Swapo ‘Think Tank’ just an institution to think: Geingob

WINDHOEK: A debate in Parliament heated up on Thursday when leaders of opposition parties complained why a well-known senior public official is part of the Swapo Think Tank, which is prohibited by the Public Service Act.

The Swapo Think Tank is tasked with drawing up the party’s election manifesto to guide the party leading up to general elections.

Swapo established its first ‘Think Tank’ in 2008 with 38 party technocrats who specialise in various fields.

The unit now consists of 48 members – 12 women and 36 men.

It was also created to evaluate developments at regional, continental and multi-lateral institutions, and to advice the Swapo leadership on Government’s Foreign Policy stance.

Former Environment and Tourism Permanent Secretary (PS) Kalumbi Shangula, now retired, leads the Think Tank as chairperson, replacing former Minister of Education, the late Abraham Iiyambo who died early last year.

The Public Service Act of 1995 prohibits management cadres or public servants from taking an active part in political party activities.

All People’s Party (APP) president Ignatius Shixwameni raised the concern earlier, and wanted to know from Prime Minister Hage Geingob if there will be some kind of disciplinary action taken against the ruling party for breaking the laws.

Responding to the question Geingob said all Namibians are entitled to participate in political activities according to Article 17 of the Namibian Constitution.

He further explained that this provision of the constitution does not exclude public servants.

The Prime Minister agreed that no PS or director who is a Swapo member should hold office in Swapo, however these officials are not prohibited from attending party rallies or to ‘think’.

“The Think Tank is just an institution to think. Nobody is stopped from thinking just because he/she is a public servant,” he informed the house.

Geingob noted that there is a big difference between ‘Think Tank’ and ‘Do Tank’.

“The Think Tank is an intellectual activity. Thus they (Think Tank members) have a right to write and conduct research,” he explained to members of the opposition who clearly did not agree with the response.

Public servants who are part of the Think Tank, he added, do not go to public rallies and address or condemn opposition parties.

Swanu Member of Parliament (MP) Usutuaije Maamberua who also joined the discussion, said he would have brought the Act with him but thought the discussion would be postponed to a another day as the owner of the question (Sxhixwameni) was not in Parliament that day.

He too agreed with Shixwameni that the Act prohibits anybody at the level of management to write, promote or organise political activities in favour of any political party.

“You cannot hold any position whatsoever. If you are a deputy chairperson of a Think Tank which is a structure of a party, that is prohibited,” he maintained.

Geingob then instructed Maamberua to go and read the Swapo-Party Constitution and look at the Swapo political posts.