ONIIMWANDI - The late former vice president Dr Nickey Iyambo was hailed and remembered by family members and friends as a people’s person, who had devoted his life to helping others and was highly dedicated to serve his country.
Mourners described him as a humble God-fearing person who lived by the cultural norms and values, and with a good personality that transcended through his upbringing from the sleepy village of Oniimwandi until when he entered the political arena, which saw him becoming Namibia’s first vice president after he served in various ministerial portfolios.
He is also remembered for his firm stance in efforts to revive the country’s economy.
“He was a friendly person, full of loyalty and good hospitality throughout his humble beginnings. He treated everyone equally. I have not seen any change of personality in Nickey, even after he came back from exile becoming a prominent person in our village and country at large. He would still come here the Nickey that we have known since childhood, assist wherever he could. He imparted a lot of knowledge among our community and he would always give valuable advice,” reminisced family elder, Boas Mweendeleli.
These were condolence messages relayed at the first state memorial service of the late Iyambo held at his homestead at Oniimwandi, Onayena, on Saturday. The former Vice President died in the early morning hours of 19 May 2019 at his Windhoek residency, a day before his 83rd birthday, after a long battle with illness. President Hage Geingob accorded him a hero’s funeral.
Many in the community though said they only got to really know the late Iyambo well after his return from exile, as he spent most of his youthful years away from home. They remembered him for the role he played in the construction of the community church, saying he was at the forefront until its completion.
“He served as an advisor to the committees of the church; his lessons and advice will not be forgotten,” said Abisai Nendongo of Onayena Parish Church.
The late Iyambo left Owamboland in 1961 for Windhoek where he became a postal clerk at Katutura Nampost and rose through the ranks to become the first black post master.
“He was also a teacher before he left for exile, unqualified teacher though,” added Mweendeleli, as he narrated the lifestyle of the late war veteran of the liberation struggle, who served as the head of the Swapo medical centre in Lubango, Angola, after he returned from Finland where he obtained his degree in medicine among other qualifications. He fled into exile in 1964.
“The early bird is gone,” summed Johanna, the widow of the late Iyambo, describing her husband as a sweetheart who would wake up early very morning to say ‘good morning darling’ before she would wake up.
“I still hear your voice to this day, and I will never forget you dear husband. Even though we were married for a very short time, I am thankful we crossed paths,” she said.
“His health deteriorated early this year, he was in pain but he continued going strong. I will always cherish every moment we shared,” she said.
Vice president Nangolo Mbumba said he has lost a great friend and former classmate he has known for nearly 60 years.
“Nickey was a smart and brilliant person throughout his life. This can be attested to by the qualifications he had attained.
He was awarded First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland in 2011, by the Finnish President, Her Excellency Tarja Halonen. Moreover, he was conferred the Most Brilliant Order of the Sun, First Class in 2014 by Dr Hifikepunye Pohamba the former President of Namibia. All these are signs that tell who he was,” stated a disheartened Mbumba.
Meanwhile, the late Iyambo’s long-time friend, Dr Leake Hangala, remembered the former veterans’ affairs minister as a person of hard work, humility and determination.
“What a decent human being,” said Hangala, adding, “You had a great father, honour his memory and grab the torch he lit and run with it and that’s the best homage you can give.” Hangala said Iyambo was the backbone of Finland-Namibia strong relations. “He founded this relationship. You could not walk in Finland without anyone asking you where Nickey was.” Iyambo served in various portfolios, among them as the minister of health and social services from 1990 to 1996, minister of regional and local government and housing (1996-2002), minister of mines and energy (2002-2005), minister of agriculture, water and forestry (2005-2008), minister of safety and security (2008-2010), minister of veterans’ affairs (2010-2015) and vice president (2015-2018).
He leaves behind a wife Johanna, four children and six siblings.