Namibia leader taps trade minister as likely successor

Tue Dec 4, 2012 8:38am EST

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* Hage Geingob elevated to prime minister once again

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WINDHOEK Dec 4 (Reuters) - 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 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, Geingob was also re-elected on Sunday as vice-president of the ruling party SWAPO, the former liberation movement which has dominated Namibia since the country gained full independence from South Africa.

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

Two of 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 economic powerhouse South Africa, and is rich in resources such as diamonds and uranium.

A Damara speaker, 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 Wal-Mart's bid for the local units of South African retailer Massmart .

While 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. Schlettwein will be the first white senior cabinet member since the early post-independence years. (Reporting by Servaas van den Bosch; Editing by David Dolan and Pascal Fletcher)

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