Shangula got me fired – Haufiku

The former health minister blamed his unceremonious exit on his successor, who felt it was “untenable” to continue working with the special advisor in the fight against Covid-19.

04 August 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES





WINDHOEK

Sacked presidential health advisor Dr Bernhard Haufiku yesterday said his sudden dismissal was engineered by health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula.

According to Haufiku, he received his dismissal letter early yesterday morning from the Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba, who informed him that his contract as special advisor has been terminated with immediate effect.

“The letter had three attachments which included my contract as special advisor, a copy of the Windhoek Observer article titled “We could have prevented this” and the third attachment was a letter from Dr Kalumbi Shangula to the president requesting for my removal from the National Covid-19 response,” said Haufiku, who was removed as health minister in December 2018 and replaced with Shangula.

“It [the letter] stated that my presence was becoming untenable, I am too self-righteous and not a team player,” said Haufiku.

Could have been avoided

He told the Windhoek Observer, in an article published on 22 July, that the increase in Covid-19 cases in Namibia, and in particularly in Walvis Bay, could have been avoided had preparations been made earlier.

Haufiku told the weekly newspaper that he had secured the support of Mbumba on 24 April on his plan to appeal to the private sector for help in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This included securing a plane belonging to Debmarine to fly response officials to key places such as Orangemund, Luderitz, Ondangwa, Walvis Bay, Rundu and Katima. We had also approached Air Namibia, however, the airliner was charging a fee while Debmarine had offered their plane free,” Haufiku said last month.

He was removed just one week after being appointed as the focal person of the Covid-19 response.

Sidelined, undermined

"I was then told that there is no law that makes provision for such an appointment. It didn't bother me because I do not care for paperwork, I just wanted to bring my part as a citizen to fight this pandemic," he told Namibian Sun.

He added that he has asked Mbumba on three occasions to remove him from the Covid-19 response because he felt sidelined and undermined.

“In March, I had suggested that we go to all the regions to assess the preparedness of our system and we have even gone as far as getting the support of the private sector at no cost. It was important in my view to have all regions prepared.”

“I proposed that testing machines be installed as various towns as part of a preparedness structure. But unfortunately, the minister told me that he has his own way of dealing with this pandemic.”

Haufiku also said he has repeatedly warned Cabinet of the potential “Covid-19 inferno”, but was ignored.

Protect the vulnerable

“For us to do [better than we did in] Walvis Bay is to change our strategy since we have already failed with the isolation approach. We need to test everyone who is at risk and not only those in lockdown.”

“We need to protect, at all cost, the vulnerable people of our society. This includes the people above 65, those with underlying medical conditions, with transplants or on immune suppressants. “The other people will have to pass through the wave of infection to obtain immunity,” he said.

Not a rat

President Hage Geingob demoted Haufiku in 2018 from minister to presidential advisor on health matters, situated in the vice-president’s office.

The reason is believed to be his outspokenness, which is deemed as putting his appointing authority and government in general in a bad light.

Yesterday he dismissed claims that he divulged confidential information to the media.

He also dismissed rumors that he is aligned to the newly formed Independent patriots for Change party of Dr Panduleni Itula.

“Those are purely just rumors. I have not had any personal contact with Itula in the last 18 months. The last time we spoke was when I was still the health minister,” he said.

Shangula was not reachable for comment, while State House press secretary Dr Alfredo Hengari promised to respond but did not do so by close of business yesterday.

[email protected]

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