Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba embraces his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma.  Picture: THE TIMES
Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba embraces his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma in April last year. Picture: THE TIMES

NAMIBIAN President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Tuesday promoted his Trade Minister Hage Geingob to prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle, making him a likely successor in a 2014 general election.

Veteran politician Mr Geingob, 71, was named as premier of the uranium-rich south west African nation — a post he previously held from independence in 1990 until 2002.

A liberation struggle hero, Mr Geingob was also re-elected on Sunday as vice-president of the ruling party South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) , the former liberation movement which has dominated Namibia since the country gained full independence from South Africa.

This makes Mr Geingob frontrunner to stand as SWAPO’s presidential candidate after Mr Pohamba’s second term expires in 2014.

Two of Mr Geingob’s main rivals for the party leadership were handed less influential positions.

Namibia, a former German colony and former South African protectorate, is wedged between oil-producing Angola and regional economic powerhouse South Africa, and is rich in resources such as diamonds and uranium.

A Damara speaker, Mr Geingob would be the first Namibian president who does not hail from the Oshiwambo-speaking majority.

As trade minister, he negotiated agreements with the European Union and pushed for conditions on Walmart’s bid for the local units of South African retailer Massmart

While Mr Geingob has been vocal in promoting business development, he has also campaigned for foreign investors to create partnerships with local companies.

In the cabinet reshuffle, existing Prime Minister Nahas Angula was switched to the defence portfolio.

Justice Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana was made head of home affairs and Local and Regional Government Minister Jerry Ekandjo was given youth and sport.

Deputy Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein will take over as trade minister. Mr Schlettwein will be the first white senior cabinet member since the early post-independence years.

Reuters