May 15, 2020 / 7:12 PM / 20 days ago

Namibian president cuts ministers' perks in coronavirus fight

WINDHOEK (Reuters) - Namibian president Hage Geingob announced cost-cutting measures on Friday to save up to 200 million Namibian dollars ($10.80 million) as the country battles with the impact of the novel coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Namibia's President Hage Geingob addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

So far, the virus has infected 16 people with 14 recoveries and zero deaths. It has also hit the Namibian economy hard after a five-week lockdown paralysed the country’s productive sectors.

The president’s measures include halting the purchase of all new vehicles for ministers until 2025, scrapping the posts of special advisors to the country’s 14 regional governors and trimming the size of the cabinet to 19 from 26, Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari said on Friday.

The president also put a cap on monthly fuel consumption for top politicians, Hengari said.

Namibian ministers and their deputies each qualify for a top of the range luxury car, such as Mercedes-Benz or BMW, and an off-road vehicle.

The measures are meant to help save 200 million Namibian dollars over the next five years.

Geingob has been on a charm offensive since the beginning of his second term of office on March 21 after a poor showing during the country’s highly-contested November 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections.

He has taken measures that are radical compared with his actions during his previous four-year tenure and he has sought to retain support during the coronavirus outbreak.

He appointed one of Africa’s youngest cabinet members yet, Emma Theofelus, 23, as Namibia’s information, communication and technology deputy minister, a week after the coronavirus hit the country.

The president also broke ranks with party tradition and appointed the leader of an opposition party as the new deputy minister of health.

($1 = 18.5120 Namibian dollars)

Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; editing by Barbara Lewis

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