Parliament should not be ‘retirement option’ for aging civil servants

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

IT has become a norm for some senior government employees who have retired or about to step down to resurface at the Swapo Party’s electoral college in a bid to join parliament, raising criticism among the ranks of frustrated youth that feel they are being held back while parliament is treated as a retirement option.

This trend of retiring into politics flies in the face of repeated calls by the senior politicians to the youth to establish their own businesses and not to look to government for handouts or jobs, but rather to create employment for themselves and others than look to the government for solutions.

This was the case at the just concluded electoral college of the Swapo Party, where Oshakati CEO Werner Iita, who is about to retire from his post, managed to garner enough votes to reach number 79 on Swapo’s list of parliamentary candidates, meaning that if the ruling party wins 79 or more seats in the National Assembly, Iita would become an MP.

In 2014, Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Daniel Kashikola participated in the electoral college as a candidate for the National Assembly and made it onto the list. Kashikola who turned 60 in 2017 was chief regional officer for Ohangwena region. He became an MP a year before reaching retirement age and is at position 41 on the current Swapo list.

Home Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi, who was secretary to cabinet for more than 15 years, also took up a parliamentary seat three months after retiring from the civil service. He was quoted by The Villager on the day he retired as secretary to cabinet as saying: “I am humbled by the fact that I had the privilege to lead the civil service and in doing so helped execute proactive policies to achieve social justice, while improving economic performance in different sectors.”

Former director of education in Omusati region Anna Ester Nghipondoka is another former senior public servant who took up a parliamentary seat close to the age of 60 years. She is now deputy minister of education arts and culture and turned 60 a year after joining parliament.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Anna Shiweda became a legislator at the age of 56. Before she joined the National Assembly, she was deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry. Deputy Minister of Works James Sankwasa also became a legislator the year he turned 60.

Sankwasa defended himself that although he joined parliament the year he turned 60, he had retired from the public service in 2008. “Before I joined parliament, I was a consultant managing my own company. I was never a public servant when I joined parliament,” he remarked.

Commenting on this trend among retiring civil servants, former prime minister Nahas Angula said: “My understanding is that they are not excluding anybody, they are exercising their democratic rights. The nation should be happy because people should bring some experience to government … if they are underperforming take them out and ask them that…

“To me it is not a problem because there are people who go to parliament, who are ill-educated, inexperienced. They go and sit there doing nothing, making no contribution. Those are the people you should question.

“The Kapofis and others, you can only ask them questions if they are under-performing to say, ‘Look, you came from the public service, you knew the system but you are sitting there in parliament and you are not making any contribution or any progress.’ Then at least you can put them on the spot but if they are performing why we should worry about them?” he asked.

Minister Kapofi told Confidente he was nominated by former president Hifikepunye Pohamba to Pohamba’s list of candidates. “I was nominated to be in the list of the president to go to parliament. I don’t regret that and I thought with the knowledge that I have… if my service is required I don’t see why, if I am able to do so, why I should not make myself available to do the job if it is necessary.”