President Hifikepunye Pohamba on Saturday led the nation in the burial service of the late education minister Dr Abraham Iyambo.
Cabinet ministers, members of the judiciary, diplomats, teachers and school children, relatives and politicians, including the founding president Dr Sam Nujoma all attended the funeral of Iyambo at the Gammams cemetery in Windhoek. Iyambo, who died on his birthday on February 02 in London, United Kingdom, was accorded a 17-gun salute by the Namibian Defence Force (NDF).
Since Friday afternoon, thousands of mourners flocked to Parliament Gardens where the late minister's memorial service was held to pay their last respects.
Voice recordings of Iyambo were played repeatedly on national television reiterating the education minister's impassioned appeals to learners and teachers to take education seriously. Posters and flyers were also displayed at Parliament Gardens where his body had lain in state. Speaker after speaker, ranging from representatives of student organisations to opposition political parties also came to pay tribute in memory of Iyambo's contributions to the country's fisheries and education sectors through his hard work and dedication.
Hundreds of condolence messages were received, including some from the United States of America, the European Union, the African Union and the Communist Party of Cuba, among others, consoling the entire nation and his family.
Close to 70 former students who studied with the late Iyambo in Cuba, including Namibian Police Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, Tommy Nambahu, the Deputy Minister of Justice and other senior officials also attended the funeral to pay their last respects. Pohamba told mourners "all of us are shocked."
"He asked me to go to London in a letter dated early December last year to go and attend an education conference.
"It took me a long time to recover. He was a trusted person, dedicated public servant and a true patriot," said Pohamba.
"It will be difficult to fill the gap he leaves. I was listening to speaker after speaker and they are all saying the same thing about what this son of Namibia has done for the country in his lifetime. But he left far too early.
"There is so much he could have done for our country and to uplift our communities, as well as education for our nation, indeed, he left too soon. We will miss his smiling face and warm personality. We are consoled that he leaves behind a legacy that is worth emulation by the present and succeeding generations in our country. Go well dear brother, go well friend, and go well dear comrade. May the soul of Dr Abraham Iyambo rest in eternal peace," Pohamba said in his tribute.
Pohamba encouraged mourners to be strong and rather to celebrate the life of the late Iyambo. As minister of fisheries, Dr Iyambo modernised the fisheries sector by introducing new management practices, as well as training programmes.
He also promoted investment in new infrastructure and the acquisition of modern equipment for patrolling Namibian waters, as well as new state-of-the-art fisheries research vessels.
Moreover, Iyambo initiated the introduction of aquaculture projects around the country, for which he received due international recognition with several awards, including one from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
"Dr Iyambo got us patrol vessels, now our resources (fish) are protected. He promoted fish consumption in Namibia," Pohamba praised Iyambo.
The founding president Dr Sam Nujoma described Iyambo as "one of Namibia's gallant sons, a marine scientist," adding that he was a patriotic, committed and revolutionary Swapo Party cadre.
"His death is a big loss, not only to his family but also to the entire Namibian nation. The void he leaves behind will be difficult to fill. He will be sorely missed. There was still so much he wanted to do as evidenced by his passionate pursuit for free education, among others. Undoubtedly, he was one of our greatest champions for the promotion of education in our country," the Founding Father said.
Dr David Namwandi, who deputised Iyambo said February 2 will go down in Namibian history as "a dark day". "He was more than a colleague, he was a brother. He did not allow the clock to dictate the work that needed to be done. We will not disengage to continue his legacy to deliver and deliver," Namwandi said.
His mother, Meekulu Helena Gabriel could not attend the burial due to ill health and old age.
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dr Kalumbi Shangula presided over the proceedings. Relatives described Iyambo as "patient and hardworking."
"We thought he could become a good president one day, but what we did not know is that God had a different plan for him," said Monica Kalondo who read a message on behalf of the grieving family.
While his casket was being lowered, the Namibian Defence Force soldiers performed a 17-gun salute in his honour. Iyambo's state funeral was themed "A Life Dedicated to the Just Cause for Freedom, Independence and Socio-economic Emancipation."
As a fourth child in his family born on February 2, 1961, Iyambo went to Angola into exile at the tender age of 16 in April 1977.
Iyambo was laid to rest in the Gammams cemetery in Pionierspark, where his late sister Ce-cilia Ndishishi is also buried.