Namibia: Fired Haufiku to Meet Geingob

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(file photo)
20 December 2018

FORMER health minister Bernard Haufiku who was dismissed yesterday said he will meet president Hage Geingob today over the issue.

Haufiku told The Namibian yesterday that when State House sent out a press release about his demotion, he had not received any official communication about the matter.

"I am meeting the president tomorrow," Haufiku said.

Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari announced yesterday that Geingob had removed Haufiku as health minister to be replaced by former health permanent secretary Kalumbi Shangula.

Hengari said Haufiku had been appointed as special adviser: health and social services in the Office of the Vice President.

"The appointment as the special adviser is through mutual accord," the spokesperson said.

Hengari added: "President Geingob extends appreciation to Haufiku for his determined commitment to improving the health and social services sector over the past few years, and wishes him well in his new role as a special adviser".

It is not clear whether Haufiku has accepted the position of special adviser.

"I have no comment for now," Haufiku said yesterday regarding the position.

Haufiku's removal means he will also no longer be a member of parliament since he was appointed to the legislature by the president in 2015, but their relations have turned sour over the years.

The Namibian reported in February this year that Geingob called out Haufiku for not respecting a decision made by Cabinet on Ondangwa as the chosen location for the construction of the N$1 billion academic referral hospital.

Haufiku announced last year in May that there were plans by the government to build a modern hospital to serve the northern regions, and remove the need to send patients to Windhoek.

However, there has been much debate between the Oshana Regional Council and the health ministry on whether the hospital should be constructed at Ondangwa, Oshakati or Ongwediva.

In a letter sent to Haufiku by Geingob dated 9 February 2018, the president questioned why Haufiku was still insisting on exploring alternative sites outside the jurisdiction of the Ondangwa town.

"I am, therefore, puzzled by your insistence on exploring alternative sites outside the jurisdiction of Ondangwa town, given that Cabinet has already decided on the matter," Geingob said.

Haufiku was a frustrated man. His frustration was visible in a story published by Namibian Sun last month when he accused Geingob of interfering in ministerial matters.

According to that report, Haufiku said Geingob criticised him for asking private companies and citizens to assist in keeping a financially starved eye clinic at the Windhoek Central Hospital open. The clinic was closed because of lack of support.

"When it became known that the private sector had helped, I was berated by my superior in the Cabinet. 'You are [giving the] government a bad name. What are these private people now doing? They have billions of money, and they are giving N$200, and you are showing them on television'," the minister was quoted as saying.

"You know the mentality, the attitude. That is why I am saying some of the people must make a rotation in the private sector before they can go to the public sector," the minister added.

According to the newspaper, Haufiku added that "now they are more worried about me appearing on TV and thanking the people that helped us, than the real situation that was happening," Haufiku said.

Haufiku was allegedly reprimanded for talking to the media and for Praising people.

The presidency said Shangula (70) would be sworn in as a member of the National Assembly at 09h00 today.

Shangula told The Namibian yesterday that he was looking forward to the challenge.

"Well, I have been given an assignment, and I am going to try my level best. I have been outside the ministry for too long. Once I get in, I will consult the team to listen to the issues that need priority," he said. Asked what the public can expect from him, Shangula said "I would rather talk less and try to act more. It is said action speaks louder than words".

Shangula's last public service job was as environment and tourism permanent secretary. He retired from that position in 2012.

Before that, the Russian-trained medical doctor also worked for eight years as a permanent secretary in the health ministry.

Shangula's sudden rise comes two years after he was removed as chairperson of the Swapo-owned company Kalahari Holdings.

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