Cabinet trimming sparks panic

07 January 2020 | Government

President Hage Geingob told the Swapo central committee in December that his 'legacy term', as his last five-year term has been dubbed by ruling party insiders, will not be characterised by filling job positions for the sake of appeasing individuals, sources said.

It was at the 16 December central committee meeting where Geingob also revealed his plan to downsize Cabinet, a message that sent shivers down the spines of some in attendance.

During discussions, some central committee members advised Geingob to reconsider his position, saying the party already lost 15 seats in parliament following its dismal performance in the 27 November general election and therefore many party leaders would be left jobless.

Others advised the head of state to consider these 15 MPs when he names his non-voting appointees to parliament, insiders said.

It was to this flurry of requests that Geingob apparently responded that the days of appointing party leaders meaninglessly were over.

Namibian Sun understands that Geingob has no intention of re-appointing presidential advisors when their contracts end this year.

It is believed that some of the advisors may be appointed to his new-look Cabinet, which will be cut to between 15 and 17 ministries, according to officials in the know.

The current Cabinet originally had 31 members, although some have since resigned due to illness or corruption scandals.

“The President wants to leave a legacy and feels his second term provides him with an opportunity to do that,” said an official who preferred to remain anonymous.

“He has made up his mind insofar as the appointment of Cabinet is concerned. The challenge, obviously, is on who to remove and what the implications are of that removal.”

“Geingob is feeling the heat and it is not enviable to be in his shoes right now.”

Another official, a former state house aide, said: “This is a legacy term, remember. President is clear in terms of how he wants posterity to remember and judge him. Less will be more.”

It is believed Geingob will appoint people he believes will help him achieve the legacy he wants to carve for himself as president, hence his reluctance to appoint anyone for the sake appeasing them or their constituents.

There remains a tight lid on how much Geingob will downsize Cabinet, although it is predicted he will not have more than 17 ministries.

“What we are hearing is that some ministries, especially those viewed to have outlived their purpose, will be merged with others,” another official said.

Last March, Geingob hinted he would downsize Cabinet as part of his effort to arrest the escalating public wage bill.

Currently, about 50% of the national budget is spent on public servants and politicians' salaries, something Geingob described as 'unsustainable'.

“The biggest elephant in the room is the government wage bill. Something has to be done. It's not affordable – it takes up close to 60% of the national budget. It's the one area government must tackle,” he said in an interview with New Era.


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