Nicanor thrown a dicey lifeline

07 November 2019 | Politics

OGONE TLHAGE



A leaked letter in which President Hage Geingob has appointed former veterans’ affairs deputy minister Hilma Nicanor as an advisor has sparked debate about the president’s commitment to containing the government wage bill.

The dicey appointment, sparked by Article 47 of the country’s constitution which required Nicanor to resign as a member of the National Council upon acceptance of nomination for the National Assembly, was made on 30 October but only surfaced yesterday through a leak.

Valid for the period 1 November 2019 to 20 March 2020, the appointment is tailor-made to ensure that Nicanor, who is almost certain to go to the National Assembly next year, is employed in the meantime.

Nicanor was appointed as special advisor on veterans’ affairs to Vice-president Nangolo Mbumba.

Insiders say she is expected to covertly continue her role as deputy minister under the guise of being a special advisor.

Observers say the appointment is rooted in growing cronyism in government, where comrades take care of each other at the nation’s expense.

“The president complains about the civil service bill and says people must retire early, but he continues to appoint advisors as if he has money to shop at Edgars, when in fact he has less than a Pep Stores budget,” said PDM leader McHenry Venaani yesterday.

“The president once told the media that he was advocating the downsizing of the bloated public service, but his actions have been to the contrary the past five years.”

Nicanor’s monthly salary, according to the appointment letter, would remain at N$48 000, exactly what she earned as deputy minister.

Namibian Sun understands other candidates who were forced to resign are also lined up for appointments as advisors to ensure they do not lose their salaries for five months.

About 17 Swapo parliamentary candidates had to resign on the insistence of the ECN, which took a firm stance on enforcing Article 47.

They include National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams, National Youth Council chairman Mandela Kapere, Rundu town councillor Verna Sinimbo, Oshakati municipal CEO Werner Iita, Omaheke regional councillor Phillipus Katamelo and Walvis Bay constituency councillor Hafeni Ndemula, to mention but a few.

Article 47 dictates that remunerated public servants, members of the National Council and local and regional councillors must resign upon acceptance of nomination for the National Assembly.

In his letter to Nicanor, Geingob said her duties as special advisor would be to oversee the policy aspects of the ministry of veterans’ affairs.

“I take this opportunity to express confidence and trust in your ability to execute duties with the same zeal and fairness with which you executed your duties as deputy minister,” said the head of state.

Political analyst Ndumba Kamanyah questioned the appointment, asking whether it was necessary given that the country was approaching the polls to choose new legislators, an election that could very likely result in the appointment of Nicanor as a member of parliament.

“Why the hurry, and why only her if there are others who also are affected by the election clause to resign from their positions? The move to appoint her does not portray the president positively but more like someone engaging in ‘jobs for comrades’ exercise,” he said.

Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari defended Nicanor’s appointment, saying that it was done within the confines of the law.

“The appointment is within the law, and is based on an assessment of the needs of government, specifically Veterans’ Affairs. The president is guided in his decisions and actions by such considerations,” he said.

Hengari dismissed speculation that more Swapo members who had to resign were lined up for similar appointments.

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