Can Geingob handle dissent?

21 December 2018 | Columns

The firing of Bernhard Haufiku as health minister this week confirms our assertions that all is not well in President Hage Geingob's cabinet. Details of a strained relationship between Geingob and his subordinate started showing earlier this year when the head of state reprimanded the health minister over comments made regarding the planned, controversial northern referral hospital, which will be built in Ondangwa. Geingob had criticised Haufiku over his handling of the contentious project, by questioning why he was insistent on visiting proposed northern sites, while a decision had already been taken by cabinet to construct the facility at Ondangwa. It was also at this stage when Haufiku fumed that he had only learned that the cabinet committee had already met and deliberated on the issue without his input. The fallout continued when Haufiku lashed out at his superiors in a Namibian Sun article recently. Obviously the president has broad power and can revoke the appointments of ministers at any time since they serve at his mercy. He has done the same with the likes of former deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi and ministers Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo in the past, although some may argue that these leaders undermined the president's authority by openly questioning him in public. To be quite frank, it is natural and almost unavoidable for a sitting president to be subjected to criticism. The political climate and dynamics have vastly shifted and are no longer the same as they were between 1990 and 2005. The question still remains whether the president simply expects to be surrounded by yes-men and yes-women or whether he can indeed accommodate constructive dissent when it comes to the way he is running the country. With executive authority also comes the responsibility to include a broad spectrum of views and opinions, for the betterment of the nation and its people, who are growing more impatient by the day and deserve better.

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