Namibia’s President Hage Geingob dies of cancer

Namibia’s long-time leader Hage Geingob, 82, succumbed to cancer on Sunday morning, leaving Vice President Nangolo Mbumba to lead the country until the end of the year elections.

The presidency announced the death of Namibia’s President Hage Geingob, 82, who passed away in hospital on Sunday morning, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

Geingob had led the sparsely populated and largely desert-like southern African nation since 2015, when he revealed he had overcome prostate cancer.

Vice President Nangolo Mbumba will take over as the leader of Namibia – a rich source of diamonds and lithium, a key component of electric car batteries – until the presidential and parliamentary elections at the end of the year.

The presidency did not disclose the cause of death on social media platform X, but said that Geingob had gone to the United States for “a two-day novel treatment for cancerous cells” last month, after finding out he had cancer during a routine medical check-up.

Geingob was born in 1941 and was a prominent figure in Namibia’s politics before it gained independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990. He headed the committee that drafted Namibia’s constitution and became its first prime minister on March 21, the day of independence, a role he held until 2002.

In 2007, Geingob became vice president of the ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), which he had joined as a freedom fighter when Namibia was still called South West Africa.SWAPO has dominated Namibia’s politics since independence.

The former German colony is officially an upper middle-income country but has huge inequalities in wealth. Geingob served as trade and industry minister before becoming prime minister again in 2012.

He won the 2014 election with 87% of the vote but barely escaped a runoff with just over half the votes in the next election in November 2019. That election came after a government corruption scandal, in which officials were accused of giving horse mackerel quotas to Iceland’s largest fishing company, Samherji, in return for bribes, as reported by local media.

The scandal led to the resignation of two ministers.The next year, Geingob expressed his frustration that Namibia’s wealth was still in the hands of its white minority. “Distribution is an issue, but how do we do it?” Geingob said in a virtual session at an event organised by international organisation Horasis. “We have a racial issue here, a historical racial divide. Now you say we must grab from the whites and give it to the Blacks, it’s not going to work,” he said.

His remarks followed the government’s decision to scrap a policy that would have required white-owned businesses to sell a 25% stake to Black Namibians.

Geingob died at Lady Pohamba Hospital in Windhoek, where his medical team was treating him, the presidency said.

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