcoming inequalities, he noted that the
finalisation of the economic empowerment policy framework was long
overdue and that consultation would resume on this policy
framework. In this vein, in his comments on the economy, he also
noted efforts to "raise the bar regarding transformation of
ownership structures" including the restriction of ownership over
natural resources, the finalisation of policies such as the
Procurement Bill and the Retail Charter, the implementation of the
Industrial Policy and the Growth at Home Strategy; and the support
for local business.
Access to land and affordable housing has been a major theme on the
national agenda, with the Affirmative Repositioning movement
further placing the issue particularly of urban housing front
and centre of much of the policy discourse. In this regard, the
President reaffirmed his "personal commitment to addressing land
reform and provision of affordable housing to all Namibians", and
highlighted various (possible) measures to accelerate the delivery
of serviced land and housing.
In the SoNA, Geingob also announced the introduction of free
secondary school education, encouraged the private sector to do
more with regards to skills development and training, and noted the
importance of quality and affordable health services.
He touched on the issue of combating corruption, encouraging the
nation to report instances of corruption in its many forms to the
Anti Corruption Commission. He also highlighted the need for public
officials to avoid conflicts of interest, and encouraged them to
disclose their assets. In this vein, in a much welcome move, he
announced that he would disclose his assets through an independent
assessment by PWC.
In both his Inaugural Speech and the State of the Nation address,
Geingob highlighted and drove home a metaphor to illustrate his
presidency's emphasis on inclusivity the analogy of The Namibian
House. In the SoNA, he stated, "We are intent on building and
maintaining a high quality house in which all its residents have a
sense of shared identity. We are determined to build a house that
will be a place of peace and refuge for all its children and a
house in which no Namibian will be left out."
On the whole, President Geingob's performance in his first year of
office has been a mixed bag made up of some great rhetoric,
wonderful intentions, interesting policy pronouncements, and some
sound action and consultation on certain policies. There have also
been actions that have seemingly contradicted the positive rhetoric
and some inaction on certain issues, raising question marks about
how much progress can be achieved.
During his first year as President, Geingob has been saying all the
right things from declaring an all-out war on poverty and
declaring his assets as a means of promoting transparency and
accountability, to providing tangible action with respect to
national reconciliation, initiating consultation and early action
on the urban land/housing crisis and reviving the policy review on
economic transformation. That said, however, the President's first
year in office has been focused on laying the grounds for the
action and change he wishes to implement.
In a way, the President has admitted as much, stating during the
opening of the third session of the current parliament that 2015
was a year of talk, and 2016 would have to be a year of action. In
the regard, he stated: "The year 2015 can be described as a call to
arms. It was the year in which as President, I endeavoured to rally
the nation behind a shared Vision through themes such as, War on
Poverty, War against corruption, No Namibian Must feel left out and
Harambee. I am certain that by embracing these themes and applying
them to our policy making decisions, one day we will be able to
eradicate poverty. In 2016, it is time to turn words into reality,
it is time to implement and therefore I refer to this year as the
Year of Implementation." That said, although the groundwork was
being laid in his first year in office seen with the stating and
restating of the Poverty Eradication, Harambee, and Namibian House
mantras, there is still plenty to assess of the President's
performance based on the promises made when he came to office.
Geingob entered office on a titanic wave of support and with huge
public expectation, and before taking the helm (i.e. during his
time as President-elect), made some announcements that helped to
set a strong tone for his presidency. In terms of service delivery,
these included instructing those on the Swapo party list who would
be serving in Parliament to submit their CVs to ensure that they
were placed in offices where their expertise would best serve the
nation. This was certainly a welcome move, which he noted in his
100 days self-assessment by stating: "As you are aware, Cabinet
Ministers were selected and allocated to various ministries based
on their qualifications and level of expertise, after thorough
analysis of their Curriculum Vitae, which I had requested. These
appointments have rejuvenated the people as well as the ministries
themselves." The President underlined the seriousness of this
approach by naming and shaming those who had not submitted their
resumes by the deadline.
As President-Elect, Geingob also announced the creation of the
Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare to fast-track
efforts to address poverty, wealth inequality and food insecurity.
In his words: "The establishment of the Ministry of Poverty
Eradication and Social Welfare is meant to ensure the co-
ordination, implementation and evaluation of government programmes
aimed at poverty eradication. This Ministry comes as a realisation
that poverty eradication programmes are cross-cutting, and are
developed and implemented by various government ministries but
requires focus and co-ordination."
The poverty eradication mantra has been present in most of the
President's speeches, and in his March 2016 meeting with former
Presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba, he made sure to
explain that the Harambee Prosperity Plan "will complement our
National Development Plans and Vision 2030. 6 It therefore,
recognises and builds on your successes and achievements. It is
designed to have high impact and take us closer to the attainment
of Vision 2030." The President has announced plans to reveal the
Harambee Prosperity Plan during his 2016 State of the Nation
Address in mid-April 2016.
Encouragingly, there has also been positive action to follow on the
promises made in his unifying inaugural speech. For example, he
took action on increasing the old age pension grant from the measly
N$600 previously granted to the elderly to N$1,000 in 2015 and
N$1,100 for the current budget year (with another increase expected
in 2017), in an effort to help reduce poverty; and has announced
the creation of food banks to reduce food insecurity in the
country, which has now been budgeted for in the 2016-2017 budget.
Analysts have cautioned that the food banks should not become a
bureaucratic burden and efforts should be made to ensure the
intended recipients of food aid are the ones who receive the
support. In this regard, the exact modalities of the plan are still
unknown, although the Cuban government will provide support and
advice based on their own experiences. He has also announced the
introduction of a Basic Income Grant, although the details are
still far from clear.
