compilation failure for matplotlib 0.81 on RH9


I was trying to install the latest matplotlib from source on an ancient RH9 system but I get the following compilation error:

building 'matplotlib._na_cntr' extension
gcc -DNDEBUG -O2 -g -pipe -march=i386 -mcpu=i686 -D_GNU_SOURCE -fPIC -fPIC -I/usr/local/include -I/usr/include -I/usr/include/python2.2 -c src/_na_cntr.c -o build/temp.linux-i686-2.2/_na_cntr.o -DNUMARRAY=1
src/_na_cntr.c:1698: parse error before "init_na_cntr"
error: command 'gcc' failed with exit status 1

Any advice would be greatly appreciated - I can't even find the file _na_cntr.c that triggers the error....

The gcc version is 3.2.2 if that matters.