Namibian President Hage Geingob, an anti-apartheid activist turned statesman and the country’s founding prime minister, died Sunday. He was 82.
His death was announced by Acting President Nangolo Mbumba, who was sworn in hours after Geingob’s passing. Geingob died just after midnight at Lady Pohamba Hospital in Windhoek, where he was being treated for cancer, with his wife and children at his side, Mbumba said.
“The Namibian nation has lost a distinguished servant of the people, a liberation struggle icon, the chief architect of our constitution and the pillar of the Namibian house,” Mbumba wrote on X.
Geingob’s office recently announced that the president was undergoing treatment for “cancerous cells” discovered in a biopsy following a routine colonoscopy. He had flown to the U.S. for a week for treatment last month.
Born in 1941, Geingob spent 27 years in exile in Botswana and the U.S., driven out of Namibia for his anti-apartheid activism. While in the U.S. starting in 1964, he earned a politics degree at Fordham University in New York City. He also studied at The New School and in Philadelphia at Temple University.
He returned to Namibia in 1989 as the country was on the cusp of gaining independence from South Africa. The following year, Geingob became Namibia’s first prime minister, serving from 1990 to 2002 and then again from 2008 to 2012. He was the country’s third president, elected to his first term in 2015, and was in the middle of his second term at the time of his death.
That term was slated to end later this year, with Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah replacing him on the South West Africa People’s Organization party’s ticket in upcoming elections. Mbumba will lead Namibia until March 21 of next year, when the winner will be inaugurated. On Sunday, Nandi-Naditwah paid tribute to Geingob as “a true democratic and a transformational leader who touched many lives.”
While Geingob’s administration was dogged by a scandal centering on bribes related to fishing quotas, his legacy was that of an advocate for self-determination. Condolences poured in from African leaders, as well from other nations.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa praised Geingob’s “leadership and resilience,” while South African President Cyril Ramaphosa bemoaned “the loss of a strong, brave and iconic leader” who was a “towering veteran of Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid” and a close personal friend.
President Biden issued condolences as well, calling Geingob “an eloquent advocate for his country and continent, who stood up for his values and beliefs.”
With News Wire Services