Windhoek — Namibia is in shock following the untimely demise of the Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo, who died on his birthday on February 02 in London in the United Kingdom (UK) where he was on official duty.
In a statement issued late on Saturday, President Hifikepunye Pohamba announced the death of the education minister.
"It is with great sadness and shock that I announce the untimely passing on of one of my senior Cabinet ministers, Dr Abraham Iyambo, Minister of Education," the President announced. His death is seen as a big loss to Namibia and the Swapo Party in particular since he was among the hardest working ministers, frequently in touch with teachers and learners since he took over the education portfolio.
Pohamba said Namibia has lost one of its brightest, most committed and hardworking senior ministers. "The huge gap that he has left behind will be difficult to fill," said the president.
"On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Namibia, the Cabinet and indeed on my own behalf, I extend heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family of Dr Iyambo," he said.
The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Joel Kaapanda said Iyambo's death is a big blow to the country and the education sector.
"He devoted his energy and commitment to his work. He wanted to make a tangible change in terms of improving the quality of education, infrastructure and availability of resources at schools. His dream was to see Namibia succeed in education," he said.
Former Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Libertina Amathila was grief-stricken when New Era spoke to her yesterday and could only say a few words. "I am so sad. He was so young. It is also sad particularly because he did not even die at home. It is terrible," she said.
Dr Richard Kamwi, the Minister of Health and Social Services and a Member of Parliament (MP) said Namibia and the Swapo Party lost a strategist, a devoted nationalist and a true patriot. "First and foremost, he was a freedom fighter. We will remember him for what he died for in education. He took education as a key component for the development of this country and he took it very seriously," he said.
Kamwi said Iyambo was committed to service delivery, against all challenges, including his health. "He was really a workaholic, he would always say, there is no time. Let's deliver," said the health minister.
Kamwi called on learners, teachers and parents to redouble their efforts and to see to it that what he died for is truly realised. "Crying or shedding tears is for me nothing, but we should remember what he died for," he urged. "He was a friend and a comrade. We shared a lot such as the surprise visits that I started, but he took them to another level," Kamwi added.
Dr David Namwandi the Deputy Minister of Education said the gap that Iyambo leaves will be difficult to fill. "We have lost a hero, a dedicated cadre and son of the soil." He further said Iyambo was a kind and friendly man who believed in solving problems in a professional manner.
"We will miss him. We will miss his courage, but we will continue with his legacy, which is to deliver, deliver and deliver," said Namwandi. Hidipo Hamutenya the leader of the official opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) sent a message of condolences to the Iyambo family and the Swapo Party, describing Iyambo as one of the promising rising stars whom the nation looked upon to pull the country out of its present "quagmire of poor governance".
"Abraham was a wonderful human being to work with. He was a very bright and friendly young man. For us his untimely death is deeply regretted as it has deprived this country of one of its most promising and talented public servants," Hamutenya said.
Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) spokesperson Job Amupanda said the youth league is in a state of shock and appealed to the media to "please leave us alone for now".
"It is a sad moment for us, we cannot make media commentary now. We will come back to you when the time is right," he said. Before he died, Iyambo's health had been in the spotlight for some time. Last year, he was on leave for six months due to his poor health, which was attributed to fatigue caused by his hectic work schedule.
When he returned from leave, he said his blood pressure was extremely high and that he needed to rest. About a fortnight ago, a daily published a report saying Iyambo was hospitalised in Cuba. But he explained upon his return to Namibia that he was in Cuba for vacation and had planned to go for a comprehensive routine medical check-up in that country, because Cuba has some of the best medical facilities in the world.
Dr Iyambo was born on February 2, 1961 at Oniimwandi in the Oshana Region. He was a member of the National Assembly since 1995, until his death. Prior to his appointment as Education Minister by President Pohamba in March 2010, he was the Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resource.
He was elevated to the position of Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 1997, a position he served in for 13 years. He was also the chairman of the Swapo Party Think Tank, which last year crafted policy documents that were reviewed at the party's first ever National Policy Conference that took place in September last year.
Iyambo studied in Cuba from 1982 to 1985. He went on to study at the University of Surrey, in the United Kingdom, where he did his BSc in Food Studies. He also obtained a PhD from the same University in 1994.