African leaders ready to bow out in style

Time of article published Dec 6, 2004

Share this article:

The long-term leaders of both Namibia and Mozambique are preparing to hand over power to their successors after more than a decade and a half at the helm.

However, hard the wind may ruffle the sails - and in reality, they are little more than gentle breezes - both departing heads of state are assured of living out their autumn years in style, thanks to perk-packed retirement deals.

In Namibia, President Sam Nujoma has ruled since independence from South Africa in 1990. On March 20, the anniversary of independence, he will hand over power to Hifikepunye Pohamba, vice-president since 2002 and a founder member of Nujoma's ruling Swapo party.

Pohamba was nominated by the president and elected his successor after November 16 presidential polls. Parallel to the polls, the country's parliament passed a law granting the outgoing president a significant golden handshake.

When he retires, Nujoma will be the proud owner of a fleet of vehicles including luxury limousines, four-wheel-drives and flatbed trucks.

He will retain the services of three chauffeurs, two cooks, two secretaries, two office assistants and 10 security staff under the command of two adjutants.

He and his wife Kovambo, in addition to being granted full diplomatic passports and all privileges thereunder, will also receive up to six domestic and four international flights free of charge every year - first class, of course.

The father of the nation, elected to second and third terms in 1994 and 1999, will also be well taken care of financially. As well as a one-off tax-free windfall equivalent to a year's basic salary as president, he will also be entitled to an annual stipend - again tax-free - equivalent either to his old salary or to 80 percent of that of the sitting president, whichever is higher.

In Mozambique, where two-day elections got under way in the past week, marking the end of another presidential era, the incumbent is similarly well taken care of and financially secure. Outgoing leader Joaquim Chissano can, after 18 years in power, end his days on a lavish $2-million (about R12-million) estate with sea-views overlooking the Mozambican capital of Maputo.

After a barrage of criticism from opposition figures in the bitterly poor country, Chissano will however, not be outright owner of the property but will instead be entitled to a free leasehold until the end of his life.

Both leaders, despite stepping down from the top jobs, are anxious to maintain roles in public life. Nujoma will retain his position as head of the Swapo party, while Chissano wants to set up a foundation for charitable works.

The two, along with former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba who stood down in 2001, appear to be unique among African leaders in their willingness to stand aside for the next generation of leaders.

In Zimbabwe, 80-year-old autocrat Robert Mugabe keeps as firm a grip on the reins of power today as he did when he became leader more than two decades ago.

If and when Mugabe does step aside, he will be assured of an opulent retirement.

Share this article: