May 28, 2004

NAMIBIA: SWAPO Congress elects Hifikepunye Pohamba / Minister Hamutenya sacked by President

The Congress of Namibia’s ruling party, SWAPO, on May 30 has elected Minister of Lands and Resettlement Hifikepunye Pohamba as the party’s candidate for the presidential elections due to be held in March 2005.

Pohamba who belongs to the founding generation of SWAPO, received 341 out of 516 votes in the second round of voting. His main contender former Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutanya received 166. A third candidate, Minister of Education Nahas Angula, already fell out in the first round having obtained 137 votes only.

Pohamba therefore almost certainly will succeed long-time SWAPO and first Namibian State President Sam Nujoma who will have completed his third term in office in March next year. However, Nujoma will remain party President until 2007.

While political observers praised SWAPO’s commitment towards internal democracy by allowing competition among three candadates, there is certain criticism in Namibia regarding the sudden intervention by President Nujoma into the final days of electioneering by publicly sacking Foreign Minister Hamutenya as well as his deputy Kaire Mbuende.

In his letters of dismissal, Nujoma referred to allegations saying the two cabinet members had been involved in severe internal conflicts within SWAPO in the Omaheke region. However, both politicians vehemently denied these allegations.

Meanwhile, President Sam Nujoma has appointed former Labour Minister Hausiku as the successor to Hamutenya. Nujoma has also promoted deputy Women Affairs Minister Marlene Mungunda to succeed Hausiku at the Ministry of Labour. Mungunda's position at Women Affairs will be filled by "the Himba lady", MP Angelika Muharukua. Swapo party Youth League activist, Lempy Lucas, furthermore replaces Dr Kaire Mbuende as deputy Minister at Foreign Affairs. Some political observers said Nujoma's appointments were aimed at mobilising votes for Hifikepunye Pohamba from among the youth and women at the Swapo extraordinary congress. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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