Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba (born 18 August 1936) is a Namibian politician who served as the second President of Namibia from 21 March 2005 to 21 March 2015. He won the 2004 election overwhelmingly as the candidate of SWAPO, the ruling party, and was reelected in 2009. Pohamba was the president of SWAPO from 2007 until his retirement in 2015. He is a recipient of the Ibrahim Prize.
Prior to his presidency, Pohamba served in various ministerial positions, beginning at Namibia's independence in 1990. He was Minister of Home Affairs from 1990 to 1995, Minister of Fisheries from 1995 to 1997, Minister without Portfolio from 1997 to 2000, and Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation from 2000 to 2005. He was also secretary-general of SWAPO from 1997 to 2002 and vice-president of SWAPO from 2002 to 2007.
Life and career
As a child, he completed his primary education in the Anglican Holy Cross Mission school in Onamunhama. At the age of 24, Pohamba was a founding member of SWAPO in 1960. He was arrested for his political activity but moved to Southern Rhodesia, when 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, 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 26 January 2000, he was appointed as Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation in addition to his above ministerial position, in which position he remained until becoming president in 2005.
Under Pohamba's leadership as Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Namibia initiated a policy of partial land expropriation from landed white farmers to landless black ones. This policy was introduced to supplement the existing one of "willing buyer-willing seller" to try speed up the process.
After becoming president, Pohamba also took over the chancellorship of the University of Namibia from Nujoma in November 2011.
He was active in the Ovamboland People's Organization, a national liberation movement that in 1960 transformed into SWAPO. Pohamba was a founding member of the organisation's new incarnation and left his job in the mine to work as a full-time organiser for the group.
Pohamba returned several times to South West Africa to work on behalf of SWAPO, and he was again charged with agitating against South African rule.
Pohamba was selected as SWAPO's candidate for the 2004 presidential election at an extraordinary party congress held in May 2004. He received 213 votes out of 526 in the first round of voting; in the second round, held on 30 May, he won with 341 votes against 167 for Hidipo Hamutenya, having received the support of nearly all of those who had backed third place candidate Nahas Angula in the first round. In the presidential election, held on 15/16 November 2004, Pohamba won with 76.44% of the vote, in what has been described as a "landslide", but also denounced as flawed by the opposition. He was backed by Nujoma, who was then serving his third five-year term; Pohamba has been described as Nujoma's hand-picked successor. Pohamba took office as president on 21 March 2005 and has since distinguished himself by careful but decisive moves against corruption.
Although there was speculation that Nujoma would seek re-election as SWAPO President in 2007 and then run for President of Namibia again in 2009, he denied these rumours in early October 2007, saying that he intended to step down as party leader in favour of Pohamba. On 29 November 2007, Pohamba was elected as SWAPO President at a party congress; he was the only candidate to be nominated and no voting was deemed necessary. Nujoma said that he was "passing the torch and mantle of leadership to comrade Pohamba". The congress also chose Pohamba as the party's only candidate for the 2009 presidential election.
Pohamba won a second term in the November 2009 presidential election, receiving 611,241 total votes (76.42%). The second place candidate, Hidipo Hamutenya (who had left SWAPO and gone into opposition), received 88,640 (11.08%).
Pohamba was unable to stand for re-election in 2014 due to constitutional term limits. The election was again won overwhelmingly by SWAPO, and Pohamba was succeeded by Hage Geingob on 21 March 2015. Less than a month later, on 19 April 2015, he retired as president of SWAPO.
He ended his term with high approval ratings, being hailed for pushing for gender equality and increased spending on housing and education.
Awards and honours
- Pohamba is a recipient of the Omugulugwombashe Medal for Bravery and Long Service.
- In 2011, he was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy honoris causa by the University of Namibia.
- In 2015, he was awarded the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership of $5 million by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
- On 29 April 2016, he was awarded a Doctorate honoris causa by the University for Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana