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Sam Nujoma: president of Namibia.

Namibia's constituent assembly unanimously elected nationalist leader Sam Nujoma as the country's first President after independence from South Africa on March 21. Nujoma is President of the South-west Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO), which waged a 23-year bush war against Pretoria's rule of the territory and won a United Nations-supervised election last November. "I will try my utmost to uphold the constitution of the Republic of Namibia", Nujoma told the 72-member assembly after his election.

Born in Cape Town barber's shop in 1960, Namibia's black nationalist movement SWAPO led an unequal armed struggle against South African rule before the ballot box brought it victory. Led by former railwayman Sam Nujoma, the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) abandoned non-violence in 1966 but was outgunned in its 23-year war by South Africa's military machine.

SWAPO received more than half the votes cast in the five-day vote but fell short of the two-third majority that would have given it outright control of the Constituent Assembly. SWAPO will dominate the 72-member Assembly that will draft an independence constitution but will have to negotiate with some of the nine other parties to be sure of support for its constitutional proposals before Namibia moves to full independence next year.

The movement was launched in 1960, with Nujoma as President, by a group of Ovambo exiles who met in a Cape Town barber's shop to discuss politics and labour relations in their homeland. It abandoned non-violence in 1966 after South Africa defied the world court and refused to relinquish its World War One mandate from the League of Nations to rule Namibia, then known as South-West Africa.

For the territory's prosperous White minority of 80,000, SWAPO was the enemy - heartless guerillas who bombed shops, abducted children and preached revolution. For its black opponents SWAPO was a corrupt northern clique whose incompetence and infighting scuppered its military ambitions. They point to the SWAPO incursion at the start of the UN peace process in April that provoked the fiercest fighting of the war. More than 300 guerillas were killed before superpower intervention rescued the peace plan.

SWAPO supporters, whom the elections showed to be most of the vast territory's 1.3 million people, say the movement earned the right to lead the country because its armed struggle forced South Africa to negotiate independence. The war killed more than 12,000 Namibians, mostly SWAPO supporters, drove 60,000 people into exile and cost South Africa up to one million dollar a day. It hardened white attitudes in Namibia and provoked international condemnation of Pretoria, whose occupation was declared illegal by the United Nations in 1966.

Namibia, at 320,000 square miles (830,000 square kilometres), has a population of only 1.5 million, less than Johannesburg's black township of Soweto. It is an arid country bounded by two deserts, the Namib in the west and the Kalahari in the east, and it has a population density of four persons per square mile, compared with Africa's average of 47.

It exports diamonds, uranium oxide and other minerals, produces beef and karakul pelts fur coats and has some of the world's richest fishing waters in the cold south atlantic current that washes its hot desert shores.

The outlook is not without problems, though. One, which flows directly from South Africa's withdrawal, will be the loss of budgetary aid from Pretoria, which has run from $160 million to $200 million a year. Finance Minister Otto Herringel is budgeting for a $200 million deficit in Namibia's first year of independence.

But the toughest problems, as in every other newly independent country, will be a crisis of expectations that the government cannot possibly meet.
 Namibia - Vital Statistics
Area 317,827 sq. miles
 (823,168 sq. km)
Population 1989 estimate 3.1 million
Population growth rate
(1980-87) 3.1 per cent
Life expectancy 55 years
GDP per capita
(1988 estimate) $1,000
GDP growth rate (1988) 3 per cent
Foreign debt $338.5 million
Source: World Bank, South African
Govt, Africa Research Bulletin
COPYRIGHT 1990 Economic and Industrial Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Global Outlook
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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