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5.20.2004

Will to Succeed  
If you've been following Namibian news, you know that there is a behind-the-scenes in the SWAPO party over who will succeed Sam Nujoma. That there is the possibility of a political succession in Namibia is a positive development. But there are many kinds of power hand-offs. For instance, in South Africa, Mandela effectively ceded all of his power to Thabo Mbeki, while setting the stage for continued ANC dominance. In Namibia, it looks like Nujoma will still remain an active, if unofficial, player in national politics. An interesting column in The Namibian explores this process and where it could lead in more detail:
Students of leadership politics would note that the succession pattern in Swapo is very similar to the one employed successfully in China under Deng Xiaoping to Jiang Xemin and in recent years to Hu Jintao. [...]

When political leaders retire, they think about their legacies and how they want to be remembered.

In that sense, leaders like Sam Nujoma do not retire from leadership, they simply move from the 'first line' to the 'second line' of leadership.

In the process of choosing their own successors, they simply want to avoid a political Frankenstein who would launch an attack on their legacies.

The presidency of the country presents 'first line leadership' and the party presidency will be the 'second line' for President Sam Nujoma.

This reminds me of the line about there being no second acts in American politics. Clearly this doesn't apply to Namibia.

If you haven't been following this story, Africa Confidential has a handy guide to the horse race:

Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya remains the front-runner in an increasingly close and bitter contest to choose the next leader of the governing South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO). The winner, who has to get a majority of votes from the 600 party delegates at an extraordinary party congress on 28-29 May, will almost certainly be Namibia's next President. A strong campaign for SWAPO Vice-President Hifikepunye Pohamba is under way, mainly because he is the incumbent President Sam Nujoma's candidate and Nujoma distrusts Hamutenya. Meanwhile, the third contender, Higher Education Minister Nahas Angula, who has sent postcards to delegates outlining his experience and philosophy, is running far more strongly than expected.