Yesterday and Today one of the greatest sons of Africa, a strong and heroic comrade and a great liberation soldier, is being laid to rest.
It was with great sadness that we in MKMVA received on the 9th of June the news that Comrade Andimba Toivo ya Toivo passed away. We received this sad news during our 5th National Conference, and the very least that we could do to recognise this great fellow liberation soldier, was for all our delegates to remember Comrade Toivo ya Toivo with a moment of silence.
As Comrade Toivo ya Toivo’s Hero’s Funeral commenced in Windhoek yesterday (Friday with the Official Memorial Service, and the Burial Service today at the Heroes Acre in Windhoek, we extend our sincere revolutionary condolences to the nation of Namibia and especially to his wife, Comrade Vicky Erenstein ya Toivo, their two daughters, Mutaleni and Nashikoto, and all their loved ones.
Namibia is laying to rest a national hero and one of the nation’s greatest liberation fighter icons. We share in in their pain and sorrow, because Comrade Toivo ya Toivo was always also one of us. From the earliest days of his political involvement, when in the 1950’s Comrade Toivo ya Toivo moved from northern Namibia to Cape Town he joined the African National Congress (ANC). On his return to Namibia, together with Comrade Sam Nujoma, Comrade Toivo ya Toivo founded Swapo on the 19th of April 1960 as the successor of the Ovamboland People’s Congress. They renamed the party to show that it represented all Namibians.
The South African apartheid regime during its illegal occupation of Namibia entirely illegally arrested comrade Toivo ya Toivo and tried him under their so- called Terrorism Act, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison on Robben Island, of which he served in total of 16 years. In detention before he was sentenced he was kept for a long time in solitary confinement and severely tortured.
During Comrade Toivo ya Toivo’s trial Pretoria he declared: “We find ourselves here in a foreign country, convicted under laws made by people whom we have always considered as foreigners. We find ourselves tried by a judge who is not our countryman and who has not shared our background. We are Namibian and not South Africans.” As he was sentenced he said: “The struggle will be long and bitter [but] I also know that my people will wage that struggle, whatever the cost.”
Thus our comradeship extended also into the dungeons of apartheid’s prisons. Comrade Toivo ya Toivo was imprisoned in the same section as Comrade Nelson Mandela and the other Rivonia trialists. Comrade Madiba had the highest regard for Comrade Toivo ya Toivo and in various interviews after his release from prison described him as “a formidable freedom fighter”. Madiba often described with great fondness and admiration how Comrade Toivo ya Toivo refused to participate in the demeaning behavioural grading system instituted by the prison wardens, which might have allowed him improved living conditions, because he believed if he participated in that system he would have conceded the legitimacy of South African authority.
Comrade Mandela recalled Comrade Toivo ya Toivo as follows: “He was very militant. He wanted very little to do with whites, with the warders … He did not care to be promoted and would not cooperate with the authorities at all in almost everything.”
At one point Comrade Mandela took part in a hunger strike to show solidarity with the Namibian prisoners. Again on another, after a guard apparently attacked comrade Toivo ya Toivo and he returned the assault.
Over the long 16 years that Comrade Toivo ya Toivo was illegally imprisoned he only received three visits, but he remained strong and resolute. Even the prison wardens had to reluctantly acknowledge that they were impressed by his resoluteness. One of his former guards, a certain Christo Brand recalled in 2014 on Comrade Toivo ya Toivo’s 90th birthday that he was, “cut out of the same rock as Mandela”.
Comrade Toivo ya Toivo was eventually released in 1984, and went in to exile. During the 6 years that we was in exile before Namibia eventually gained independence he continued to be in the forefront of the struggle that SWAPO waged on all fronts – also militarily – against the illegal occupation of the country by the South African apartheid regime.
After independence Comrade Toivo ya Toivo served for a period as SWAPO’s Secretary General and also respectively as Minister of Mines and Energy, Labour and Prisons under his old comrade President Sam Nujoma.
Although in more recent years his advanced age slowed him down, Comrade Toivo ya Toivo remained as committed as ever to the full liberation of his beloved
Namibian people. On the 2nd December 2012 he was elected as a permanent of the Central Committee of SWAPO, a position he held until he passed away.
For us in South Africa who are faced with the challenge to ensure that the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution leads to true economic empowerment of our people through Radical Socio-economic Transformation, the following words by Comrade Toivo Ya Toivo is an inspiration and guiding light: “The unity of our people is the most important precondition to obtain the goals we have set for ourselves. We cannot maintain and nurture unity if we permit inequality to fester.”
The spear of a great liberation fighter has fallen, together with the people of Namibia, we will pick it up and continue with the struggle for full liberation.
As Comrade Toivo ya Toivo so often said: “ALUTA CONTINUA!” Issued by the President of MKMVA, Comrade Kebby Maphatsoe
All media enquiries to be directed to Carl Niehaus, NEC member of MKMVA & National Spokesperson of MKMVA