State and politics
Namibia became the last African colony to become
independent in 1990 after a long armed struggle against the
South African occupation power. After the First World War,
South Africa was mandated to manage the former German
colony. This right was removed by the UN General Assembly in
1966, but the South African apartheid regime refused to
relinquish control of what was then called South West
Africa. Since then, the country has been ruled by the former
liberation movement SWAPO.
The 1990 Constitution of the Republic of Namibia states
that the country should be a multi-party democracy based on
universal suffrage, have an independent judiciary and
respect for fundamental human rights.
The executive power is held by the president and the
cabinet nominated by the president. This consists of the
President, the Prime Minister and Ministers appointed by the
President among the members of the National Assembly. The
president is elected by simple majority in general and
direct elections for a period of five years. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how NA can stand for Namibia.
The legislative power is exercised by a parliament with
two chambers. The National Assembly has 104 members, eight
of whom are appointed by the president. The term of office
is five years. The National Council, with three members each
from the country's 14 regions, examines the laws adopted by
the National Assembly and makes recommendations on regional
development. The members are appointed for a term of six
years by regional councils.
The seven-member Constituent Assembly elected in November
1989 became the country's parliament at independence in
March 1990. The South West Africa People's Organization
(SWAPO) with Sam Nujoma as chairman was by far the largest
party and has retained its majority in all elections since
then. During most of this period, SWAPO has had a qualified
majority (more than 2/3), which has made it possible to
enforce constitutional changes without the support of other
The largest opposition party of all time has been the
Conservative Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA),
formed in 1977 with the support of the apartheid regime in
South Africa. With a voter support of about 20 percent, the
party was by far the largest opposition party in 1989 and
1994. After four elections with significantly worse results,
the party changed its name to Popular Democratic
Movement (PDM). In the 2019 election, the party
received 16 seats, that is, just over three times as many as
five years earlier.
The only parties that have conquered more than a single
term are the Social Democratic Congress of Democrats
(COD), which was the second largest in the 1999 and 2004
elections, and the Rally for Democracy and Progress
(RDP), which received 11 percent of the vote in 2009. Both
of these parties were formed. by politicians who left SWAPO.
The same goes for Landless People's Movement
(LPM), founded in 2018, which is described as progressive
and collected just under 5 percent of the vote in the 2019
election. Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters
(NEFF), with strong ties to the populist South African party
Economic Freedom Fighters, a former SWAPO member.
SWAPO's candidates have won an overwhelming majority in
all presidential elections. Before the 1999 elections, SWAPO
used its two-thirds majority to bypass the Constitution's
constitution that the president can be re-elected only once,
arguing that he took up his first term before the country's
independence. Nujoma received 77 percent of the vote. After
long discussions about a further extension, President Nujoma
surprisingly declared in 2004 that he did not stand for
re-election. He was succeeded by his trusted Hifikepunye
Pohamba, who was elected with 76 percent of the vote; he
received an equal share of the votes in the 2009 elections.
After sitting for two presidential terms, Pohamba was
unable to stand in the 2014 presidential election. Instead,
Prime Minister Hage Geingob was appointed SWAPO's candidate.
He received 87 percent of the vote. Geingob was the first
independent prime minister of Namibia (1990–2002). He has
also been Minister of Trade and Industry and was again
elected Prime Minister in 2012.
Geingob was re-elected in 2019 but with much weaker
support (56 percent of the vote) than SWAPO's candidates
previously received. For the first time since 1994, a
counter candidate received more than 20 percent of the vote.
Panduleni Itula (born 1957) is a member of the ruling party
and was elected as an independent candidate, which brought
bad blood within SWAPO. 29 percent of voters, many of them
young people, cast their votes on Itula.
At the beginning of independence, the political
discussion revolved around the issue of SWAPO's possible
abuse of human rights during the liberation struggle.
SWAPO's dominance has led to the party being later accused
of imperfection. The country is sometimes described as a
one-party democracy. Since the mid-1990s, the
nationalist-oriented SWAPO and government-run media have
been campaigning both against gays and against foreigners.
The most serious domestic policy issue has been the
demands for independence in the Caprivi Strip in the
northeast corner of the country. In 1999, disputes erupted,
and during the judicial aftermath, the regime has been
accused of subjecting the accused to abuses and torture. Ten
people were sentenced in 2007 to long prison terms for high
Other important domestic policy issues are unemployment,
economic inequality and the demands of land reform.
In foreign policy, Namibia has taken an active part in
regional cooperation in southern Africa, including as a
member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Alongside Angola and Zimbabwe, Namibia sent troops to Congo
(Kinshasa) in 1998–2001 to support Laurent Kabila's
government troops against rebels.
After independence in 1990, Namibia began to build its
own judicial system and its own judicial system, but the
basis for substantive law is largely the South African legal
heritage. The highest authority is the Supreme Court (Supreme
Court). There is also a Swedish-inspired Ombudsman.
The death penalty was abolished in 1990; the last known
execution took place in 1988.
Heads of State