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By: Andrew Kathindi

President Hage Geingob has defended a constitutional prerogative to appoint regional governors, which has long been critiqued.

Opposition parties and political commentators have previously said that the system to appoint governors should come under review in order to make them answerable to those they govern.

“It was felt for two reasons that regional governors be appointed by the President who is elected by all people. In a hypothetical situation, let’s say in region A, a party called Democratic People’s Party (which doesn’t exist in Namibia) in a region called Zebra and they control the council, and they appoint the governor, and they are all not of the ruling party. What would happen? What do you think? [They would] cut off completely,” said the President.

Geingob made these remarks at a meeting with the regional governors at State House held on Wednesday.

According to the Special Advisers and Regional Governors Appointment Act 6 of 1990 the President must in respect of every region appoint a governor who shall hold office at the pleasure of the President.

“And yet the constitution says the President is elected by a single constituency. Now what happens to that region which has now Zebra party and the governor is appointed by them, and all councillors democratically won elections? That area is out of this country.

“It can even declare a republic. I’m exaggerating. So therefore, that was foreseen and we have this unity that a unitary state must have that kind of connection with the headquarters here [State House]. That’s why you are appointed as governors to represent, at the moment, Hage Gottfried Geingob.”

The President’s comments come after the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leader Bernardus Swartbooi accused Hardap regional governor Salomon April, of refusing to give food relief to LPM members in that region.

LPM further called on Geingob to work with them in order to appoint their own choice of regional governors in //Karas and Hardap regions. LPM won majority votes in //Karas and Hardap in the regional elections held last year.

“It does not make sense to have a democratic process where the people elect their local and regional leaders and then have an autocratic system of governance where the President solely appoints a governor. It is contradictory to the values of democracy,” LPM’s Edson Isaack said earlier this year.

Political scientist Professor Joseph Diescho has long held these sentiments, arguing that the system is undemocratic.

“This can fuel conflict between the state and the community as the community may feel that leaders are imposed on them. People must be allowed to elect their leaders,” said Diescho last week while addressing regional and local authority leaders during the commemoration of the Africa Day of Decentralisation and Local Governance and Local Development held in Windhoek.

Diescho argued that a governor should “come from the people themselves and should not be imposed on them.”

All 14 regional governors currently all stem from the ruling party.

“Governors are more common in federal states. Therefore, we need to come up with systems that are responsive to our situation so that we can make it possible for our people to participate in the affairs of the regions and the country at large,” said Diescho.

Julia Heita

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