Windhoek Observer's editor, Johannes Martin Smith, died in his sleep at the Paramount Frail Centre this week, writes Catherine Sasman in New Era.


He was 75. Smith was confined for the second time on July 17, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease on June 29.

His daughter, Yanna Erasmus, said he was found having difficult in breathing at around 02h00 and was found dead when the nursing staff again checked on him later.

Erasmus said the deterioration of her father's health became apparent in September last year and he had trouble with his short-term memory. She said his behaviour was also more erratic than usual.

"After the diagnosis, he returned to work, this time on medication," said Erasmus. "Dr [Reinhard] Sieberhagen, however, informed us that one of the greatest challenges to treating Alzheimer's patients is the fine balance of tranquilisers, memory medication and anti-psychotic drugs, which affect people differently."

She said psychiatrist Sieberhagen had informed the family by July 17 that Smith's condition had worsened to the point where he was no longer lucid and that he had extended periods of delirium.

On Monday, said Erasmus, Sieberhagen told the family that Smith was in the final stages of the disease.

"The family, because we have not been allowed to see him due to his reluctance to stay in the hospital, have not been aware of his decline. As such, none of this information was made public," said Erasmus.

Prime Minister Nahas Angula yesterday extended his condolences to Smith's family.

"He will be missed," said Angula.

"He gave colour to the media profession, he stood his ground and said whatever he wanted to say whether he was right or wrong."

Smith started the Windhoek Observer in 1978, after leaving the Windhoek Advertiser. Before that, he worked as a journalist for the Suidwes Afrikaner newspaper in the 1950s.

During an interview with New Era in April last year, Smith, the ever-energetic newspaperman, said he would not quit working before turning 77 or 78.

"I want to die in harness with the sun in my face," Smith said.

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