Andrew Kathindi and Kandjemuni Kamuiiri
Taxpayers are set to start incurring additional costs for the upkeep of Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader, McHenry Venaani, after he accepted President Hage Geingob’s offer for further benefits.
Venaani’s additional perks will include a state office at the premises of the National Assembly, a personal administrative assistant of his choice, a motor vehicle, a security aid and a driver.
Political commentator Henning Melber said the official opposition leader’s acceptance of the perks was a classical case of hypocrisy and double standards, arguing the move could have an impact on voters’ perception of him in future elections.
“If Venaani would be convinced that the current perks are out of proportion, then he should have rejected to be elevated into the very same league he criticised in the past. He then scored points in the electorate, which he now certainly risks to lose.”
“He undermines his legitimacy and integrity and turns himself into a laughing stock when causing the privileged in the governing party next time of excessive benefits looted from state coffers.”
Melber was also critical of Venaani’s view that the perks were meant to benefit the office and not himself.
“I cannot see how a sedan and 4×4 vehicle, fuel, water/electricity, phone and housing allowances are all limited to office work and not for personal use. This means that the perks mainly benefit the individual who holds the specific position, in this case Venaani.”
University of Namibia (Unam) political lecturer and analyst, Dr Ndumba Kamwanyah, also weighed in on Venaani, questioning the timing of his acceptance and whether he needed to accept all the benefits.
“One will think that, especially in a time that we find ourselves in a lot of suffering going around, with people that have lost jobs due to COVID-19 impact, maybe the timing could be seen as insensitive and problematic for leaders to accept such perks. At a time where everyone is tightening their belts and people are unemployed.”
“Legally I don’t think that it is something wrong with both the President’s gift and Venaani accepted. Venaani is not obligated not to accept but it would’ve been a great gesture to maybe not accept all the perks, or maybe just a little bit to the Namibian public. It would’ve been a good gesture, but also he is not obliged to accept.”
Venaani, however, defended his acceptance of governmental perks, which were announced in a government gazette dated 4 March 2021, stating that every Member of Parliament in Europe has five support staff in their offices.
“In Namibia you have two researchers for 66 backbenchers. The debate of tools of trade for the leader of the official opposition did not originate from us. It was started by the political office bearer’s commission, which we have no influence on. It is the practice of all common wealth countries to have the office of the leader of official opposition.”
“I am expected to attend all national functions throughout the country. I must travel with my own car, my own petrol to Rundu?”
The PDM leader further said that he was not being a hypocrite for accepting perks he had previously been critical of in the hands of other MPs.
“I criticised the excessive use of fuel and large motorcades that was used and since then government has capped the use of fuel and large motorcades. I never said a minister should not have a driver. All I said was wrong for them to have three cars, and I maintain the same today.”
Venaani also brushed off views that his acceptance of these perks, which were signed off by President Geingob, could see him compromised in his opposition to the ruling party in parliament.
“To say that Venaani is going to be compromised, I have ten of my own cars, which are more expensive, why would a cheaper car compromise me?”
“The office of the leader of the official opposition will be occupied by current and future generations. These aren’t Venaani’s perks, it belongs to the office.”