Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Profile: Hifikepunye Pohamba

President Hifikepunye Pohamba
Hifikepunye Pohamba helped found Swapo when he was 25

Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba is a former political prisoner, who was whipped in public for his activism, and who previously served as minister in charge of land reform.

When he became president in 2004, he was expected to tow the line of his predecessor, Namibia's founding president, Sam Nujoma.

It used to be a standing joke in Namibia that the two men even looked alike - until Mr Pohamba shaved his beard off.

But the BBC's Frauke Jensen in the capital Windhoek says that since taking office, he has carefully trod the line between meeting expectations of the ruling Swapo party and being a president for all Namibians.

She says Mr Pohamba has even been criticised by some Swapo activists for doing things differently to what the party or his predecessor want.

He is a humble man, not given to outbursts. He always thinks carefully before he speaks, our reporter says.

'Man of peace'

As a minister, Mr Pohamba, 74, had a reputation for being accessible - he left his office door open - and seems to like a good joke.

As lands minister he sped up one of Namibia's most controversial schemes - the expropriation of land from white farmers to black citizens.

He said the previous "willing-seller, willing-buyer" policy moved too slowly and expropriation is now needed.

Sam Nujoma
Sam Nujoma is still revered as Namibia's founding father

In pursuing such a policy, he is following in the footsteps of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who has also pushed through land reform, with some say, disastrous consequences.

However, Mr Pohamba has always stressed a crucial difference - that he is against the violent takeover of farms, as seen in Zimbabwe.

He always preaches peace, our reporter says.

Born on 18 August, 1935, at Okanghudi in northern Namibia, Mr Pohamba was educated by missionaries.

At the age of 25, he helped found Swapo.

After he was arrested for his political activity, he left for Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, but was promptly deported.

He spent four months in prison in Namibia before spending two years under house arrest in Owamboland, in the north of the country.

He then left home to set up Swapo's Angola office. It was on returning from Luanda that he met Mr Nujoma.

Until the 1990s, Mr Pohamba represented Swapo across the African continent, with a brief spell out studying social and political studies in the former Soviet Union.

He headed Swapo's election campaign, before becoming an MP in 1990.

He then held the internal affairs, fisheries and marine resources, and land ministry portfolios.

He has six children with Penexupifo, who he married in 1983.

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