By: Nangura Nguvauva
The Presidential press secretary, Alfredo Hengari, says that President Hage Geingob has been generous since the time of exile.
He was responding to PDM parliamentarian Inna Hengari, who, in the national assembly, urged Geingob to take a salary cut.
Alfredo stated that for a member of parliament to stand up and say that the head of State must donate his entire monthly salary means the MP does not know the President.
Inna had further questioned when Geingob would ever share anything with the Namibian people.
Geingob, during his State of the Nation address on 6 April, stated that he contributes N$ 60 000 from his salary and shares it among charity programs.
”The President has been generous since the time of exile,” said Alfredo. He added that he is an excellent example of the President’s generosity since his studies were partially funded by Geingob when he was studying in South Africa in 2001 “because that is the type of person he is.”
He emphasised that this is an unnecessary conversation, and the head of State would not appreciate sharing this information due to recent attacks as to what the President is doing for his citizens.
Alfredo further urged members of parliament who, according to him, are privileged to start with themselves and take a salary cut and donate their 5 per cent.
Speaking on the matter, NEFF parliamentarian Kalumbo Iipumbu said Namibia should have taken this initiative long ago. He urged the President to appoint a cabinet to take up this initiative because “parliament is useless.”
Iipumbu further pointed out that the salary cut should not only apply to parliamentarians, members of the cabinet, and the President but to all public sectors.
He also stated that now that our economy is going down, leaders should see how they can meet their people halfway to even cut their salaries.
“It is not a privilege to be a member of parliament; what do you get as a member of parliament except the salary, and the salary is because you are working and capable what privilege is he talking about?” stressed Iipumbu. He implored parliamentarians and every individual in the country to take a salary cut to meet the economic crisis halfway.
In an interview with Eagle FM’s On the Radar programme, UDF parliamentarian Apius Auchab said, if the country is in crisis, the leaders should be at the forefront to assist.
”If it is well organised, and it is asked that all members of parliament should contribute, I will not have a problem with that. I will bring my part” added Auchab. He further said salary cuts are not because it’s what the government wants but rather because of the pressure that leaders are getting. He said if you call yourself a leader, you should know that you must stand in for your people, not just for a specific group but every citizen.
According to Inna, many African Presidents have taken salary cuts as a sense of nobility.
“There is a recent trend in sub-Saharan Africa. The President of Zambia has just hit eight months without a salary. When he came to power, President Paul Kagame took a salary cut as a sign and symbol of nobility. As a young person, my question is, when is the President taking a cut to his salary?” questioned Hengari.
Hengari stated that other African leaders had taken this initiative in the past few years, and it’s just not for financial benefits but to promote the spirit of togetherness.
She further said that, Geingob, taking a salary cut would develop a sense of sharing amongst citizens.
“Will he ever take a position where he says for these months because of poverty and the ongoing situation in the education system, I, as President, am going to take a salary cut? Is that ever going to happen? Should we be looking forward to that?”
She added that Geingob taking a salary cut might not solve the day’s issues, but it will create an act of nobility.
“But I believe salary would instil a sense of pride, nobility and sharing. We are in parliament every day debating poverty, the levels of inequality and so forth. Still, we never address the question of what we can do in the meantime as we are formulating ideas to act on policies toward affirmative action for our citizens in the country,” she told The Villager.
She added that as a leader in society, there will always be a standard that one is expected to have.
“I don’t think it is wrong to question that as a member of parliament or even as anyone. It can be anyone who says this President tells us no one must be left behind, Harambee prosperity, this and that. When will he ever share anything with us?” she further questioned.
Hengari pointed out that if the President were to take a salary cut, the funds would be utilised to benefit Namibians.
“As long as it is used for the wellbeing of the citizens. As a young person, one of the critical areas for me has been young people who do not have jobs. So even if he proposed a 12-month amnesty for NSFAF, the President would come out to say, I said this in 2014, and I am doing this to contribute to where I want us to be as a country.”
She expressed that the most crucial part should not be that the President has been donating 20 per cent of his salary to charity.
“There should have been audit reports that say that it is true that President Hage Geingib has been taking 20 per cent of his salary to give charity so and so we can receive those reports. It’s not important where the money goes, but there have to be substantial reports showing where the funds go,” said Hengari.
She emphasised; ”We need to be our brother’s keepers”.
Thus she said if one is to build a country, one cannot build it on policy.
“You don’t build it with money; you build with people.”
In Zambia, President Hakainde Hichilema has gone eight months without a salary, while in 2020, Malawai’s President Lazarus Chakwera had ordered a 10 per cent pay cut for himself and his cabinet to cushion the Covid-19 blow. In the same year, in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet took a 33 per cent salary cut for three months.