Africa has lost a heavy­weight in Ya Toivo

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

AS YOUTH ac­tivists dur­ing the height of the Strug­gle in the 1980s, we were in­spired and gal­vanised when­ever the poem Africa my Be­gin­ning, Africa my End­ing by South African poet and lu­mi­nary In­goapele Madin­goane was ren­dered.

One of the pen­e­trat­ing stan­zas of the poem goes: I re­mem­ber ya Toivo, Namibia is not lost, Nu­joma is not idle he’d be cow­ard if he was, You might as well know Ger­many is no more in, Africa my be­gin­ning, And Africa my end­ing.

If you were un­able to re­cite Africa my Be­gin­ning, Africa My End­ing as an ac­tivist, in our eyes you were a novice or, at worst, a tod­dler lack­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary un­der­pin­nings and there­fore needed ba­sic po­lit­i­cal bap­tism and ori­en­ta­tion.

When­ever I as­cended plat­forms to re­cite the poem, the crowds would break into wild chants as they ate from the palm of my hand. Their de­mands for re­peats of the ren­di­tion were over­whelm­ing.

As a 14-year-old, I must con­fess that I had no idea who the peo­ple men­tioned in the poem were – Andimba Her­man Toivo ya Toivo, Agostinho Neto, Sam Nu­joma and Robert Mu­gabe. I was just go­ing with the flow of ex­cite­ment.

Un­til Cassy Cindi, a bril­liant po­lit­i­cal mind of our time, taught us who those African he­roes were, to us their names were funny and we used them to mock and tease one an­other. With a feel­ing of nos­tal­gia, since that tute­lage, I have come to re­spect and idolise Andimba Her­man Toivo ya Toivo.

Un­doubt­edly, the news of Ya Toivo’s death on June 9 sparked a wave of grief, es­pe­cially among the peo­ple of Namibia for whom he sac­ri­ficed his life. Africa has lost one of its free­dom fighters and heavy­weights.

In the life of every na­tion, lead­ers arise who leave an eter­nal stamp on their peo­ple, lead­ers who are prod­ucts and mak­ers of history. When they pass they re­mind us of our past and leave a vi­sion of a great fu­ture and the tools with which to build it. Ya Toivo was such a leader.

He was born on Au­gust 22, 1924 in Oman­gudu in the Oshikoto re­gion of north­ern Namibia. From 1951, when he left Namibia for Cape Town, un­til he passed on, he was a key fac­tor in the evo­lu­tion of bit­ter and re­lent­less po­lit­i­cal strug­gle of Namibia and in shap­ing its po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

A teacher, a rail­way po­lice of­fi­cer and an anti-apartheid ac­tivist, Ya Toivo founded the Ovam­boland Peo­ple’s Congress in Cape Town on Au­gust 2, 1957 to fight for the rights of mi­grant work­ers and against the in­cor­po­ra­tion of Namibia into South Africa. In pur­suit of its mis­sion, the OPC formed al­le­giances with the ANC, the SACP and the Congress of Democrats.

In 1959, he was de­ported back to Namibia for send­ing a tape to pe­ti­tion the UN on the oc­cu­pa­tion of Namibia by South Africa.

In 1960, Ya Toivo, Sam Nu­joma, An­dreas Shipanga and Louis Ne­len­gani co-founded the South West African Peo­ple’s Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Swapo).

In 1967, Ya Toivo and 36 other ac­cused were charged under the first trial of South Africa’s Ter­ror­ism Act. Dur­ing the trial he made a speech: “We are Namib­ians, and not South Africans. We do not now, and will not in the fu­ture, recog­nise your right to gov­ern us; to make laws for us, in which we had no say; to treat our coun­try as if it was your prop­erty and us as if you are our mas­ters. We have al­ways re­garded South Africa as an in­truder in our coun­try. This is how we have al­ways felt and this is how we feel now and it is on this ba­sis that we have faced this trial.”

On Fe­bru­ary 9, 1968 Ya Toivo was sen­tenced to 20 years in jail and sent to the Robben Is­land prison. He was re­leased in 1984 af­ter 16 years.

Af­ter a brief stay in Namibia, he re­joined Swapo in ex­ile in Lusaka and be­came its sec­re­tary-gen­eral.

Ya Toivo was en­dowed with great wis­dom. With rich ar­tic­u­la­tions, he de­picted an African soul, its strife and yearn­ings, its suf­fer­ings, sor­row and majesty. His in­born schol­ar­ship re­vealed in his cre­ative works, a keen­ness of in­tel­lect, a gift of vivid ex­pres­sion and the ar­bour of his great African soul, min­gled and fused with a power of rad­i­cal­ism to free the Namib­ian peo­ple.

Ya Toivo never doubted the vic­tory of his sa­cred cause to which he had ded­i­cated his life. The only thing he wanted for his pa­tri­ots was a right to a wor­thy life, to dig­nity with­out pre­tence and to free­dom with­out re­stric­tions.

He knew they were not alone. Africa, Asia, the free peo­ple and the peo­ple fight­ing for their free­dom in all cor­ners of the world would be with them.

Be­tween 1987 and 1988, the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army of Namibia, the mil­i­tary wing of Swapo, fought side by side with Umkhonto we Sizwe and the Cuban and An­golan forces to dis­lodge the apartheid de­fence force and the Unita rebels at the bat­tle of Cuito Carnevale.

In 1989, Swapo re­turned to Namibia af­ter de­feat­ing the Pre­to­ria regime and on March 21, 1990, Namibia achieved its in­de­pen­dence under Nu­joma. Ya Toivo be­came a mem­ber of par­lia­ment and oc­cu­pied var­i­ous cabi­net min­is­ter po­si­tions. He re­tired from pol­i­tics in 2006.

His warmth and hu­man­ity will re­main fresh in our minds for ever and we shall be in­spired by his ex­am­ples as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary and a great po­lit­i­cal fig­ure. As we pay trib­ute to him, we must work tire­lessly to erad­i­cate un­em­ploy­ment, cor­rup­tion and poverty in Africa. We must pledge our one­ness with the peo­ple of Namibia and pledge to carry Ya Toivo’s dream for­ward to cre­ate a bet­ter world and a bet­ter Africa for hu­mankind.

Hamba kahle Toivo ya Toivo!

He de­picted an African soul, its strife, sor­row and majesty

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