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Obituary: Hage G Geingob 3 August 1941 – 4 February 2024

todayFebruary 4, 2024 662

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Hage Gottfried Geingob (3 August 1941 – 4 February 2024)

President Dr. Hage G Geingob became the first Namibian president to die in office when he succumbed early in the morning of 4 February 2024, after having been rushed to a private hospital in Windhoek on 3 February 2024 shortly after his return from the United States where he had sought novel cancer treatment.

Dr. Geingob was born in Tsumeb in 1941, receiving his early education in near-by Otavi. In 1958 he enrolled for his secondary education at the Augustineum Secondary School, which at that time was still based in Okahandja. In doing so he joined the ranks of other notable Namibians and SWAPO stalwarts such as Theo-Ben Gurirab, Hidipo Hamutenya, Peter Katjavivi, and Mose Penaani Tjitendero.

It was at Augustineum that Geingob’s political life can said to have begun as, in 1960, he was expelled for having participated in a march in protest at the poor quality of education in the country. Geingob was readmitted and finished the teacher-training course in 1961, subsequently taking up a teaching position at the Tsumeb Primary School. Geingob, deciding that he could not continue his own further education in Namibia, and resentful of being forced to participate in the Bantu Education System of the time, joined three colleagues in walking and hitchhiking to Botswana, where he served as Assistant SWAPO Representative from 1963–64.

In 1964 Geingob left Botswana to pursue his education in the United States of America, obtaining a BA degree from Fordham University in New York City in 1970 and an MA degree in International Relations from the Graduate Faculty of The New School, New York in 1974.

In 1964, Geingob was appointed as SWAPO Representative at the United Nations and to the Americas, in 1972 as political affairs officer to the United Nations Secretariat, and in 1975 as director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia. He served as director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia until 1989, while at the same time serving as a member of both the Central Committee and the Politburo of SWAPO.

After 27 years away from Namibia, Hage Geingob returned to the country along with many of his colleagues on 18 June 1989, where he famously knelt and kissed the ‘Namibian soil’. As SWAPO’s Director of Elections, upon his return Geingob, along with other members of his directorate, established SWAPO election centres throughout the country, spearheading the campaign that brought SWAPO to power.

Following the elections, under Geingob’s chairmanship, the newly formed (and soon to be dissolved) Constituent Assembly unanimously adopted the Namibian Constitution on 9 February 1990, and on 21 March 1990, Geingob was sworn in as the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia. Geingob was sworn in for a second term on 21 March 1995, but after serving in the position for 12 years, and following a cabinet reshuffle on 27 August 2002, he was replaced as prime minister by Theo-Ben Gurirab. Geingob was appointed Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing but declined to accept what was seen as a demotion and, after failing to be reelected to the SWAPO politburo, left politics.

Geingob was, in 2003, invited to be Executive Secretary of the Global Coalition for Africa based in Washington, D.C. where he continued to work until returning to Namibia to participate in the November 2004 parliamentary election, in which he won a seat in Parliament. Gingob became the Chief Whip of the SWAPO party in the National Assembly on 18 April 2007, was brought back into the SWAPO politburo in mid-2007, and was named as the sole candidate for the position of vice-president of SWAPO, a position to which he was elected without opposition on November 29, 2007.

Having first served as Minister of Trade and Industry, Geingob was appointed as the Prime Minister by then President Hifikepuya Pohamba on 4 December 2012, and on 28 November 2014 elected President of Namibia after winning an overwhelming 87% of the vote.

Geingob served in this position until his death on 3 February 2024, during which time, among many other things, he also served as chairperson of SADC from 2018 to 2019, hosted, and was hosted by, various international diplomats and heads of state, dared the United States to join the International Criminal Court, campaigned for the reform of the United Nations Security Council, and supported South Africa’s ICJ genocide case against Israel. His tenure was not without challenges though as he received both praise and criticism for the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, questions about transparency (including in the cancer treatment he travelled to the United States to receive in the days before his death), and allegations of instructing a government official to divert funds from the state-run fishing company to bribe attendees of the 2017 SWAPO electoral congress to vote for him.

In his personal life Geingob was married three times, first to New York City native Priscilla Charlene Cash, fathering one daughter, Nangula Geingos-Dukes, if the relationship. Following their divorce, Geingob married Namibian businesswoman Loini Kandume in 1993, fathering a daughter, Dângos Geingos, and a son, Hage Geingob Jr. Following his divorce in 2008, Geingob, after remaining single for a period, married another well-known Namibian businesswoman, Monica Kalondo on February 14, 2015. He is survived by all but his first wife, who died on 3 December 2014 after a long battle with cancer.

Written by: David

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