columnBy Paul T. Shipale
STILL hampered by the vulnerable economy and after his punchy inaugural address, President Barack Obama used his State of the Union (SOTU) address to be uncompromising in his calls for lawmakers to offset across-the-board spending cuts.
Indeed, President Obama delivered his fourth State of the Union address on Tuesday night, a high-profile opportunity in which he laid out his plans, offered the public an outline for job creation and hopes for his second term though much of his blueprint included elements we have heard before. For the Republicans, SOTU 2013 "was less a presidential olive branch than a congressional cattle prod." While there is still enough of the second term left for him to get things done before Washington turns its attention to the 2014 elections, about a year from now, this was Obama's best and last chance to set the agenda for a divided Washington.
Presidents often use the big annual address to lay out an unexpected new initiative, but those who expected to hear the Namibian President announcing in his speech, at both the first Cabinet session and the opening of the 7th session of the 5th Parliament, or even hinting at his next big plans as well as the legacy he wants to leave behind, were disappointed as the President missed the opportunity to do so. I guess he is probably saving it for his State of the Nation address. One thing is for sure, if the President wants our parliament "not only (to) serve to deepen democracy, but ... also (to) monitor developments and hold to account the Executive in implementing the mandates entrusted to them (sic) by the electorate ... strengthen our democratic institutions and entrench transparency in our country ... for the promotion of democracy and good governance" as he stated in his opening speech of the 7th Session of the 5th Parliament, then "the work of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which has the task of reinforcing accountability on Accounting Officers in the execution of their accounting responsibilities (sic)" should not only be strengthened and enhanced, but also ensure that there is a real separation of powers between the three organs of the State, but that is a topic for another day.
After the 5th Swapo Party Congress, Philemon Wise Immanuel wrote a piece, entitled: 'President Pohamba struck a silent revolution'. Wise said, "merely a day and a half after the conclusion of the 5th SWAPO Party Congress, on December the 2nd, 2012, (the President) could not spare a moment to prove to every Namibian that he is in charge of state affairs ... (as) he exercised his signature of power and authority through a silent revolution that struck everyone with surprise when he reshuffled his Cabinet." Wise further elaborated that President Pohamba "has proven himself as a leader who bases his success not on ego and force of character, but on calculated thoughts and actions." Indeed, it is not often that a President oozes such an aura of power.
Undoubtedly last year seemed to be an Annus Mirabilis for both President Zuma of the ANC ruling Party in South Africa and President Pohamba of the ruling Swapo Party here in Namibia.
Indeed last year, it was a year in which President Zuma outplayed almost all his competitors and adversaries. The growing confidence of both presidents is evident in the composition of the latest Cabinet by President Pohamba and the ANC's new executive committee - here known as the Politburo, which serves as the party's highest decision-making structure between conferences - now almost exclusively made up of President Zuma's allies. However, how the leadership will deal with the vexing issue of disunity will determine the success of their terms and the legacy they will leave behind and whether we will have an annus mirabilis or annus horribilis. Already, we started off the year on a sad note with the passing on of the late Honourable Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo, arguably one of the youngest Cabinet Ministers and a rising and promising star as a politician-technocrat and a Member of Parliament. His absence from the chambers, at both the first Cabinet session and the opening of the 7th session of the 5th Parliament was undoubtedly palpable.