Good Riddance, President Pohamba!

WITH NEARLY a year left in his second term as Namibia’s first citizen, President Hifikepunye Pohamba is saying his goodbyes and he looks like someone for whom the clock is not ticking fast enough to vacate State House and abandon the duties and responsibilities that go with the office.

That he is allowing his successor, Hage Geingob, a higher profile as his term winds down is commendable for smooth succession. If there is one quality that Geingob should take from Pohamba it is to entrench the spirit of tolerance of dissenting views. Under Sam Nujoma, Swapo and the government would have seen several political casualties simply because they differed with his position. Not so Pohamba.

Whether in private or public, Pohamba has been known to tolerate even those he did not seem to like – Swapo youth league head Elijah Ngurare and his young cadres as well as Kazenambo Kazenambo and Petrus Iilonga come to mind. He is not drunk with power and cannot be accused of systematic greed, corruption or abuse of office.

Now and then, however, our President has a knack of reminding us why this country would be better off without him. We are not here referring to transgressions such as the Chinese bursary to his daughter, which he allegedly did not know about, or getting communal land in Kavango.

But the most recent reminder came last week in Walvis Bay when he launched the N$3 billion upgrade of the Namibian port. Pohamba complained (complaining being a hallmark of his rule) about state-owned companies that are set up to run profitably but end up syphoning off tax income in order to stay in business.

“They are lucky [that] I am going. If I stayed, they were not going to get it (bailouts) anymore. Instead of making money, you are depending on the government’s budget. Time and time again, you go to the finance minister and ask for money. Stop that!”

The President then said he would tell his successor to close the taxpayer tap on parastatals.

How rich! Once again our President is proving his lack of courage in taking tough decisions in order to enforce what he believes in and is also being disingenuous by telling the nation that he will ‘talk to his successor’ to sort a problem that is even older than his 10-year administration.

The latest government budget is in the process of being passed by parliament and will go to his desk for a stamp of approval. We challenge him not to pass the buck to his successor. He should, instead, gather the courage of his convictions and not sign the budget off until needless bailouts are removed.

Among the biggest culprits for operational bailouts over the years have been Air Namibia (perhaps as much as N$10 billion in about 15 years), Namibia Wildlife Resorts (N$1 billion), TransNamib (to get another N$770m over the next three years), NamZim newspapers (N$39m in the current budget) and New Era (N$39m currently).

These companies continue to rely heavily on money that other businesses and individuals pay to the government in taxes while their competitors survive without state funding.

Pohamba has even lacked the courage to make these guzzlers of tax funds accountable, let alone to force them to take the bitter medicine that he prescribes for his successor.

All these state-owned businesses have, for example, gone years without making their financial reports public. It is one of the legal requirements that they must publish their financials within six to nine months after the end of the financial year. Many of them don’t even bother to submit their annual financial and operational reports before parliament as the law compels them to.

But with a President bereft of the nerve to take tough decisions, it seems a tall order to expect parastatal bosses to respect laws and regulations.

Namibia desperately needs a President with the mettle to act against his closest comrades if the message is to trickle down and sideways to quasi-governmental institutions.

Lest us be misunderstood, we are not calling for the return of Nujoma-style leadership where one person’s word is law even when it contradicts statutes.

All we need is a leader who gathers the courage to do what is expected of a person in that position by cracking the whip to get our country into better shape.

So, it is difficult, when hearing Pohamba say his goodbyes, to resist the temptation to wish him an emphatic good riddance.

Source : The Namibian