Namibia’s president, Hage Geingob, died early on Sunday in a hospital in the capital, Windhoek, the presidential office said in a statement. He was 82.
First elected president in 2014, Geingob was Namibia’s longest serving prime minister and third president. Namibia is to hold presidential and national assembly elections towards the end of the year.
Geingob, who was serving his second term as president, revealed in January that he was receiving treatment for cancer.
A biopsy after a routine medical check-up in January had revealed “cancerous cells”, Geingob’s office said at the time.
“It is with utmost sadness and regret that I inform you that our beloved Dr Hage G Geingob, the president of the republic of Namibia has passed on today,” said a statement on Sunday from the acting president, Nangolo Mbumba.
“At his side, was his dear wife Madame Monica Geingos and his children.”
In 2013, Geingob underwent brain surgery, and in 2023 he underwent an aortic operation in neighbouring South Africa.
Up until his death, he had been receiving treatment at Lady Pohamba hospital in Windhoek.
“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,” said Mbumba.
“At this moment of deepest sorrow, I appeal to the nation to remain calm and collected while the Government attends to all necessary state arrangements, preparations and other protocols.”
He said the cabinet would convene immediately to make the necessary state arrangements.
Born in a village in northern Namibia in 1941, Geingob was its first president outside the Ovambo ethnic group, which makes up more than half of the country’s population.
He took up activism against South Africa’s apartheid regime, which at the time ruled over Namibia, from his early schooling years before being driven into exile.
He spent almost three decades in Botswana and the US, leaving the former for the latter in 1964.
While in the US, he remained a vocal advocate for Namibia’s independence, representing the local liberation movement, Swapo, now the ruling party, at the UN and across the Americas.
When Swapo won the first elections in 1990, Geingob was appointed prime minister – a position he held for 12 years before returning to it again in 2012.
In 2014, as the party comfortably won yet another vote, riding on the legacy of its role in the liberation struggle, Geingob became president.
In between top jobs, the composed yet stern-talking leader, who sported wide-rimmed glasses and a tuft of grey hair on his chin, held various ministerial and internal party positions.
His first term as president was tainted by a recession, high unemployment and graft allegations.
In 2019, documents published by WikiLeaks suggested that government officials took bribes from an Icelandic firm in exchange for continued access to Namibia’s fishing grounds.
The “fish rot” scandal threatened Geingob’s prospects of a second term, with the head of state also coming under fire for pumping money into a bloated administration and granting contracts to foreign rather than local companies.
His share of the vote dropped considerably in 2019 from the 2014 height of 87%, but he was still able to comfortably sail to victory with 56% of preferences.
He suffered a couple of health scares in his later years, having undergone brain surgery in 2013 and heart valve surgery in South Africa in June 2023.
An avid football fan, he played as a young man, which earned him the nickname Danger Point.
He was married three times, in 1967, 1993, and again in 2015, and had as many children.
Source: The Guardian