News and Information

Kawana huffs and puffs, but nation none the wiser on President's pay
October 13, 2004

A LAW that will provide for the retirement package of President Sam Nujoma and all future Namibian presidents is set to be passed in the National Assembly today, without any mention being made of the actual value of the exit package.

Yesterday Justice Minister Albert Kawana responded to debate on the bill by maintaining that all the necessary detail was provided for in the national Budget.

"It is embarrassing for the opposition to claim that the basic salary of the Namibian President is kept secret when Vote 01 [of the national Budget] is in most cases, unanimously approved by this august House.

Had they wanted to know the basic salary, they could simply have asked the Right Honourable Prime Minister, and I am sure he would have provided an answer," he told the House.

The budget vote of the Office of the President to which Kawana referred opposition members, provides only a single figure for all the staff of that office, ostensibly including that of the president.

During debate, opposition members have said that they could not agree to the bill if they did not know what its value was in monetary terms.

Kawana interpreted this to mean that they wanted it spelled out in writing in the bill and said yesterday that it was common practice for the package to be expressed in percentage terms only in the bill.

He rejected criticism by MAG's Kosie Pretorius that Government had failed to make provision by acts of parliament for adjustments to the president's salary over the years.

Kawana said the article in the Constitution referred to by Pretorius only required that provision be made by an act of Parliament for the payment of remuneration and allowances of the President out of the State Revenue Fund.

According to the Presidential Emoluments and Pension Act of 1990 - which Kawana said was only an interim measure to provide for the salary of the sitting president - Nujoma's salary is listed as R180 000.

It has never been adjusted.

Pretorius yesterday requested that it be put on record that he was unhappy with Kawana's explanation.

The Minister further termed the oppositions' objections to the size of the package as "scandalous" - a term which was ruled out of order by the Speaker Mose Tjitendero.

Kawana charged that they were attempting to deny what was a right and not a privilege to a former president.

"Our sitting President spent nearly 30 years in exile fighting for this very fundamental right," he said.

To refer to his package as a golden handshake, in his view, was "completely wrong".

"In terms of labour law, [a] golden handshake means an employee dismissal that includes generous compensation," he told MPs.

Nujoma stands to receive a pension equal to his full salary, a tax-free gratuity equal to his current annual salary, medical aid and housing benefits, three vehicles and about 30 household, security and office staff.

"We live in a world of terrorism.

We cannot take chances when it comes to the security of our former presidents," he said in support of security personnel who will be designated to guard the residences and to act as Nujoma's bodyguards.

Kawana said all costs related to employing staff for the president once in retirement would be kept to the minimum and the staff would all be drawn from the civil service.

A motion by opposition parties that the bill be referred to the parliamentary committee on privileges for scrutiny and further discussion, was outvoted by the ruling party by 41 votes to 10, with one abstention.


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