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Namibian elections viewed as successful

September 12, 2017 3:11 PM
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Namibia is preparing for a change of guard after its third elections since independence, with founding president Sam Nujoma's heir apparent set to take over the top job.

Vote counting began on Wednesday and election officials hailed the ballot to choose a new president and 72 members of parliament as a success.

"All Namibians have once again proven to the rest of the world that elections can be held in an atmosphere of calmness, peace and tolerance," said Electoral Commission chairman Victor Tonchi.

The elections, the third since Namibia's 1990 independence from South African apartheid rule, are a milestone as they mark the departure of Nujoma, a pivotal figure in Namibian politics for five decades.

Nujoma, who has been in power since independence, is to step down in March but will retain the powerful post of president of the ruling South West African People's Organisation (Swapo) until 2007.

His chosen successor, Lands Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba, a fellow Swapo veteran, is expected to win the presidential vote while Swapo is headed for a strong majority in parliament.

Pohamba said he planned to forge ahead with the expropriation of white farmers' land but pledged to hold dialogue to ensure that they are as painless as possible.

"What we believe is just talk, talk, talk. If you don't talk you won't be able to find a solution," he said.

Pohamba will be facing his biggest test of leadership with land reform, conscious that he must address fears of a Zimbabwe-style land grab in which thousands of white farms were seized under President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme launched in 2000.

Around 4 000 farmers, the majority of whom are white, own 44 percent of Namibia's arable land, an imbalance the government has vowed to redress with compensation and a peaceful transfer of land ownership.

Preliminary figures showed voter turnout during this week's elections was at around 60 percent of close to 1-million registered voters.

The election also won approval from a Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer mission, who were part of some 114 international observers sent to monitor the elections.


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