Namibia: victory for democracy
Windhoek- The smooth and peaceful transfer of power from former President Hifikepunye Pohamba to his successor Dr Hage Geingob on March 21, 2015 represents victory for democracy in Namibia.
The change of guard solidified the country’s reputation as one of the most stable democracies in the world, having held peaceful power transitions in the past 25 years.
President Geingob was sworn-in as Namibia’s third democratically elected Head of State at a colourful ceremony at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium and attended by multitudes of ordinary Namibians and foreign dignitaries.
The national stadium has become a symbol and shrine of Namibian democracy and unity. On March 21, 1990, thousands of Namibians witnessed Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma taking an oath of office that was administered by UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar.
That historic event paved the way for the birth of Namibia as a sovereign, secular, democratic and unitary state.
A similar event also took place on March 21, 2005 when Nujoma handed over authority to his successor Hifikepunye Pohamba.
And last Saturday, Pohamba stepped down after 10 years in power, passing over the baton to the former prime minister.
The Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Dr Esau Chiviya said since independence, “Namibia has demonstrated that it is a pillar in advancing democracy.
“On March 21, 2015, Namibia once again championed the course of peaceful transfer of power from former President Hifikepunye Pohamba to His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob.
This is a shining example not only to SADC but Africa and the international community at large,” Chiviya said at the opening of an induction workshop for new members of Namibia’s 6th National Assembly on March 23.
Several African leaders witnessed the country’s transfer of power that also coincided with the Namibia’s 25th independence anniversary.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Ian Khama of Botswana, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Dennis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazaville, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Angola’s Josė Eduardo dos Santos, Zambia’s Edgar Lungu, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, King Mswati III of Swaziland, Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa were among statesmen who attended the event.
Also in attendance were former presidents of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda, Botswana’s Festus Mogae, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, and Martti Ahtisaari of Finland as well AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
President Mugabe, who is the chairperson of the AU and SADC heaped praises on Namibia for the manner in which the transfer of power was organised, saying it felt like “power is moving from brother to brother”.
Speaking at a State banquet in honour of the foreign dignitaries on March 20, President Mugabe said he takes pride in the way Namibia is exchanging power, and the democratic values being displayed by the country, adding that he had no doubt that in terms of economic development Windhoek would continue to grow.
President Mugabe commended former President Hifikepunye Pohamba for the role he played in the region during his 10 year tenure, and expressed confidence that the good work would continue under President Hage Geingob.
“We take pride in the democratic values that your country is exhibiting in the smooth handover of power. It is as if power is moving from brother to brother,” President Mugabe said.
“There is evidence of how you successfully steered the socio-economic agenda of your country and it is my hope that people will not only cherish it but build on it.”
He added that: “You have played a critical role in maintaining and restoring peace in the region. Your participation in the regional energy sector in SADC as well as that of making land available at Walvis Bay for landlocked countries to build dry ports is a gesture that can only come from true brothers and sisters.”
Deputy President Ramaphosa also commended Namibia for its peaceful and orderly transfer of power.
He was particularly impressed with the organization of the ceremony, saying that it should serve as an example for all African countries.
“We were overjoyed to be privileged with the invitation to come and celebrate with Namibians, and I must tell you that we were very impressed with the celebrations. Because in your case you have it in a stadium, we don’t and you involved ordinary people. It was especially wonderful to see young people, representing the diversity of your country dancing in the stadium and showcasing what Namibia is all about,” he told the media while emerging from a meeting with President Geingob at State House.
“Namibia is about diversity, is about unity, and it is about reconciliation. Namibia can now move forward with the new President leading the country to greater levels of prosperity,” Ramaphosa said, adding that South Africa was ready to work with President Geingob in the best interest of the two nations.
President dos Santos assured President Geingob of his country’s support.
He told reporters upon his arrival at Hosea Kutako International airport on March 20 that he was grateful “to come and celebrate with the people of Namibia. “Namibians have fought a long battle to achieve independence, and we are proud to have supported them in that struggle. The sacrifice was huge but worthwhile, because a lot has been achieved since then,” he said.
