Grooming for the Future
Windhoek – In Africa, leaders have the duty of not just espousing policies, programmes and projects that will bring about meaningful development and progress that the people yearn for, but also the singular obligation to ensure that they mentor people that will eventually take over from them.
But in most parts of Africa, many political leaders are so pre-occupied with maintaining power that often they leave a leadership vacuum or confusion behind them, says Oladimeji Sabur Bankole, the youngest Speaker in the history of Nigerian House of Representatives.
The former Speaker points to the example of Somalia’s erstwhile strongman, Major-General Mohammed Siad Barre, who ruled the African state from 1969 to 1991.
On the eve of his eviction from office, the late Barre is reported to have boasted that: “llapres moi, chaos” (after me, chaos).
“How right he was – Somalia is only getting its first real President 20 years and countless casualties later. The Siad Barre approach would, however, seem to be the preferred template of many of the continent's political leaders,” Bankole notes.
Addressing students at the Federal University of Agriculture in Ogun Sate of Nigeria in October 2012 on mentoring and the challenge of leadership in Africa, Bankole submitted that lack of adequate preparation for leadership, especially in public life, is a critical missing link in Africa’s search for solutions to its development challenges.
The Nigerian politician argues that mentoring recommends itself as one of the most viable approaches to addressing the continent’s leadership challenge.
He remarks that, “Mentoring is therefore an indispensable component of a truly successful leadership and in the wholesome engineering of positive change.”
The Nigerian notes that that the emerging leaders in the global economy in countries such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa) have become leaders in the world today because they succeeded in mentoring successive generations of leaders.
Recently, the Chinese Communist Party held its Congress at which the next set of leaders of the world’s second-largest economy was unveiled.
“While some would question the democratic credentials of such a leadership recruitment and selection process, the fact that cannot be denied is that emergence into a position of leadership in China is based on careful preparation.
“And this process has over the past three decades delivered the stupendous rates of growth that have today transformed China from a backwater into the world's second leading economy,” Bankole argued.
Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba seems to have taken a leaf from Bankole’s analysis about lack of planned succession in Africa, which oftentimes results in accidental leadership.
President Pohamba, who is also the leader of the ruling SWAPO Party, has been roundly applauded following a Cabinet reshuffle this last Tuesday that seems to suggest a clear succession plan is in place for the party and the country.
The President promoted former Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Hage Geingob, to the post of Prime Minister.
This is a strategic decision by President Pohamba in that with two years of his tenure as Namibia President remaining, he could be preparing Dr Geingob for the Presidency.
Dr Geingob was re-elected SWAPO Vice President at the party’s Fifth Ordinary Congress on December 2, 2012.
Traditionally, the party VP has gone on to take the top post and Dr Geingob appears in line to run for the state Presidency in 2014. And with SWAPO’s dominance of local politics intact, Dr Geingob may well be Head of State soon.
President Pohamba told the media at State House that his decision to reshuffle his Cabinet was necessitated by the outcome of the November 29-December 2 SWAPO Congress.
“I am determined to ensure that the SWAPO Party Congress resolutions are speedily adopted by Cabinet as government programmes which require a speedy implementation.
“Against this background, the outcome of the Congress has necessitated the redeployment of some of the political personnel as well as bringing new ones,” the President said.
In his first major reshuffle since his ascendency to the Presidency in March 2005, President Pohamba redeployed 10 senior ministers of his Cabinet and six deputy ministers.
Dr Geingob replaced the former Premier, Nahas Angula, who is now the Minister of Defence. Former Justice Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana – who was also in contention for the SWAPO VP post – is now heading the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
Jerry Ekandjo, who came second to Dr Geingob in the Vice Presidency contest, was shifted from the Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development brief to head the Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture portfolio.
(RTD) Maj-Gen Charles Namoloh is now heading the Regional and Local Government Ministry, from the Ministry of Defence.
Nangolo Mbumba, who stepped down as Minister of Safety and Security, was replaced by former Labour and Welfare Minister, Immanuel Ngatjizeko. Mbumba is the new SWAPO Secretary-General, a full-time posting.
