Geingob stirs pot

The timing of President Hage Geingob's town hall and regional visits has set tongues wagging, given that he is also meeting with regional Swapo leaders ahead of the ruling party's electoral college in early September.

18 July 2019 | Politics

President Hage Geingob is meeting Swapo regional leaders across the country in the afternoons, after his ongoing town hall and regional meetings with the public.

In a letter addressed to Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa, dated 3 July, Geingob tells his party's chief administrator about his plan to visit all 14 regions to engage citizens.

“Most importantly, I wish to meet with all of the leadership structures of the Swapo Party in all 14 regions (covering all constituencies - at district and regional level), in the afternoons for deliberations,” Geingob informed Shaningwa.

“In this regard, Comrade Secretary-General, please ensure that all regional coordinators are well-informed to take charge of the logistics for the Swapo Party meetings, in collaboration with the Swapo head office. And to invite the national chairpersons and leaders assigned to the different regions to be part of the proposed meetings.”

Geingob also mentions that the purpose of the town hall and regional visits, which are clearly separate from his afternoon Swapo meetings, “will be to directly engage with all inhabitants of the various regions at grassroots level to listen to their concerns and challenges, in particular the drought situation and well-being (sic); collectively seek solutions; and provide feedback on the issues raised since the last town hall meetings in the regions”, which took place in 2015.

When approached for comment yesterday, presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari asked for the letter to be forwarded to him, which was done. He did not respond at the time of going to print.

However, he has previously said the president's meetings and missions to regions are not a political manoeuvre.

According to Hengari, the president has a two sets of duties, one as head of state and another as Swapo president, and critics must differentiate amongst the two.

“Right now, it's the time for the president to go back to the regions, as he usually does, and speak to Namibians and hear what has been done so far, what has been implemented in terms of drought relief and hear from them first-hand, instead of just relying on reports coming from offices,” Hengari said earlier this month.

According to the presidency, Geingob is touring the regions in order to identify bottlenecks, and if there are any, provide direct solutions.

When asked to verify the letter, Shaningwa said: “The president is not limited to meet with whoever he wants to meet.”

She would, however, not comment any further, saying the media has an “agenda”.

'Hot' factional battles

The Landless People's Movement (LPM) said government will be wasting much-needed public resources during Geingob's town hall meetings.

LPM deputy leader Henny Seibeb said since this is a government mission, Geingob must meet with all other political parties, and not only Swapo.

“But we conclude that these are tours he has undertaken to calm hot factional battles being experienced in Swapo in all the regions,” he said.

Seibeb also questioned the itinerary of the accompanying ministers and staff.

“LPM views the current town hall meetings as a mere Swapo political campaign, whereby state machinery is used. What's the need for whole cabinet travelling with Geingob? For example, Nangolo Mbumba's role is merely to introduce Geingob.

“This is laughable. And if you claim the objective of town hall meetings is to ascertain the situation of drought, why hold such meetings in urban centres? Why not visit resettlement farms, communal farms, and stay there for a week and observe suffering of the ordinary unwashed and unperfumed people,” he said.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said the president, whose office rejected claims that he is using state machinery to campaign for Swapo, has been contradicting himself.

“What is he going to talk about with the regional leadership of Swapo? Certainly they are not going to talk about development but about politics,” he said.

Constitutional expert Nico Horn said people may have a rightful suspicion, but it would however be difficult to prove that his town hall meetings are not a genuine effort to acquaint himself with the drought.

“We do not know that is going on in his head. He can say I have done my work and I have free time on my hands, which I can use as I see fit,” he said.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani says what the president is doing is unethical, but not wrong.

He likened it to someone travelling with an official company vehicle, but visiting his family during a work trip.

“But I have said it before, the president is out of touch and he wants to rekindle his relations with the grassroots. But we must separate matters and put it in context. Hage is a political being,” he said.


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