The Namibian (Windhoek)

22 January 2013

Namibia: Iyambo Hospitalised in Cuba

BARELY six months after he returned to work following extended sick leave, Education Minister Abraham Iyambo is back in hospital.

Although senior government officials and spokespeople remained tight-lipped yesterday, it is understood that Iyambo is receiving treatment in Cuba.

It is unclear what he is being treated for. Some sources said that he had undergone an operation.

David Namwandi, the deputy minister of education, confirmed that Iyambo was in Cuba "on government business", but said he was not aware that he was in hospital.

Upon enquiry, education permanent secretary Alfred Ilukena said to his knowledge, Iyambo was not in hospital.

Contradicting Namwandi, he said: "He decided to use his annual leave to visit his friends in Cuba. He should be here by Wednesday. I don't know anything about hospital."

Ilukena could not say for how long Iyambo has been in Cuba. "He didn't go to Cuba because he is sick. It's a private visit," he maintained.

According to one source, Iyambo collapsed at the airport when he wanted to return to Namibia.

Romeo Muyunda, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, yesterday also confirmed that Iyambo was in Cuba - apparently on annual leave.

However, he denied any knowledge of Iyambo being hospitalised. "He's not in hospital. If he is, I have not received that information."

The minister of presidential affairs, Albert Kawana, said: "Maybe the president knows. It's news to me."

As far as he knows, Iyambo is on annual leave, Kawana said.

Mukwaita Shanyenganga, the special media advisor to Presdident Pohamba, also denied any knowledge. "Is he being hospitalised? It's news to me."

In July last year, Iyambo returned to work after having been on sick leave for six months.

He then broke his silence about why he was absent from the office since late 2011. Iyambo told officials in his ministry that high blood pressure was the cause of his illness.

"My blood pressure went uncontrollably high and placed my body under severe strain."

According to him, his hypertension skyrocketed to such an extent that his vision, reading ability and speech were temporarily affected. "I am a human like you with flesh, blood and bones. I'm not immune to sickness, not immune to flu and not immune to headaches."

Although everyone's health is a private matter, the "outpour of concern" and the fact that his ministry gets one of the biggest chunks of the national budget made him clarify what was wrong with him - something which forced him "into a moment of silence, pause and deep reflection".

He added that after adopting a healthy lifestyle, his doctors gave him a clean bill of health. "I emerged stronger, healthier and more determined to make a meaningful contribution to this beautiful country."

During his absence, he heard a number of rumours about his health - that he was wheelchair-bound, paralysed, unable to speak, dying or dead, Iyambo said. "Fortunately, none of these things are true or happened to me."

The minister thanked the media, saying: "You did what you could to inform the public with the limited information you had."

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