The State of the Nation Address in Parliament today saw opposition parliamentarians and President Hage Geingob calling each other out on different issues.
The State of the Nation Address gives opportunity to members of parliament to ask or engage the president on any issue of national concern. Parliamentarians in particular have been found to get hot under the collar when the president does not respond to their questions as they would have liked. Sometimes the house also goes into overdrive, when the debate gets into personal attacks and forceful removal of MPs, because of threatening behaviour of some energetic parliamentarians.
Today’s session however did not turn into what the public witnessed last year, when the leader and the deputy of the Landless People’s Movement were forcefully removed from parliament. Comments of the leader of LPM, Bernadus Swartbooi about the unequal distribution of development funds only draw the attention of President Geingob, but not a worthwhile response.
The President, as he sometimes does, call out opposition members over their hypocrisy and double standards. Today, it was the turn of the leader of the official opposition, McHenry Venaani.
President Geingob informed the house that Venaani, as the leader of the Official Opposition wanted a black Mercedes Benz paid for by the government, as provided for in benefits of the political office bearers. The politician allegedly wanted a black car, because he wanted it to look ‘’official’’ and also did not want a government driver.
He said that he kept the request private, as he understood it to be private. The president raised the issue of the vehicle as they were debating salary increases for civil servants, saying he kept it request private. ‘’ The president said whenever Venaani communicates with the him it is public, but this was the only letter that was private, but he decided to speak about it as Venaani shares correspondences with him with the wider public for consumption.
The Venaani’s request for the vehicle was also written about in the media recently, when the Commission for the Remuneration and Benefits of the Public Office Bearers took out full page advertisements in newspaper to explain detail about the vehicle. In the advertisement it was exposed that the PDB leader also wanted a special number plate on the vehicle, indicating that it belongs to the leader of the official opposition. He allegedly also did not want the car to be serviced at the Government Garage, among other special requests.
Unequal development financing comments to regions by Swartbooi went unanswered, although the President appeared to have listened to them attentively.
Swartbooi drew comparisons for instance with the capital of the Kavango East Rundu, Rundu, which receives a capital budget of five million dollars while a comparatively smaller capital of the Omusati region receives a much large allocation of around 50 million dollars. Swartbooi made the comparison as a way to illustrate unequal development priorities.
Before Swartboois’ comments, President Geingob in his address said ‘’we will have differences of opinion on how we approach the development question, but we are all Namibians, and the well-being of our country is of utmost importance to each one of us. This is a time that demands a collective mind set, a different way of doing things, and an understanding that Namibia and its
citizens’ well-being has and will always be greater and more important than individuals. Fate calls on us to remove the walls of partisan thinking and assume the mantle of unity to ensure that we
emerge from the rough waves we have faced and continue sailing towards the shores of peace, equity and prosperity.
He reminded the President about his calls for unity and his slogan of ‘’no-one must feel left out’’.
Swartbooi, however, pointed out that the development model of the country is designed in such a way that it is oppressive to some groups, as the unequal development is reflected in how the funds are disbursed.
President Geingob called on leaders and the nation to ‘’hold hands and reimage our Nation so that we can move forward as a Namibia ready to achieve her destiny; A Namibia defined by unity and shared national identity; A Namibia defined by peace and social harmony, and a Namibia defined by new economic opportunities and growth’’.