Local sports commentators and experts yesterday expressed mixed reactions on the appointment of Agnes Tjongarero as Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, who now replaces outgoing Erastus Uutoni.
Until her appointment late Sunday, Tjongarero was deputy minister at the same ministry. A veteran sports administrator, she will now be deputised by Emma Kantema-Gaomas, who was also until her appointment on Sunday the ministry's executive director.
Having served local sports in various capacities over the years - from being president of the Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC), president of Namibia Netball to vice-chairperson of the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC) - Tjongarero boasts a reputable background and knowledge in sports administration.
Tjongarero also served as deputy minister in the sports ministry since 2015, first serving under political old-timer Jerry Ekandjo until 2018 and then under Uutoni, whom she succeeded on Sunday.
Namibia's most decorated athlete and legendary sprinter Frank Fredericks, speaking to New Era Sport yesterday, welcomed Tjongarero's elevated appointment, describing it as a natural progression, as she has served local sports in manifold capacities over the years.
"She has been around for quite a long time now and served in so many areas of our sports sector, so I think her appointment as head minister is a natural progression from where she started. She was part of the Olympic movement, netball and other areas of sport - and that shows how far she has come. One can only wish her all the best in her new capacity and hope she delivers on all expectations. Obviously, everyone, athletes included, is expecting a lot from her, due to her extensive sports background and administrative skills," said the four-time Olympics silver medalists.
Renowned local sports analyst Isack Hamata also shared his views on Tjongarero's appointment, saying although she is not entirely a new-comer to the sports portfolio, having served as deputy minister for over five years, it will be unfair to judge her based on her previous position because with every elevation comes a new level of authority.
"I think it will be a bit harsh to judge her based on her performance as deputy minister because as deputy, you have limited powers and authorities, as you are second in charge. But now that she is head of the ministry; she has more powers and authority to fully execute her plans and ambitions for local sports. So, let's give her time to prove herself and judge her performance after her term is over. As far as her experience and background in sports, I have no doubt about that; she has been around for some years now," said an optimistic Hamata.
He added: "Given her extensive exposure and experience, she [Tjongarero] understands the daily struggles of local athletes and the financial hardships they go through, so I hope the plight of local athletes, improved financing of various sports development programmes and building adequate facilities around the country will enjoy prominence on her list of priorities. But most importantly, I hope she will unite a divided sporting fraternity and create a new environment for athletes to excel."