Thursday, April 08, 2004

I'll Believe It When I See It

File this one under the "don't hold your breath" folder: Nujoma's now saying he has no plans for a fourth term.

Windhoek - Namibian President Sam Nujoma has abandoned any prospect of a fourth term in office after a weekend meeting with leaders of his ruling SWAPO.

The 74-year-old former guerrilla leader suggested only last week he would be willing to contest a fourth term - currently barred by the constitution - if asked by the party he led in a three-decade armed struggle for independence from South Africa.

"The President of SWAPO Party reiterates his earlier decision, in accordance with the constitution of the Republic of Namibia, he will not seek another term of office," Monday's edition of the English language daily The Namibian quoted Nujoma as saying after Saturday's meeting of the party's leadership.

Nujoma has put out mixed signals as to his intentions after his term expires on March 21, 2005. Parliament, dominated by SWAPO, altered the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term in 1999.

The party named three possible candidates to succeed Nujoma: Land Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba, Higher Education Minister Nahas Angula and Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya, and will hold an extraordinary congress in May to decide which to field.

Whoever is chosen is regarded as firm favourite to succeed Nujoma as president given the party's grip on power - it won three out of four votes in 1999 national elections.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are expected in late 2004, but no date has yet been set.

Nujoma has led the mineral-rich former South West Africa since independence in 1990, and is highly popular with the black majority as well as some sectors of business.

But insiders at SWAPO - the South West African People's Organisation - said Nujoma had proposed other party officials as his preferred candidates at the weekend meeting, and only backed down under intense pressure from other party figures.

I just don't buy that Nujoma will peacefully go into the night, not when he's taken the trouble to build a palace fit for an emperor whose completion date is scheduled to be just around the end of his current term in office. Here's to betting that like Abacha was planning before his timely demise, Nujoma's going to try to engineer a "spontaneous" plea from "the masses", begging him to stay on, "for the good of the nation" of course. The only way I can see him not trying a stunt like that is if "the nation" decides to reward him for his "selfless service" by "donating" this Windhoek palace to the Great Father, with a suitable accompanying retinue of servants to ensure that the Father of the Nation gets to live "in the style to which he's entitled."