A TOAST TO A MAN OF PEACE
HIFIKEPUNYE Lucas Pohamba was born August 18, 1935 at Okanghudi, Northern Namibia and was educated by missionaries.
He is the second and current President of Namibia. He won the 2004 and 2009 presidential elections overwhelmingly as the candidate of the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) ruling party, taking office in March 2005. He has also been the President of SWAPO since November 2007. Re-elected in 2009, his second term will expire in 2015.
As a child, he was educated at an Anglican mission. At the age of 25, Pohamba was a founding member of SWAPO in 1960. He was arrested for his political activity but moved to Southern Rhodesia, whence he was deported soon afterwards. He then spent four months in prison in South West Africa before spending two years in Ovamboland under house arrest.
In 1964, he went to Lusaka to set up SWAPO’s Zambian office, and on his return, met the man who was later to become President, Sam Nujoma. Until the achievement of Namibian independence, Pohamba represented SWAPO across Africa, although he studied politics in the Soviet Union for a time in the early 1980s. He headed SWAPO’s 1989 election campaign and was a SWAPO member of the Constituent Assembly, which was in place from November 1989 to March 1990, before becoming a member of the National Assembly at independence in March 1990.
He was Minister of Home Affairs from March 1990 to 1995, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources from 1995 to 1997, and Minister without Portfolio from 1997 to March 2000. He was elected as Secretary-General of SWAPO in 1997 and as its Vice-President in 2002. On January 26, 2001, he was appointed Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, in which position he remained until becoming President in 2005.
As lands minister he sped up one of Namibia’s most controversial schemes - the expropriation of land from white farmers to black citizens.
Under him, Namibia initiated a policy of partial land expropriation from landed white farmers to landless black ones. This policy replaced the previous one of “willing buyer-willing seller”.
Pohamba took office as president on March 21, 2005 and has since distinguished himself by careful but decisive moves against corruption.
President Pohamba is a former political prisoner, who was whipped in public for his activism.
When he became president in 2004, he was expected to tow the line of his predecessor, Namibia’s founding president, Sam Nujoma.
It used to be a standing joke in Namibia that the two men even looked alike - until Mr Pohamba shaved his beard off.
But since taking office, he has carefully trod the line between meeting expectations of the ruling Swapo party and being a president for all Namibians.
At some stage Pohamba has even been criticised by some SWAPO Party activists for doing things differently to what the party or his predecessor want.
As a minister, Mr Pohamba, 74, had a reputation for being accessible - he left his office door open - and seems to like a good joke.
He has six children with Penexupifo, whom he married in 1983.
He assumed his reign of SADC, as chairman of the regional bloc, a few days before his 75th birthday.
Here’s to a man of peace.PF