“I am again congratulating the people of Namibia as well as the new president and I want to assure him that he can count on our continued support and I personally will ensure we continue to strengthen bilateral relations between our countries.”
US President Barack Obama also congratulated President Geingob on his inauguration.
He said Namibians peacefully exercised their most fundamental democratic right in accordance with their proud tradition of democratic governance in last year’s election.
“The United States and Namibia enjoy a strong partnership based on shared respect for democratic principles, human rights, and economic opportunity,” Obama said.
“As we continue to build on the important relationship between our two countries through collaboration in areas of shared interest, including health, education, trade and investment, and security, I look forward to working with you in your new role.”
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom represented Washington.
In his inaugural speech, President Geingob said poverty alleviation will be the main focus of his administration for the next five years. “The main priority for the next administration will be addressing the socio economic gaps that exist in our society. We have been successful in establishing a robust governance framework and implementing sound macroeconomic policies.
“The prerequisites for a prosperous nation include good constitutions, peace and democracy. We are however aware that people don’t eat constitutions, peace or democracy. People eat decent food, live under decent shelter and enjoy decent employment.
“Therefore, our first priority will be to declare all-out war on poverty and concomitant inequality. Our focal point will be to address inequality, poverty and hunger and that will involve looking at a range of policies and interventionist strategies to tackle this issue,” the President said.
President Geingob has made specific changes to Government structures, which he said will be responsive to national goals and objectives in order to promote effectiveness and efficiency across all Government structures.
One such change is the creation of the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare. The President has emphasised that the establishment of this ministry underscores the importance that Government attaches to the fight against poverty and the ultimate aim of eradicating poverty.
“In addition to implementation of poverty reducing strategies, Government will explore the feasibility of consolidating the administration of a number of existing social grant schemes under this Ministry once it is fully operational,” he explained.
And for the first time, Namibia has a vice-president, with former Veteran Affairs Minister Dr Nickey Iyambo the first Namibian to serve in that position.
He will be the advisor and confidante of the President “on all State matters and will be assigned to perform duties of the President in his absence or on assignment”, Geingob explained.
Geingob has also appointed former Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila as Prime Minister to serve as the leader of Government business in Parliament.
Her deputy Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah was handed the extra responsibility of advancing Namibia’s interests on the international arena.
The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, formerly known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been incorporated under the deputy premier’s office.
Geingob appointed 23 ministers as part of his Cabinet. He has also appointed 32 deputy ministers. All the ministers and their deputies are from the governing SWAPO Party and in addition to the new faces in his Cabinet, Geingob has retained some experienced politicians who served in Pohamba’s administration.
These include John Mutorwa at Agriculture; Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana at Home Affairs; and Youth and Sport Minister Jerry Ekandjo.
Former Labour Minister Doreen Sioka now heads the Gender Equality and Child Welfare portfolio; former Land Minister Alpheus Naruseb is now heading Works and Transport, while Calle Schlettwein is now Finance Minister from Trade and Industry.
Other veteran politicians, former Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Minister Charles Namoloh and former Justice Minister Uutoni Nujoma have been appointed Ministers of Safety and Security and Land Reform respectively.
Geingob has also promoted two regional governors to Cabinet. These are the Omusati Governor Sophia Shaningwa who will now be new minister of Urban Development, while Hardap Governor will be heading the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.
Karas Governor Bernadus Swartbooi will deputise Nujoma.
The Ministries of Public Enterprises; Urban and Rural Development; Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development are some of the new ministries.
Sacky Shanghala is the new Attorney General while George Simataa is the new Secretary to Cabinet.
The President has promised more changes at later stage that are aimed at better alignment of Government programmes. The ultimate aim is to have a Government structure that is responsive to national Government structures,” he said.
“There won’t be just one approach. We need a myriad of options and not a one size fits all strategy. It is for these reasons that we have put in place a revised Government structure that will exist for the next five years.
The goal is to improve alignment of existing Ministries to Government goals and objectives such as: poverty eradication and reduction of inequalities and disparities; sustainable economic growth and economic diversification; job creation; and improved service delivery,” said the president.
* Additional reporting New Era, NBC, Namibian Sun