Namibia mourns the passing of former president Hage Geingob

Namibia mourns the loss of President Hage Geingob, a key figure in the nation’s post-independence era, who passed away at 82. Geingob’s political journey spanned exile, war, and reconciliation, leading to his presidency in 2014. Despite facing controversies, including funding scandals, his commitment to national development endured. Geingob’s legacy is marked by a dedication to democracy, human rights, and steering Namibia towards industrialization. His passing leaves a void in the nation’s leadership, triggering reflections on his impactful political career.

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By Monique Vanek

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob, who served as the country’s first post-independence prime minister, has died. He was 82.

He passed away early Sunday in a hospital in Windhoek, where he was receiving medical treatment, the presidential office said in a statement on social media platform X. His wife and children were at his side.

Geingob had been treated for cancer in the US in late January, and he returned to Namibia on Jan. 31, the office said previously.

Announcement of the Passing of H.E Dr @hagegeingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, 04 February 2024

Fellow Namibians,

It is with utmost sadness and regret that I inform you that our beloved Dr. Hage G. Geingob, the President of the Republic of Namibia has passed on…

— Namibian Presidency (@NamPresidency) February 4, 2024

Geingob spent 27 years in exile lobbying against apartheid South Africa’s rule of his country, then known as South West Africa, returning home in 1989 as it transitioned to democracy. A top leader of the South West Africa People’s Organization, which won United Nations-supervised elections in November of that year, he joined calls for reconciliation after a protracted war between the nation’s colonizers and those who fought for its liberation.

Swapo secured 57% of the landmark vote, short of the two-thirds it needed to draft a new constitution on its own. Geingob was named chairman of the Constituent Assembly that saw the ruling party and opposition jointly craft an accord that became widely lauded for enshrining a universal franchise, independent judiciary and other human rights.

Political Comeback

Sam Nujoma, Swapo’s founding father, was sworn in as Namibia’s first president in March 1990, with Geingob as his prime minister. That partnership lasted 12 years until the relationship soured and Geingob quit the government. He reentered mainstream politics in 2004 and was elected president in 2014.

Born on Aug. 3, 1941, in the small northern town of Otjiwarongo, Geingob became politically active in the 1960s while studying teaching at college. He was expelled for protesting against the inferior education offered to black students by South Africa’s apartheid regime but was later readmitted, finished his course and taught at a primary school in central Namibia.

He soon became disillusioned with the system and went to Botswana where he served as Swapo’s assistant representative. In 1964, he moved to the US, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University and a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the New School for Social Research in New York.

He became a fierce critic of South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia and was instrumental in getting the UN General Assembly to recognize Swapo as the sole and authentic representative of the country’s people in 1976.

Campaign Leader

Geingob led Swapo’s 1989 election campaign and as prime minister set about modernizing the government, restructuring a fragmented administrative system into a unified national civil service and setting performance targets for government offices, ministries and agencies.

After his 2002 fall-out with Nujoma, Geingob turned down the role of local government minister and became executive secretary of the Global Coalition for Africa, a forum that examines social and development issues on the continent. He also obtained a doctorate from the University of Leeds in 2004 for his thesis on state formation in Namibia.

Geingob won a parliamentary seat in 2004 elections and began reascending through Swapo’s ranks. He served as trade and industry minister for four years before being reappointed prime minister in 2012. Swapo named him its presidential candidate for the 2014 elections and he beat eight rivals by a landslide to secure the post, replacing Hifikepunye Pohamba, who stepped down after serving a maximum two terms. Geingob took office the following year.

Geingob’s pledge to implement a development plan aimed at turning Namibia into an industrialized country by 2030 and reduce unemployment to less than 5%, from 29.6% in 2013, was set back by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and remains a work in progress. 

Funding Scandal

A report published in 2019 by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, WikiLeaks and the Icelandic public broadcaster RUV alleged that Geingob’s 2014 election campaign was funded by profits from the country’s fishing resources. He denied the allegations.

In 2021, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and The Namibian newspaper reported that Geingob allegedly instructed associates to divert funds from a state-run fishing company to bribe attendees of the Swapo electoral congress to vote for him in 2017. He again denied wrongdoing and brushed off calls to resign. 

Despite the scandals and one of the worst droughts in almost a century, Geingob won a second term in 2019, securing 56% of the vote.

