President Hage Geingob’s cabinet recycle drew mixed reactions from senior political analysts who regard it as a festival of political appointees with little regard for merit.
Geingob shifted eight ministers and elevated three deputy ministers to ministerial positions on Thursday.
Those who have been moved are former attorney general Sacky Shanghala who is now the justice minister and the former justice minister Albert Kawana is now the attorney general.
Former Presidential Affairs minister Frans Kapofi is now at home affairs, replacing Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana who was dismissed last week.
Immanuel Ngatjizeko from the industrialisation ministry has taken over from Kapofi, while Tom Alweendo is now the mines minister and former mines minister Oberth Kandjoze has taken over from him at the National Planning Commission.
Peya Mushelenga, the former home affairs deputy minister, has replaced Sophia Shaningwa at the urban development ministry. Shaningwa has taken over the Swapo Party secretary general's post on a full-time basis.
Stanley Simataa has been elevated to minister of information from having been a deputy to Tjekero Tweya who has gone to industrialisation.
John Mutorwa has left the agriculture minister for works, while Alpheus !Naruseb has gone to take over Mutorwa's place.
Erastus Utoni, the former home affairs deputy minister, has replaced Jerry Ekandjo who was fired together with Iivula-Ithana.
Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society (CATS) director Carola Engelbrecht has described the shake-up as shocking.
She says the president seemed to have reshuffled his team with a heavy heart given that he had to fulfil a constitutional mandate that does not allow him to look outside the box.
“When he was opening cabinet this morning, he said I am recycling. That is as far as my mandate goes. So he seems to be disappointed that he cannot make other choices, I told you last time. There is no other avenue expect to look among the people that are in parliament, and these are all political people who come from the party list. So they are all party loyalists, not necessarily people who have the expertise to run this country,” she says.
The re-assignment of Mutorwa from the ministry of agriculture to that of works and transport has been described as surprising, considering how well he was doing in his former position.
“The president might have a good rationale why he moved him there. But it looks like he was doing perfectly well, moving him to a ministry where he has to go and re-learn the process for him to become effective,” says political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah.
However, Kamwanyah speculates that the logic behind could have been for Mutorwa to use his competency and fix the works ministry that has been struggling for a while.
“But I think it was just not a good move to take him away from a critical ministry that is supposed to be playing a massive role regarding the country's and rural development. The timing was not good for him to move. He should have been left to finish all these projects and programs that he had started,” says the analyst.
Engelbrecht also believes that Mutorwa was delivering.
“!Naruseb has now been moved to the ministry of agriculture! It’s weird!” she laments.
With Namibia’s agriculture situation gloomy, Dr Hoze Riruako also submits that Mutorwa should have been best left in his portfolio to steer the nation out of its woes more efficiently.
Political analyst Andrew Niikondo says, “I still need to understand why the president reshuffled performing ministers like John Mutorwa to a ministry that has been a mess for years now. Maybe because he will transform the ministry. Let’s wait and see how it turns out. Some ministers like Mutorwa should have been left in their position because he has been doing great work for the agriculture ministry.”
On the other hand, the promotion of Stanley Simataa has been welcomed.
“The only one that I am pleased about is Stanley Simataa who is now the minister of ICT,” admitted the outspoken rights activist, Engelbrecht.
She has described his rise as “excellent” and that he understands access to information, “democratic” and open to inclusivity.
“And that is very important for us in the Action Coalition because we are working on the cyber-crime legislation that is coming and working on the Access to Information legislation.
"We’ve been involved with the ministry of ICT last year extensively in crafting a draft bill which was then finished, and we don’t know what is going to happen now then. But with Simataa in the seat, we hope that we can cooperate well,” she said.
The return of Tjekero Tweya to the trade ministry has also been welcomed as positive since it is familiar territory where he once served as deputy minister.
However, Engelbrecht decried the coming on aboard at home affairs of Frans Kapofi is rather shocking.
“I don’t know what Kapofi can do. Home affairs is a big shock,” said the activist.
While she also welcomed the assignment of Erastus Utoni to the ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, Kamwanyah says he has everything to prove that he can handle this ministry.
“The youth is a key and important resource of any country. That ministry for too long has been downgraded because of incompetence or some other issues that we don’t know.”
“What that ministry need is revitalising, to make it a key and strategic ministry in the country regarding the issues that it will address.
"Issues that can invigorate and challenge our young people on issues that can challenge them to be more creative and innovate and invite them to participate fully in the political and socio-economic aspects of our lives,” said the expert.
However, the move of Obeth Kandjoze from the mines ministry to that of economic planning has widely been regarded as a blunder.
Riruako says his engineering background suits him best at the mines or works ministry than anywhere else.
“See, when you put the right person in the right ministry, the good thing is that the person would have the requisite experience and qualifications, so it’s much easier for the person to perform better,” he says.
Riruako says the president’s last two years are so crucial that he should have come up with a team that delivers on his promises.
“With this reshuffle, I do not see that. I think what the president went for is more of loyalty. I don’t think it’s more on deliverance. He needs technocrats. One would not understand, for instance, Kandjoze is an engineer, where do you utilise him better? As a minister of economic planning or as an engineer in the ministry of mines?” he queries.
Kamwanyah says, “I am not doubting Hon.Kandjoze because I know his qualification, but I was just surprised that Alweendo was moved from that position (National Planning). It looks like he was doing well. Why do you want to fix a ministry that is doing perfectly well? So it’s not a strategy-driven reshuffle.”
“We have to take it as it is that this is just a reshuffle. They take you from one position to another. There are not new energies and new faces that are brought in apart from maybe those that have been promoted to full ministerial positions. This looks like more of politically motivated reshuffling in the sense that the president wants to consolidate his power.
“In the 21st Century, the problems and challenges that we find ourselves in require that we consider a little bit about education, skills, knowledge and experience and in this case, I do not see that. It looks like people were moved and placed in any position,” he explains.
Action Coalition chairperson Frederico Links says the reshuffle was not for the best.
“The ministers will still do what they have been doing over the past years. It will not change anything. In fact, I think it was not the right move to reshuffle them. I think he should have fired some of them.”
“For example, the fisheries minister was labelled in some corruption cases. I expected him to fire Bernard Esau. If the president wants prosperity, he could have appointed new ministers so we could at least see what the new blood can offer our people,” said Links.
Niikondo submits that the president did what he felt was necessary and that the onus is now on him to assess whether the ministers are for the good or worse.