FORMER vice president Nickey Iyambo, who died in Windhoek yesterday after a long illness, will be accorded a hero’s funeral, president Hage Geingob has said.
He said this when he visited the Iyambo home yesterday in Eros with first lady Monica Geingos to console the family.
State House spokesperson Alfredo Hengari also issued a press statement in which he expressed his condolences, and described Iyambo as a friend and comrade.
“He leaves behind a rich legacy of loyal service to the Namibian people. Our nation has lost a man of conscience and deep humane values. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Hengari added.
Iyambo, who would have turned 83 today, was described by many who knew him as a soft, brave, gentle and God-fearing man.
Iyambo’s close acquaintance, Helmut Angula, said he had deep family bonds with him, and had in fact planned on visiting him, but he too was not well.
Family spokesperson Leake Hangala said Iyambo served his nation and party with distinction, and was one of the most humble, honest and reliable men.
“The nation has lost a giant, a reliable and dedicated freedom fighter. I think it is also time to let people go, and I think his time had come, and there is nothing we can do,” he added.
Hangala further said the nation should continue the deceased’s spirit of dedication, commitment and honesty.
“That’s the best way to remember him and serve this country,” he observed.
Lorenst Raonga Kuzatjike, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republican Church’s Macedonia parish, said Iyambo was a man committed to his church and place of prayer.
“He was a peaceful and God-fearing man. We know the past few days he went through a bit of suffering. The Lord knows when that time comes, He will call us back,” he added.
Reacting to his death on social media, the chairperson of the National Council, Margaret Mensah-Williams, said Iyambo was a true statesman, a revolutionary and remarkable human being.
Social scientist Henning Melber said he will remember Iyambo as the soft and gentle human being he was, and not as the politician that he was.
Kunene regional governor Marius Sheya express gratitude towards Iyambo’s selfless service and the sacrifices he made for the liberation of the country.
Born at Onayena in the Oshikoto region on 20 May 1936, Iyambo trained as a doctor in Finland, where he had shared a room with former governor of the Bank of Finland, Erkki Liikanen.
Iyambo also ran health services at the Swapo settlement of Kwanza Sul in Angola before the country attained independence.
This led to his appointment as health minister at independence, where he led the fight against HIV-AIDS before he exchanged portfolios with Dr Libertina Amathila, who was at the time the regional and local government and housing minister.
Iyambo worked on developing the decentralisation of government services’ policy before he joined the mines ministry in 2002 for three years.
In March 2005, he was appointed the agriculture minister at the age of 62 before serving as safety and security minister in 2008.
His appointment as agriculture minister made him the second-oldest Cabinet member after then-president Hifikepunye Pohamba.
In 2010, Iyambo was given the veterans affairs’ ministry portfolio – a position he served in until March 2015, when Geingob appointed him Namibia’s first vice president.
He only served in this portfolio until 8 February 2018 due to ill-health.
The president of Finland, Tarja Halonen, conferred on Iyambo the rank of commander, First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland.
Geingob also awarded Iyambo the Most Brilliant Order of the Sun First Class on Heroes Day in 2014.
His home was filled with people from all walks of life, including various politicians, when The Namibian visited his family.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.