Geingob married his wife Monica in 2015. He had three children from two previous marriages.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Obituary: Hage G Geingob 3 August 1941 – 4 February 2024

From FutureMedia News

President Dr. Hage G Geingob became the first Namibian president to die in office when he succumbed early in the morning of 4 February 2024, after having been rushed to a private hospital in Windhoek on 3 February 2024 shortly after his return from the United States where he had sought novel cancer treatment.

Dr. Geingob was born in Tsumeb in 1941, receiving his early education in near-by Otavi. In 1958 he enrolled for his secondary education at the Augustineum Secondary School, which at that time was still based in Okahandja. In doing so he joined the ranks of other notable Namibians and SWAPO stalwarts such as Theo-Ben Gurirab, Hidipo Hamutenya, Peter Katjavivi, and Mose Penaani Tjitendero.

It was at Augustineum that Geingob’s political life can said to have begun as, in 1960, he was expelled for having participated in a march in protest at the poor quality of education in the country. Geingob was readmitted and finished the teacher-training course in 1961, subsequently taking up a teaching position at the Tsumeb Primary School. Geingob, deciding that he could not continue his own further education in Namibia, and resentful of being forced to participate in the Bantu Education System of the time, joined three colleagues in walking and hitchhiking to Botswana, where he served as Assistant SWAPO Representative from 1963–64.

In 1964 Geingob left Botswana to pursue his education in the United States of America, obtaining a BA degree from Fordham University in New York City in 1970 and an MA degree in International Relations from the Graduate Faculty of The New School, New York in 1974.

In 1964, Geingob was appointed as SWAPO Representative at the United Nations and to the Americas, in 1972 as political affairs officer to the United Nations Secretariat, and in 1975 as director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia. He served as director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia until 1989, while at the same time serving as a member of both the Central Committee and the Politburo of SWAPO.

After 27 years away from Namibia, Hage Geingob returned to the country along with many of his colleagues on 18 June 1989, where he famously knelt and kissed the ‘Namibian soil’. As SWAPO’s Director of Elections, upon his return Geingob, along with other members of his directorate, established SWAPO election centres throughout the country, spearheading the campaign that brought SWAPO to power.

Following the elections, under Geingob’s chairmanship, the newly formed (and soon to be dissolved) Constituent Assembly unanimously adopted the Namibian Constitution on 9 February 1990, and on 21 March 1990, Geingob was sworn in as the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia. Geingob was sworn in for a second term on 21 March 1995, but after serving in the position for 12 years, and following a cabinet reshuffle on 27 August 2002, he was replaced as prime minister by Theo-Ben Gurirab. Geingob was appointed Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing but declined to accept what was seen as a demotion and, after failing to be reelected to the SWAPO politburo, left politics.

Geingob was, in 2003, invited to be Executive Secretary of the Global Coalition for Africa based in Washington, D.C. where he continued to work until returning to Namibia to participate in the November 2004 parliamentary election, in which he won a seat in Parliament. Gingob became the Chief Whip of the SWAPO party in the National Assembly on 18 April 2007, was brought back into the SWAPO politburo in mid-2007, and was named as the sole candidate for the position of vice-president of SWAPO, a position to which he was elected without opposition on November 29, 2007.

Having first served as Minister of Trade and Industry, Geingob was appointed as the Prime Minister by then President Hifikepuya Pohamba on 4 December 2012, and on 28 November 2014 elected President of Namibia after winning an overwhelming 87% of the vote.

Geingob served in this position until his death on 3 February 2024, during which time, among many other things, he also served as chairperson of SADC from 2018 to 2019, hosted, and was hosted by, various international diplomats and heads of state, dared the United States to join the International Criminal Court, campaigned for the reform of the United Nations Security Council, and supported South Africa’s ICJ genocide case against Israel. His tenure was not without challenges though as he received both praise and criticism for the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, questions about transparency (including in the cancer treatment he travelled to the United States to receive in the days before his death), and allegations of instructing a government official to divert funds from the state-run fishing company to bribe attendees of the 2017 SWAPO electoral congress to vote for him.

In his personal life Geingob was married three times, first to New York City native Priscilla Charlene Cash, fathering one daughter, Nangula Geingos-Dukes, if the relationship. Following their divorce, Geingob married Namibian businesswoman Loini Kandume in 1993, fathering a daughter, Dângos Geingos, and a son, Hage Geingob Jr. Following his divorce in 2008, Geingob, after remaining single for a period, married another well-known Namibian businesswoman, Monica Kalondo on February 14, 2015. He is survived by all but his first wife, who died on 3 December 2014 after a long battle with cancer.

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