See also:
» 04.03.2011 - Libya's ambassador in Namibia defects
» 11.02.2011 - Namibia's Sam Nujoma "hospitalised"
» 08.02.2011 - Cold War secrets of Namibia, Angola revealed
» 23.04.2010 - SAB takes Namibia’s beer market competition head-on
» 03.03.2010 - Ruling on Namibia polls Thursday
» 18.01.2010 - MCA selects IBTCI for Namibia’s poverty project
» 28.09.2009 - Namibia urges for harder line against coups d’état
» 24.07.2009 - Namibian court orders continued freezing of assets

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Society | Politics

Namibia at the end of an era

Ex-President Sam Nujoma

© Ministère française des Affaires étrangères
Misanet / Mmegi, 22 March
- On Monday, Namibia marked the end of an era, when the country's founding president Sam Nujoma handed over the reins of office to his chosen successor Hifikepunye Pohamba. Mr Nujoma has led the ruling SWAPO for 45 years - 29 of those as a liberation movement with cadres and officials spread throughout the world.

It was a challenge to hold the movement together during the troubled Cold War years, when SWAPO led a liberation struggle against the occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa. It is credit to leaders like Mr Nujoma and South Africa's Oliver Tambo, who had an equally daunting task of leading the African National Congress (ANC) in exile, that the hopes of the people of this sub-region, and Africa at large, for freedom, stability, peace and economic prosperity were kept alive.

At independence, Namibia, with Mr Nujoma as President, showed Africa the way when the country crafted the continent's most liberal constitution that limited a term of office for the president, included a bill of rights, and even outlawed capital punishment.

The whites were not pushed into the sea. Neither were they dispossessed of their property, as they had been led to believe. Through the government's policy of racial reconciliation and harmony, the previously advantaged whites were accepted as equal citizens in a democratic dispensation.

It was important for the Namibian experience to work to reassure the whites in neighbouring South Africa that, indeed, they had nothing to fear from an inevitable black majority government.

Today, Namibia continues to record some impressive strides in economic development, healthcare and education with literacy rates comparing favourably with the best on the continent. On the downside, poverty and unemployment persist. These should present a major challenge to President Nujoma's successor.

For all the positive contribution he has made to the development of his country, Mr Nujoma is no angel. In fact, he is guilty of serious lapses of judgment that at times led people to question his democratic credentials.

Take his amendment of the constitution to award himself a third term in office. This was an act that embellished President Nujoma's record. His dislike for the independent press, especially 'The Namibian' newspaper - which stood by SWAPO during the dark years of the liberation struggle - is almost impossible to understand.

In a nutshell, President Nujoma allowed himself to be seduced by the Big Man syndrome, and its attendant love for power. This would probably explain why he fought so hard to have his chosen man as his successor.

He recently made himself the butt of sick jokes when it was announced that he would enrol for post-graduate studies in Geology at the country's national university - this for a man whose highest academic qualification is a Junior Certificate acquired through correspondence.

This - and other gaffes - has left people wondering what happened to the hero who arrived triumphantly from over 30 years of exile - and rode a horse down Windhoek's Independence Avenue to celebrate SWAPO's victory in Namibia's first democratic elections?

A 'Mmegi' editorial

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