2 February 2018

Namibia: Iivula-Ithana Denies Receiving Dismissal Letter

HOME affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana yesterday denied receiving a dismissal letter from President Hage Geingob by the time the news broke, saying she had only heard about it on social media.

Iivula-Ithana and her youth and sports counterpart, Jerry Ekandjo, were fired from government yesterday, some two months after the Swapo party elective congress that took place in November last year in which they also contested for different positions.

Iivula-Ithana said she was due to return to her office on Monday, and was yet to see the letter relieving her of her ministerial duties by late yesterday afternoon.

"I read about it [dismissal] online. I am still on leave here at my village. I am yet to see the formal letter of my dismissal from the President," she said, adding that if Geingob wanted her out of office, she would not question his decision.

"It is not in my power to question him," she said.

Iivula-Ithana also claimed that she was not aware of the reasons behind her sudden dismissal. "I cannot read someone else's mind," she noted.

Ekandjo was not reachable for comment yesterday.

Although Geingob did not indicate the reasons for their dismissal yesterday, most of those who campaigned side-by-side with Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana said they were not aware of the news by yesterday, while others felt Geingob had gone back on his word during his acceptance speech last year, where he said he would forget the past.

Former Swapo information secretary Helmut Angula, who also campaigned alongside the sacked ministers, said the President's move was "unfortunate", asking: "What is the President trying to achieve?"

He said it was not the right thing to do, considering that Geingob had vowed to leave the mixed messages at the congress behind.

"This is contradictory to what happened at the congress. How many statements were made by those who had lost, about reconciliation and unity to build the party together, now here you come with the dismissal of people? You say people must forget the past, and then you make decisions to purge people based on the past", Angula said.

Political analyst Phanuel Kaapama yesterday said although the President made the decision according to his constitutional power to hire and fire as he sees fit, it was difficult to conclude that he fired the ministers for the utterances they made ahead of last year's Swapo congress.

"There was a fallout between Geingob, Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo that played itself out in public last year, where strong language and criticism [were] used, and seeing this as a contributing factor is far-fetched," he stated.

Kaapama said he doubted that Iivula-Ithana was fired due to poor performance as her track record in the media reflects transformative strategies in the current and previous ministries she served.

"Iivula-Ithana was one of the top performers," he said, adding that he could not [express] the same opinion [regarding]Ekandjo as he was often very quiet and [lying] low. He, however, added that since the President has not given any reason for firing the two, he has left it open to interpretation.

"He is not legally or constitutionally obligated to give anyone an explanation for his decision, but the public can say that they have the right to know in the spirit of transparency," said Kaapama.

Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, who was in Team Swapo together with Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo, said there was nothing wrong with the President sacking his comrades because he (Geingob) has the power vested in him by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, former SPYL secretary Elijah Ngurare, who is a staunch supporter of Iivula-Ithana, yesterday said although Geingob has the right to hire and fire and that it was his constitutional mandate to do so, Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo must be praised for their role in the liberation struggle.

Highlighting their struggle credentials, Ngurare described them as "true heroes".

"Therefore, in my view, comrades like Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana deserve to be applauded for standing up for their principles, even if doing so would result in their expected dismissals, like it has been realised now. They are the true heroes, and must hold their heads and shoulders high.

"They stood up for Swapo principles, and so many of us have learned so much from them, and will cherish their leadership for a lifetime," he continued.

Both Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo had opposed Geingob and his supporters during the congress for the top six positions in the party.

During the run-up to the congress, the two ministers described the leadership of the party and that of government as 'weak', which in turn was apparently also weakening the affairs of government.

They had also at several occasions attributed the economic instability in the country to the "incapable" leadership of government.

The congress was seen by many as the defining factor on whether the party would unite or widen the division that had existed before. In his acceptance speech at the congress, Geingob had promised to hold hands with those who had opposed him.

The President had also promised to "forget the past", and leave behind all the mixed messages raised during the campaigns at the congress for the sake of unity in the party.

The President's words were, however, tested just days after the congress during the restructuring of local authorities in what seemed to be a deliberate purging of those who supported his opponents.

Geingob had also asked the two to explain the 'utterances' they made in public during the campaign rallies leading up to the Swapo Party congress, and to apologise for them.

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