The President also promoted Deputy Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein to Minister of Trade and Industry, while former Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Uahekua Herunga is now heading that ministry.
Herunga’s former boss, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, was moved to Foreign Affairs – replacing Utoni Nujoma, who is now Justice Minister.
Other changes include Doreen Sioka who was moved from Gender Equality and Child Welfare to Labour and Social Welfare, with former Home Affairs Minister Rosalia Nghidinwa taking her place.
Political commentators opine that the redeployments make sense, especially the elevation of Dr Geingob to Premier.
Under Article 36 of Namibia’s Constitution, the Prime Minister is the Leader of Government Business in Parliament. He co-ordinates the work of the Cabinet and advises as well as assists the President in the execution of government functions.
SWAPO Secretary-General, Nongolo Mbumba, said of Dr Geingob’s promotion: “This is the first time a vice-president (Swapo) serves as Prime Minister at the same time. It means the President wants to keep his deputy near him. I believe things will be much smoother because in the past, – the (party) Vice President had to go through the (state) Prime Minister if he wanted to raise issues with the Head of State.”
Mbumba said as such, the SWAPO leadership was in good stead to deal with challenges it faced at both party and state level.
“Whatever the challenges maybe, we are in a good position to face them because we are a much stronger team,” Mbumba said in an interview.
Political analyst Phanuel Kaapama, who is based at the University of Namibia, believes all this is part of the grooming process.
“In preparation for handing over in two years’ time, (President) Pohamba could be shifting a number of his responsibilities to his party Vice President, who will be the party Presidential candidate in 2014.
“This will help the Prime Minister win over support both within and out of the party,” Kaapama said.
“When (President) Pohamba endorsed Geingob as his preferred candidate for the Vice Presidency, he indicated that Geingob has not done anything wrong and should therefore be re-elected.
“This signifies the President's trust in his deputy and making him Prime Minister is a reconfirmation of that trust.”
There are several pressing issues facing the next leadership, analysts say, and having a succession plan makes it easier to tackle these in the long-term.
Not least of these pressing issues is that of unity within the party. The contest for the Vice Presidency resulted in the emergence of what could be debilitating divisions.
Dr Henning Melber, senior advisor at The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Sweden, said party unity thus remains a high priority on the agenda.
“It will be interesting to see if and how the relations with the 'Young Turks' in the Swapo Party Youth League develop and how Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo are integrated.
“When it comes to the more general political challenges, the party needs to address social inequalities and poverty to show that they are willing to reduce the misery among the ordinary people.
“The relations with the trade unions will also be a crucial issue,” said Melber, who is also Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Who is Geingob?
Dr Geingob, who served as Namibia’s first Prime Minister for 10 years, is no stranger to national politics and governance. As to what makes him a potential President, both Melber and Kaapama agree that he is intellectually astute and experienced.
He was a high-ranking UN official for almost 20 years when he headed the UN Institute for Namibia (UNIN) in Lusaka, Zambia before he took charge of SWAPO’s election campaign ahead of independence in 1989, in addition to being in charge of the successful third term campaign for Founding President Sam Nujoma.
Kaapama notes that Dr Geingob could have only benefited from working with the likes of Theo-Ben Gurirab, Hidipo Hamutenya, Moses Garoeb and Mose Tjitendero at the UN in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Because of their diplomatic exploits, SWAPO was eventually recognised as the sole and authentic representative of the Namibian people by the UN,” he points out.
Kaapama adds that Dr Geingob’s role in the writing of the Namibia Constitution in 1989, as well as serving as the founding Prime Minister, “makes him a statesman”.
“He is now part of a great team, especially being deployed alongside his former Secretary to Cabinet (Nangolo Mbumba); they have known each other and enjoy great rapport.
“Challenges are raising public expectation for service delivery, and maintaining party unity towards 2014 and beyond,” Kaapama said.
Melber says the new PM is a capable strategist and knows his trade.
“But what I hope is that he is willing to fully commit himself to the Presidential duties and become a role model, also in terms of integrity. He needs to leave behind the 'business mentality'.
“He should fully serve the nation and the public interest. Then he would really make history in the positive sense as a statesman,” according to Melber.