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By: Kelvin Chiringa

Leone Jooste said he has no intention to head the public enterprises’ department when the current state-owned enterprises’ ministry is phased out.

The department will be placed under the watch of finance minister Ipumbu Shiimi.

Effectively, the public enterprises’ ministry will be dismantled in four-months time, thereby casting a dark cloud over the jobs of many employees there.

Jooste’s future, too, is currently uncertain.

“No, I will not lead the department. Time will tell….,” he told The Villager.

The dismantling of the ministry will by default eject Jooste out of the cabinet and the National Assembly.

The Villager wanted to know whether he still had any more appetite to continue working inside the government.

“I was called to serve, and I always have and always will. I don’t need a position, title or salary to serve, just authentic passion for our country and her people,” he said.

Director at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood, has said that Jooste might stand down as minister sometime next year.

“He might resign, but he might also stay on if the President still has a role for him. There might be a cabinet reshuffle, so it’s hard to say. But as far as I can tell, this is not happening because he has failed,” he said.

However, he anticipates that Jooste might stay on in politics while the private sector could be his next move, considering that he comes from there.

“He is one of those Swapo politicians who does have options. Most are very much tied to Swapo politics for their livelihoods, but he will have the option of going back to his businesses or other interests. I am not sure what will happen, but we will have to wait and see,” he said.

No Soar Grapes

The minister has, in the meantime, issued a lengthy statement in which he said the decision was welcome, both for him and his staff.

“This is only possible because my staff and I embraced this directive with determination and enthusiasm to expedite the implementation thereof. Therefore, the genesis is completed to a point where the period of creative conceptualization will make way for a period of implementation where the fruits of our labour will sprout positive outcomes for many years to come.

“Shareholder’s functions will be significantly enhanced when the powers and budgetary functions are consolidated under the Ministry of Finance since they will have direct oversight into the financial and operational performance of public enterprises and subsidies can be accurately aligned to compliance and performance.

“This will also allow for the Ministry of Finance to take control of- and be directly involved in the process leading to the establishment of the Holding Company thereby creating critical institutional memory of the actual details of the process,” he said.

Mixed Emotions

However, law-maker and economist in the official opposition, Nico Smit, has slammed the idea as ill-advised, saying the government has targeted the wrong ministry.

He said President Hage Geingob should have instead killed the gender and trade ministries he described as useless.

“What is that ministry (of trade) doing? Tell me, what have they done in the past 15-20 years? Absolutely nothing! There is no development. Nothing is going on in this country,” he said.

Smit expressed a vote of no confidence in Shiimi’s ability to run both the finance portfolio and a department playing an oversight role over all state companies.

“I don’t think he has the know-how to run finances at this level. He was a good governor of the Bank of Namibia, but that is about that. The minister of finance should have a very broad knowledge of finance and the economy because those two go hand in hand. So, to put it under him, I do not think it will work. What can he do to change the direction of these parastatals?” he queried.

In his attempt to turn around the fortunes of the SOEs, Jooste came up with the High Brid Governance Model, which sort to “restore order in a chaotic sector that had experienced a plethora of challenges”.

This was miles away from the Dual-Governance Model. It split SoEs into three categories: commercial, financial, and extra-budgetary funds, and non-commercial, with the ministry as the shareholder.

But under his watch, most SoEs continued to underperform while Air Namibia faced the wrath of liquidation.

TransNamib as well continues to sail on stormy seas towards destination uncertainty.

Some sources at TransNamib have accused Jooste of seeking to accumulate too much power to captain the entire ship and place it in white hands.

Said Smit, “When Jooste started with Air Namibia, and now with TransNamib, it is because the government does not want to listen to the people of TransNamib. Those who know how things should be run and also to the unions. It’s important what the unions are saying.”

Unions Celebrate Jooste’s Downfall

But the unions have celebrated Jooste’s fate after a chaotic year that saw the downfall of Air Namibia.

The National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) head honcho, Job Muniaro, said the ministry should have been dismantled a long time ago.

Muniaro fell out with Jooste on the decision to do away with Air Namibia, and he put it on record that the minister was auctioning the country’s resources to the highest bidder.

He accused him of betrayal.

However, the unionist is confident that Shiimi may do a better job, even though Air Namibia fell while equally under the watch of the finance minister.

Both ministers, alongside Obeth Kandjoze, the National Planning director-general, announced Air Namibia’s liquidation.

“What has not gone down? All the parastatals are on their knees, and they are all on sale. So, that was our call for that ministry to be dissolved. We applaud the President for giving us a listening ear to dissolve that.

“Ipumbu will not get right everything that Jooste has destroyed. Ipumbu needs all our heads and all our minds to revive our economy and our parastatals for them to serve the people of Namibia,” he said.

But Jooste has been hailed by some as having done an excellent job negotiating a settlement for an American company that leased aircraft to Air Namibia, Castlelake, in which GRN ended up paying some N$1.6 billion.

Jooste said this was less than the initially planned amount, which saved the national purse some N$667 million.

IPPR’s Hopwood suggested that the decision did not come as a surprise as this was long in the pipeline.

He said the decision’s impact could be that Jooste is now leaving without having finished his mission.

“In 2020, the President did say it was the plan to phase out the ministry. But I don’t think that he (Jooste) has finished his work. So, one hopes this can still be effective as a department because many of our enterprises are still dysfunctional, not being appropriately governed and still using vast amounts of taxpayers’ money.

“So, while I still think some issues to do with governance have been tackled by the ministry in the last years or so, I do not think, by any means, that the job is finished. I hope that the work can continue to try and improve the quality of governance at the enterprises,” he said.

Meanwhile, the IPPR has published its latest rankings for best and worst-performing Public Enterprises in which NamPower, MTC, Nampost, Namport and Namdia are leading the pack.

RCC and Zambezi Waterfront have been the least ranked.

IPPR has found that this year suggests only seven out of 20 Public Enterprises have been profitable in recent years and most remain dependent on subsidies to stay afloat.




Kelvin Chiringa

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