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04 Jun 2004 00:00
Namibian churches displayed the anxiety that gripped most of the country as the ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo), held a special congress to a search for a successor to its president and hero of the liberation, Sam Nujoma.
The Council of Churches in Namibia held prayer services asking for divine intervention.
As things turned out, the prayers of Nujoma, at least, were answered. His preferred candidate, Lands Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba, was elected to the post, despite facing fierce competition for the job.
Just before the congress election results were announced last Saturday, Nujoma looked nervous, but later lit up when Pohamba emerged as the winner.
The Minister of Defence, Erkki Nghimtina, summed things up when he was quoted as saying: ‘Pohamba is a second Nujoma.”
Party members voted for ‘harmony in the party”, according to political observer Graham Hopwood of the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Pohamba was one of three nominees vying to be Swapo candidate for state president.
The others were the country’s former foreign affairs minister, Hidipo Hamutenya, and its Education Minister, Nahas Angula
Nujoma had earlier failed to impose his preferred successor on to the Swapo leadership, who instead opened up the race to the three nominees.
Many people within and outside Swapo believed Hamutenya was the undisputed front-runner.
However, Nujoma embarked on what Hamu-tenya supporters called a ‘smear campaign” within Swapo’s grassroots against their candidate. Namibia goes to the polls in November.
Critics say Poham-ba, who turns 70 in August, is Nujoma’s lackey and that he will be easily bend to accommodate Namibia’s most popular politician.
‘This is a conservative choice in many ways,” said Hopwood, adding that, with Pohamba as Namibia’s president, Nujoma will ‘still have a strong influence” on policy decisions in the country.
Besides, Nujoma will remain president of Swapo at least until 2007 and, Hopwood says, he may well be invited to Cabinet meetings under Pohamba.
Nghimtina, speaking on a local radio, said: ‘Those who are concerned about economic development under Pohamba should not worry because Nujoma will always be there to assist Pohamba in running the affairs of the state.”
It is an interesting remark con-sidering that Pohamba has been Nujoma’s right-hand man.
Though younger than Nujoma, critics consider the man with no formal educational qualifications as less energetic than Nujoma. But for Namibians who wanted the Constitution to be changed again so that Nujoma can remain president for at least 20 years will settle for second best.
The council of churches this week said it was happy with the way the Swapo congress dealt with the succession.
For many, a precedent has been set, though it remains to be seen whether Nujoma will easily give up active politics in two or three years. He has been Swapo’s president since the party was founded in 1960, and is one of the last pioneer liberation war heroes in power.
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