Namibia: Shangula Dragged Into Haufiku's Axing

FORMER special adviser in the Presidency and Covid-19 contact person in Namibia, Bernard Haufiku, has made startling claims regarding his removal.

This comes after the former minister of health and social services was served with a letter by vice president Nangolo Mbumba yesterday dismissing him as special adviser to the president.

"This morning (yesterday) I received a letter delivered to me by vice president Nangolo Mbumba, which is from president Hage Geingob, informing me that my contract as a special adviser on health matters has been terminated with immediate effect," he said.

Haufiku said Shangula crafted a letter to the president to have him removed from the Covid-19 response team because his [Haufiku's] presence has become "untenable, I am too self-righteous, I am not a team player and it is impossible for them to work with me".

Attached to the dismissal letter was Haufiku's appointment letter as special adviser to the presidency and a copy of a newspaper article in which he was quoted saying the Covid-19 situation that has spiralled out of control in the country, especially in the Erongo region, could have been prevented.

The former health minister and special adviser accused Shangula of alleging in the letter that he [Haufiku] was divulging information to the media on the pandemic response before the information would be made public.

Haufiku said he once "expressed what he believed was the reality on the ground regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic".

"There came a point I expressed what I believe is the reality on the ground and that is perhaps what prompted Dr Shangula to write a letter. This is not true. I want to challenge the minister to bring me the evidence that it was me the next day, after we discussed matters on 26 June, who went on air to disclose what we discussed. If he does not want to respond to that, it is up to him. I want to put it on record here that I have no interest of being a rat during a pandemic.," he said.

REQUESTS TO LEAVE

Haufiku said he has on numerous occasions asked the vice president to be removed from the Covid-19 response team where he felt undermined and sidelined.

Additionally, Shangula did not consider his input, he said.

"I asked to be given another health programme to concentrate on while Shangula is still dealing with the pandemic," he said.

Haufiku said he was gagged after the Covid-19 communication centre was set up - despite the centre being his idea.

EARLY COVID-19 RESPONSE NEEDED

The former minister said the prevalence of Covid-19 cases could have been different, especially in the Erongo region, particularly at Walvis Bay, had his suggestions been considered.

He called for the response team to visit all 14 regions to assess preparedness, and the private sector was willing to support this initiative, he said.

"We needed to see what is replicated in the regions, maybe not to the same extent because of the population size, but it was important in my view, and I think it is common sense to ensure preparedness in all the regions..," he said.

Haufiku said he proposed that testing and medical equipment should be set up at Katima Mulilo, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Keetmanshoop.

"This was a preparedness strategy, but unfortunately we differed with the minister of health and possibly the president, because I do not know what the minister says when he speaks to the president. He told me he has his own way of dealing with that," he said.

Shangula yesterday confirmed the letter to the president, but said Haufiku took the letter out of context and was selective with the extracts he made available to media.

"Those extracts do not reflect the context of the letter," he said.

PRESIDENCY'S RESPONSE

The Presidency confirmed in a statement that the health minister on 24 July recommended Haufiku's withdrawal from the Ministry of Health and Social Services after incidents of causing "discord among team members" and "the disclosure of information" discussed during strategic meetings with the media "without prior clearance'.

The Presidency said Haufiku's conduct was viewed as "a distraction from the core responsibility of managing the Covid-19 pandemic successfully".

"In that vein, the head of state applied his mind and terminated on 30 July 2020 the appointment of Dr Bernard Haufiku as special adviser by virtue of the powers vested in the President by Article 32 (6) of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia," the statement read.

Haufiku was appointed as health minister in 2015, but was demoted in December 2018 because he was reportedly not cooperating effectively with his team and was outspoken in the media.

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