A bridge too far

16 May 2019 | Opinion

As the horse-trading within South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), continues ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing his new cabinet, speculation is rife that he may reduce his national executive by as many as nine departments and 15 deputy ministers.

Ramaphosa, who faces a push-back by state capture forces in the ANC, had previously made a commitment to trimming the bloated cabinet of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

Here in Namibia, analysts have repeatedly taken issue with President Hage Geingob and his supersized government.

This was exacerbated earlier this year, when Geingob sat down with New Era for and interview and said: “The current cabinet is too big and there's reason for it. President Sam Nujoma, being a founding father and a liberation hero, has natural authority. President Pohamba was a bit relaxed. But with me, I am dealing with my peers - where anybody could have taken over as president.

“The pressure on me to have a bigger cabinet is bigger because all these people are my peers who want to be accommodated. It could have been worse if I didn't do that [appoint them].”

This seems to have confirmed that Namibia's cabinet is all about Swapo politicking, and to a lesser extent, delivery to an expectant nation.

Upon taking office in 2015, Geingob increased the number of ministers from 23 to 27 and deputy ministers from 21 to 35. South Africa, with a 55 million population, has 34 ministers and 35 deputy ministers.

Just before Geingob took over power, Swapo pushed through constitutional changes that saw the number of seats in the National Council increase from 26 to 42 and those in the National Assembly from 72 to 96.

Added to this is the current economic malaise and the rise of popular discontent over the disproportionate size of the executive and parliament, when compared to the population.

At least for now, the intent to govern better, with a streamlined executive, remains a bridge too far in Namibia.

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