Namibia: Diplomats Reshuffle Looms

22 September 2020

President Hage Geingob is set to appoint 16 new diplomats.

This includes the possible appointment of Margaret Mensah-Williams, a member of parliament, as Namibia's top emissary to the United States.

Two sources familiar with the matter over the weekend said presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari was also considered for a position in Namibia's foreign service.

It is unclear whether a final decision has been made regarding his position.

The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation last week confirmed that around 22 diplomats will be recalled by deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, which is normal procedure after a representative's four-year term has expired.

The appointments could be announced by the end of this month.

Namibia is likely to have a new ambassador at its new foreign station in Dubai.

Former minister of presidential affairs, Martin Andjaba, who previously served as ambassador to the USA, is tipped to be appointed as Namibia's ambassador to Germany.

Sources said Namibia's current ambassador to Germany, Andreas Guibeb, could be appointed as minister of presidential affairs.

Namibia's outgoing representative at the United Nations in Switzerland, Penda Naanda, is tipped to return home and take up the position of executive director of international relations and cooperation.

He would replace the ministry's former executive director, Selma Ashipala-Musavyi.

Mekondjo Kaapanda-Girnus, the commercial counsellor at Namibia's High Commission in the United Kingdom, is allegedly one of the diplomats tipped to be redeployed.

Mensah-Williams would replace Monica Nashandi, who served as ambassador to the USA from 2018 to the middle of this year.

Mensah-Williams is currently a backbencher in the National Assembly and has faced allegations of sucking up to power.

Geingob rescued her last year after she failed to make it higher up on Swapo's parliamentary list.

Her appointment to Washington comes around seven years after she was accused of using taxpayers' money on lavish USA trips.

The Namibian reported in 2013 that the National Council under her chairmanship spent close to N$400 000 in travel allowances alone for a trip to the US it had no business in.

She then denied any wrongdoing and branded allegations as a witch-hunt.

Mensah-Williams yesterday said she was not aware of her appointment to Washington, saying the president makes those appointments.

"I am in the National Assembly and very content with that. I was never approached by anyone, including the appointing authority," she said.

Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari told The Namibian on Monday that the "presidency has no comment to make on this matter and does not respond to public speculation regarding decisions of the President".

"It is the prerogative of the President to make certain public service appointments as per the Namibian Constitution. The process of appointing Ambassadors and High Commissioners involves a complex process of an agrément with host countries and host institutions, which is managed by the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation," he said.

Hengari said the public will be informed when the president makes the decisions.

The international relations ministry's deputy director of information, Marbeline Goagoses, last week said all heads of missions who are due for recall were served with a standard notice of three months before their actual return date.

"The recall of ambassadors or foreign service officers posted abroad is done within the set regulations. The public will be informed when the process has been completed," she said.

The deputy director added that the international relations ministry introduced the posting regulations that guide the operations of diplomats and their rotations.

She further explained that the ministry has institutionalised this guideline when selecting and deploying diplomats to various missions on the basis of competitive written examinations and oral interviews.

DIPLOMATIC CLIQUE

The upcoming posting comes at a time when allegations of favouritism and entitlement in diplomatic circles are rife.

There appears to be some unhappiness in the international relations ministry.

Sources this month said controversy surrounds the appointment of around 17 positions at foreign missions.

This includes diplomatic ranks, which comprise first secretary (10 positions), second secretary (four positions ) and third secretary (three positions).

The positions for first secretary are available in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Belgium, Sweden, the Democratic Republic of Congo, New York, Egypt, Malaysia, Tanzania and Senegal.

Second secretary positions exist in Algeria, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, while positions for third secretary are at Zimbabwe, Angola and Algeria.

A list was subsequently set up by the ministry so that eligible officials in the ministry could apply.

The list is allegedly plagued with favouritism as some of the candidates reportedly do not meet requirements.

Additionally, second secretary candidates are said to need a financial background, but most on the ministry's list of eligible staff members do not meet this requirement.

Sources said these types of appointments often affect the management of the country's foreign missions.

MINISTRY RESPONDS

Goagoses said the rotation of staff usually takes place in June/July to acquaint foreign service officials with all the functions and operations of the ministry.

She said the deployment of foreign service officials was delayed this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of borders and air space.

"Subsequently, the normal staff rotation has also been interrupted. It is unfortunate that complainants chose to take the matter to the media, while the ministry is currently busy responding to their grievances," she said.

Goagoses said: "As for the allegation that the former executive director [Ashipala-Musavyi] influenced the recruitment process [of foreign service officials] the ministry wishes to categorically deny the involvement of the former executive director in the posting process, as she retired in June 2020."

The Namibian was also informed that acting executive director Rebecca Iyambo was allegedly favoured for the position.

Iyambo is allegedly linked to Ashipala-Musavyi.

Goagoses rebutted the allegations, saying Iyambo's transfer to the ministry was done procedurally and approved by the Public Service Commission.

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