Related to poverty reduction efforts and the extension of
opportunities for all, the President has also done well in seeing
through reforms set out by his predecessor for free secondary
education. His major challenge with regards to education, however,
is ensuring that learners receive high quality education to enhance
their life chances, and to fully exploit their potential. A clear
strategy to enhance educational outcomes remains unclear.
With regards to governance, President Geingob has also made various
efforts to ensure that his administration is delivering on the
promises made to the people. He requested all Ministers to submit
their Declarations of Intent to "outline their promises to the
public". He held an induction seminar for Cabinet members early on
in his Presidency "to take Cabinet through key important concepts,
thinking and approaches that will mark the tenure of my Presidency.
These include: good governance and ethics, poverty eradication,
reduction of income disparities, accelerated economic growth, job
creation and rapid industrialization." And he ensured that
Performance Agreements (in line with the Declarations) were set in
place to monitor the performance of his Ministers.
President Geingob has worked hard to ensure he remains a true
ambassador of his Namibian House analogy, in which "no Namibian
should feel left out", and, as promised, the focus of his efforts
have remained on mending socio-economic gaps in Na- mibian society
(particularly on poverty reduction). His public engagement through
town hall meetings was evidence of this. According to his reports
on these meetings, "During the period under consideration, we
covered close to 14 thousand kilometers on road and by plane, sat
into a collective 93 hours of town hall meet- ings, listening
attentively to participants and meticulously documenting questions,
observations and suggestions. We received in excess of 2400
questions and ideas from Namibians from all walks of life. We are
committed to respond to all questions in a formalized manner." At
this stage, we can only assume that the formalized manner in which
these questions will be responded to is in the embodiment of the
The President's consultative approach could also be seen in his
meeting with members of the Affirmative Repositioning movement on
the issue of urban housing, engaging the public on social media
platforms (particularly on his Facebook page), and ensuring that
public input is sought on critical Bills such as the New Equitable
Economic Empowerment Framework, which deals with the economic
transformation he spoke of in his 2015 SoNA. He has noted that, "We
will continue engaging and consulting with stakeholders like
farmers, the media, trade unions, youth, women and the private
sector. These consultations will go hand in hand with a drive
towards implementation and transformation of workable suggestions
into actions." The 24 July 2015 consultations with the AR movement
resulted in a plan to clear tens of thousands of plots countrywide
for forthcoming housing projects aimed at low earners.
The President received praise along with First Lady, Monica
Geingos for setting a personal example in declaring his assets.
In his speech on that day, he stated that, "It is clear that in
administering a nation, one has to be transparent and accountable.
It is for this reason that I have decided to declare my assets in
public, for your scrutiny." During that press conference, it was
declared that, "Geingob's assets are worth over N$50 million while
the First Lady's assets range from N$45 to N$60 million in equity."
Despite the above-noted 'hits', the President has also missed some
key opportunities to really shine, and to respond to the pressing
needs of our time.
While pushing the poverty eradication agenda, he has been seen to
spend excessively on a big government (with some Ministries having
more than one Deputy Minister), as well as highly paid advisors,
some of whom reportedly earn more than Ministers. While the
Constitution does provide for the President to have advisors, the
pay packages awarded to these advisors and to the extra Deputy
Ministers have raised concern amongst analysts, and has added an
extra burden on the state's coffers at the same time as Namibia's
debt rises to worrying levels. While the amounts themselves may not
be huge in terms of the budget as a whole, an expanded executive is
symbolic and potentially sends the wrong message about priorities.
The size of the Executive, and the seeming excesses afforded to the
President's advisors dubbed the A team have perhaps been the
cause of the heaviest criticism the President has faced thus far.
And while he means well in surrounding himself with the people he
believes can best effect the change he wishes to create, many have
continued to question the 'value add' of some of the advisors and
what change they will actually effect. Indeed, given the expense of
this team, and the clear need for transformation voiced by the
President himself in his inaugural speech, one would hope for more
concrete action. The President has announced that he will unveil
the details of the Harambee Prosperity Plan during his second State
of the Nation address, and there is hope that the socio-economic
transformation that will come about as a result of the plan will
bring about the prosperity the President has promised, and in so
doing assure the nation of the advisors' value.
In response to the criticisms levelled with regard to the expense of
the A-team (specifically responding to the criticism raised at The
Namibian's #100DaysOfGeingob event), the President defended his
selections, stating that: "There was commentary that the Namibian
House is too expensive. I would like to say that any good house is
expensive. Furthermore, one only worries about the expenses if the
resources are being wasted without any delivery. It is therefore
fair to give the Team Hage a chance and if it fails to deliver then
you can pass a verdict. I have high expectations on the performance
of these individuals, and will therefore be the first person to
take them to task in case of non-performance."
The President has shown his defensive nature on several fronts,
often claiming the media bends the truth, tells outright lies, or
fails to understand his vision.
On fighting corruption, although the President set a positive
personal example in declaring his assets, he has not insisted that
members of Cabinet and other MPs be publicly accountable, and a new
National Assembly asset register has yet to be published a year
after MPs were sworn in. In this regard, although he has in word
encouraged the disclosure of assets, he has missed important
opportunities to show broader transparency and accountability by
enforcing this practice at a broader level. Further, while his
rhetoric on the fight against corruption has been strong, real
action has been lacking, and there is some public skepticism about
certain tenders that the President has been reported to have
defended e.g. the controversial airport tender and the Xaris
deal, amongst others.
Unemployment (particularly youth unemployment) remains effectively
unattended to, despite mentions of the problem in various speeches.
Although the President has engaged the private sector on various
platforms, this has not produced results in terms of job creation.
Unlike the plans announced for welfare projects to ensure poverty
reduction, when it comes to job creation and enterprise
development, equally if not more important in reducing poverty and
inequality, the Geingob administration has done little.
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