Cabinet in suspense

The head of state delivered an ominous warning to sitting cabinet ministers yesterday, saying they should not think they would serve for the rest of their lives.

05 February 2020 | Government

OGONE TLHAGE



President Hage Geingob has emphasised that he will be trimming down his cabinet during his second term, which is set to commence of 21 March, but did not take the nation into his confidence yesterday in terms of how deep the cuts will be.

Speaking during the first cabinet meeting of the year yesterday at State House, the head of state also revealed that people were sending him their CVs ahead of the announcement of the new cabinet.

“People are sending to me applications with CVs and qualifications attached for ministerial positions. This is totally new. How do you apply to be appointed a minister? Maybe it is part of the new change people are looking for! For those who will be fortunate to serve in the next cabinet, I will expect from them to declare their assets publically as I have done,” Geingob said.

He also sounded a warning to those he will appoint as ministers, saying they would be fired for performing badly.

Geingob initially announced plans to reduce the size of cabinet with the delivery of his New Year’s message.

During the delivery of the message, he gave a hint that he would downsize his cabinet, in part to contain the public wage bill.

Geingob’s initial cabinet included 55 people made up of a vice-president, prime minister, secretary to cabinet, the attorney-general, the director of the National Planning Commission, several ministers and deputy ministers.

That was downsized slightly in 2018 when Geingob reshuffled certain ministers while doing away with the practice of appointing two deputy ministers at five ministries - works, urban and rural development, agriculture, poverty eradication and veterans’ affairs.

Geingob said yesterday that he had no choice but to appoint a large cabinet because of the legacy of apartheid.

“The size of the cabinet will be reduced. It was adopted because of apartheid. We had to include those that were left out. The size will be reduced and I am busy trying to configure some ministries,” he said.

Regarding the next cabinet, Geingob said it was not going to be business as usual.

“Those fortunate to serve in the next cabinet will find that the level of performance and the level of compliance has been raised, higher, higher, higher. Expectations are high.

“They say I only fire people that disagree … you are going to be fired for failure. We are raising the level of performance very high. We expect ministers to perform.”

Geingob said ministers were welcome to disagree with one another at cabinet meetings but once a decision had been taken, it was up cabinet to agree collectively.

“You are allowed to disagree in this chamber. I did it myself, I left government,” he said. Geingob had resigned in 2002 after he had been demoted to minister of regional and local government and housing by founding president Sam Nujoma. He had been prime minister prior to the demotion.

Geingob criticised some of his ministers, saying that they were not engaging the general public.

“Some don’t even listen to call-in programmes. I listen to them, that is why sometimes I even called. Ministers can call in and correct the situation. You don’t listen, and you don’t watch news. Some ministers, I check them, they don’t watch the news, they don’t read the paper … now how can we correct this situation,” he asked.

Geingob said ministers should not think that they would serve for life.

“Prepare for retirement. Are you going to die in government?” the septuagenarian said.

Geingob encouraged those that would be reappointed to show change in attitude.

“Whoever is going to survive, please come and say I am a different person, I am different. I heard the call of the people, complaints of the people … I will try my best now. That is what I want to hear from you.”

Geingob also encouraged his ministers to declare their assets as he and finance minister Calle Schlettwein had done in the past.

“If we declare our assets, we must also improve on the asset declaration. People just say no, no, no I have nothing no, no, no … that doesn’t help. If we can improve on it and declare, these are the things that will help us to correct the image that has been destroyed by Fishrot.”

While dubbing 2020 ‘The Year of Introspection’, Geingob argued that contrary to the claims of some analysts that the loss of Swapo’s two-thirds majority in parliament by one seat during last year’s general election was a big failure, it indeed received a massive mandate of 66% and 63 seats.

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