Venaani takes aim at former presidents’ ‘opulent retirement benefits’

06 Jun 2019 16:30pm
WINDHOEK, 06 JUN (NAMPA) – The N.dollars 13.9 million budgeted for Founding President Sam Nujoma’s office for the 2019/20 financial year is not justified at a time when the government finds itself in dire financial state, leader of the official opposition, McHenry Venaani has said.
At a press conference in the capital on Thursday, the Popular Democratic Movement president added that the government should “walk the talk” in terms of austerity measures.
He said the government - which has asked individuals to voluntarily contribute 2 per cent of their salaries to mitigate the drought situation - will only be taken seriously if it starts off by cutting the exorbitant monies spent on among other things, the retired presidents.
He took specific issue with Nujoma’s office, which according to the projected budget is set to receive close to N.dollars 14 million during the current financial year.
For a retired statesman, who enjoyed a tax-free salary during his 15-year tenure, the budget is not justified, the politician argued.
“N.dollars 14 million is not justifiable. People are trying to use the influence that the founding president has to buttress favour. Every retired president must be treated with respect. That respect Nujoma deserves. He receives a salary for the rest of his life. [But] how do you justify spending so much on an office of a man who has retired?” Venaani asked.
Venaani further questioned other benefits the former heads of state in Namibia are entitled to, including the close to N.dollars 35 million house reportedly built for former president, Hifikepunye Pohamba upon his retirement.
Venaani said a situation cannot continue unabated where former presidents are entitled to fully-furnished multi-million dollar houses upon retirement.
“You cannot ask 2 per cent from a poor nurse while you have these kinds of things going on. The government must walk the talk,” he said, before referencing the motorcades of the former presidents.
Venaani promised to table a motion in the National Assembly to review these opulent benefits for presidents when they retire.
“There is no justification to give a president who retires, who has served a country for a number of years, who has not paid taxes in 10 or 15 years a house of N.dollars 40 million. That issue needs to be reviewed.”
When approached for comment, government spokesperson and Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa described Venaani’s comments as mere politicking and opportunism.
“That’s his own politicking. He is a political opportunist, to say the least. Sometimes his comments are not well-thought,” Simataa said.
On the former presidents’ perks, Simaata said there is a law in place governing them and until such a law is revised, not much can be done.
“Always place issues into perspective because these things were not introduced out of nowhere. There was an appraisal of the situation. It was found that it was appropriate that they should be introduced at the time and unless the situation has changed for them to be revised, only then shall they be revised. But there is a lot of politics,” he said.
The minister was referring to the Former President’s Pension and Other Benefits Act 18 of 2004 as amended in 2012.