Namibia: Venaani Wants Ex-Presidents' Benefits Cut

POPULAR Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani says he will introduce a motion in the National Assembly to review the law regulating the benefits of former presidents.

Venaani said he wants the government to cut the benefits presidents enjoy when they retire, including the lump sum payment or free house they get.

He added that he also wants the number of vehicles assigned to former presidents reduced to cut unnecessary government spending.

The PDM leader made these remarks at a media briefing in Windhoek on Thursday.

Under the current Former Presidents' Pension and Other Benefits Act 18 of 2004, former presidents are entitled to monthly pension equal to their basic salary received immediately before leaving office.

Former presidents are also entitled to be paid a gratuity of an amount equal to the annual salary which was payable to him or her "immediately before he or she ceased to hold office as president for each term of office that he or she served as president".

Apart from the pension and gratuity, the law states that former presidents are also entitled to additional benefits, such as having to choose between a private residence built for them on a 5 000 square metre piece of land, or a cash payout equivalent to the value of the private home.

The size of the house, according to the act, must not exceed a reasonably sized house with five bedrooms, a guest wing with three bedrooms, a study, a swimming pool, two guardrooms and four garages.

The retired presidents also get three vehicles, including one Mercedes-Benz S500, one four-wheel drive station wagon, and a pickup van.

On top of that, they are also entitled to other benefits, including entertainment, telephone and water and electricity costs all paid for by the state.

The Namibian earlier this year published a series of articles on how founding president Sam Nujoma had a private house built for him at a cost of about N$70 million as a retirement package, despite having received a cash payout.

Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba had a retirement house built for him for about N$35 million before he stepped down in 2015.

Venaani told the media event Thursday that the law providing for such exorbitant benefits should be reviewed because it was costing the state a lot of money.

"They must be given an office, security details and staff, given the office that they held. But to give a house or N$40 million to somebody who already has houses, while the majority of the people that he purported to represent are homeless, is not justifiable," he charged.

The leader of the official opposition in parliament said if his motion is successful, he will propose that the option of giving a former president a house or a cash payout equivalent to the value of the house be scrapped.

He added that the money spent in that respect should be used to provide services to the nation such as electricity, housing and sanitation where such needed the most.

"Now that we have entrenched democracy, we can no longer accept former heads of state to receive millions of dollars in payouts to apparently sooth their egos so that they don't come back to power," he observed.

Venaani said the government also needs to introduce serious austerity measures to control how politicians and government officials use vehicles and petrol cards assigned to them.

He said this would then prove to the public that the government was serious about cutting unnecessary spending for the public to voluntarily contribute 2% of their salaries for the searing drought.

The size of the motorcades for the vice president, the prime minister and the number of vehicles assigned to ministers should likewise be reduced, he added.

"We are saying that if the president wants a 2% contribution from Namibians, he must walk the talk of austerity: cut the Mercedes-Benz that the prime minister is using, cut the Mercedes-Benz that the vice president is using, and those additional blue lights. Put the Toyota Corolla there.

"People are living in darkness, but we have a motorcade worth more than N$4 million for one person plus a staff complement," he stated.

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