History of Namibia Part III

By | May 9, 2021

After independence: 1990-2014 (terms of Nujoma and Pohamba)

In the first parliamentary elections held under UN supervision shortly before independence, SWAPO achieved a clear majority in 1989 with 57.3%. The second strongest party was the Democratic Gym Alliance (DTA) with 28.6%, the third strongest party was the United Democratic Front (UDF) with 5.7%.

The SWAPO leader Samuel ‘Sam’ Nujoma, who was later named ‘Father of the Nation’, became the first president with an overwhelming majority of 76.3%. In the following elections, SWAPO expanded its lead to well over two thirds of the votes (1994: 73.9%, 1999: 76.1%, 2004: 75.1%, 2009: 74.3%, 2014: 80, 01%).

According to constructmaterials, nothing changed when a number of well-known SWAPO politicians left the party at the end of 2007 and founded a new party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), under the leadership of Hidipo Hamutenya. In the penultimate parliamentary elections in November 2009, the RDP immediately became the strongest opposition party with 11.2%, but not so much at the expense of SWAPO, which lost hardly any votes with 74.3%, but rather at the expense of the other opposition parties. All of them now have a maximum of 3% of the votes and thus obviously hardly any political support in the population.

After internal party quarrels within the RDP, Hidipo Hamutenya left the RDP he founded himself in 2015 and returned to SWAPO. Hamutenya died on October 6, 2016 after a short illness in Windhoek. He was buried with a state funeral in the Namibian hero cemetery ‘Heroes’ Acre’ south of Windhoek.

For constitutional reasons, founding president Sam Nujoma was no longer allowed to run for the presidential election after one unofficial and two official terms as president of Namibia. With 76.4% of the vote, the former Minister for Lands and Resettlement, Hifikepunye Pohamba, preferred and supported by Nujoma, became the new President of Namibia in 2004. In 2009, Pohamba was confirmed in office with 75.3%. In the parliamentary elections held at the same time, SWAPO achieved 74.3%, only 1% less than the directly elected president, and was able to keep its 2004 result at almost the same level. The 2009 elections were generally described by election observers as free and fair, but there were considerable organizational deficiencies in the implementation.

The opposition parties took these deficiencies as a reason to contest the election result before it was announced. For this reason, too, the new parliament only started work four months (!) After the election. In view of the overwhelming electoral victory of SWAPO, which was never questioned by the opposition (which had never been questioned in the run-up to the elections), the accusation of deliberate election manipulation made by the opposition parties at the time is difficult to understand. The organizational inadequacies during the election were probably due more to a lack of preparation and training of the election workers than to intent. With an election result above a two-thirds majority, which was foreseeable even before the elections, SWAPO had neither reason nor incentive to take the risk of rigging the elections in their favor. It would have done much more political damage to itself than a few additional percent would have used.

After Pohamba’s election in 2004, it was feared, especially abroad, that he would only be an ‘extended arm’ of Nujoma, who was now operating from the background. Although Nujoma still exerted (and still does) strong political influence even without an official position, Pohamba already emancipated himself from Nujoma considerably in the first years of his term of office and expanded and consolidated his position in SWAPO. In contrast to some dogmatists in the SWAPO, whose statements occasionally cause irritation abroad (e.g. with regard to the situation in Zimbabwe), President Pohamba has earned himself the reputation of a moderate statesman through his pragmatic and consensus-oriented administration at home and abroad who has managed his country with a sense of proportion and a ‘steady hand’ and has always remained humble and with integrity.

In this respect, Pohamba was awarded the “Good Governance” prize from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation shortly before he left office, although it was a bit surprising, but not entirely undeserved, even if critics like the political scientist Henning Melber accuse him of a lot during his two terms in office To have really moved too little. Unfortunately, Pohamba’s rather cautious and consensus-oriented governance went so far that – in contrast to political leaders from Zambia and Botswana, for example – he never spoke critically about the catastrophic conditions in Namibia’s neighboring country Zimbabwe, at least in public, not even after Robert Mugabe prevented his election in 2008 with massive falsification of the election results.

As a result of the clear majority of SWAPO in parliament, which has never been in danger, the political situation in Namibia has remained extremely stable in the 28 years of independence. The SWAPO government could, at the latest after it achieved its three-quarters majority in the second parliamentary elections, and act as it wanted and could easily (and legally) change the constitution at any time. The opposition, on the other hand, is weak, poorly organized and also fragmented into numerous small parties. Some of the opposition parties also wear themselves out in internal party disputes. At the moment, and probably for the foreseeable future, there is no sign of any serious political alternative to SWAPO in Namibia, and the founding of the RDP has not changed much in that regard.

Adolf Lüderitz memorial plaque