5 June 2012

Namibia: Swapo Congress 'Stalls' Cabinet Reshuffle

CABINET ministers are waiting anxiously for President Hifikepunye Pohamba to act on his threat to reshuffle them.

A Cabinet reshuffle was on the cards last year, but was never executed for reasons unknown.

During the last Cabinet meeting when the President requested action within the ranks of the permanent secretaries, he at the same time warned the ministers that he would reshuffle them too. This was said after he expressed his dismay with the performance of certain ministries.

"We don't know when it will take place and are waiting for the President to take action. At least he warned us about the reshuffling," a senior minister told The Namibian.

However, political analysts are of the opinion that the chances are slim for a major Cabinet reshuffle with the watershed Swapo congress just around the corner.

A total of 11 out of the 24 permanent secretaries were reshuffled, but even Prime Minister Nahas Angula made it clear that ministers are ultimately responsible for their ministries.

According to the Constitution, ministers must direct, coordinate and supervise the activities of their ministries, government departments and parastatals and should be held accountable for the administration of their ministries.

The executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood, told The Namibian that Cabinet ministers are supposed to ensure that apartheid, tribalism and colonialism do not manifest themselves again in Namibia and to assist disadvantaged citizens. In addition they are not supposed to be using their positions to enrich themselves or expose themselves to conflicts of interest.

"In an ideal world ministers' performances should primarily be measured against these benchmarks and the recent track records of their ministries in terms of improving service delivery. However, Cabinet reshuffles have always been strongly influenced by other factors such as ethnic balancing and pleasing various interest groups within the ruling party."

He said a recycling exercise, as was the case with the permanent secretaries, probably won't achieve much in terms of improving service delivery. It would be more invigorating for government performance if some new faces and younger politicians were drafted into Cabinet.

"However, President Pohamba has, so far, been very cautious in changing his Cabinet. I would expect that any changes would only be limited to a few posts. Particularly with the congress approaching he probably would not want to be seen as upsetting the apple cart by making a lot of changes," said Hopwood.

Another political analyst, Bill Lindeke, shares the same sentiments, saying the 'threat' was perhaps made to keep the ministers on their toes.

"Looking at the track record of the President and the infighting going on in Swapo, it is most unlikely that he will make a major Cabinet reshuffle. He is not a Cabinet shuffler."

The head of the Department of Politics and Administration at Unam, Victor Tonchi, said the recycling of ministers is a futile exercise.

"If they cannot do the job, the appointing authority should get rid of them and bring in new blood. However, in a certain manner the President's choices are limited to members of the National Assembly and he might not always find the suitable replacement."

He is also sceptical about any reshuffle taking place, adding that the upcoming Congress might be the stumbling block.

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