By Elvis Muraranganda
AS the nation continues to mourn the late Herman Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, his peers said this week that he had proven his humility in the period after his release in 1984, when he stepped aside for Dr Sam Nujoma, despite in expectation inside the country that he may be elevated to the party presidency.
Ya Toivo settled for the position of Swapo Secretary-General.
Many who were around at the time, told Confidente this week that this was a sign of Ya Toivo’s humility and love for unity within the party.
Ya Toivo was released from Robben Island prison on 1 March 1984, after serving 16 years of a 20-year sentence, and the same year he became member of the Swapo Central Committee, as well as the politburo, and was elected the party’s SG in Zambia.
At the time, Swapo was divided into two camps, an exile camp led by Nujoma, and those inside the country, who looked to Ya Toivo for leadership.
Before Ya Toivo’s release, in the 1970s, the Swapo in exile camp was rocked by heavy split, after a group led by Andreas Zack Shipanga demanded that the movement hold an elective congress. This led to the detention of Shipanga and his followers, who later left to form what was known as SWAPO D.
Also, in 1980, the movement in exile expelled former Swapo Vice-President, Mishake Muyongo, who led his Caprivi African National Union (CANU) out of Swapo.
According to former Robben Island prisoner and retired parliamentarian, Ben Ulenga, it was these events that may have informed Ya Toivo’s wisdom not to demand a position within the party.
“At the time there were no talks that Ya Toivo must become Swapo president. There was no congress held yet. There was a consensus in Swapo at the time for the detention of Shipanga, who was demanding for an elective congress,” Ulenga told Confidente.
“Many Swapo leaders at the time, including Nujoma, did not support this idea (of a congress); they did not want any changes in Swapo leadership.
“When Ya Toivo was released, the situation in Swapo was still the same. Nujoma was president; how it happened, we do not know, as there was no congress. Ya Toivo did not want to demand for a position.”
According to Ulenga, Ya Toivo rather opted to ask what the movement wanted him to do.
“He wanted to serve, not in positions but on assignments. He wanted to be given tasks from the party and which carried out. He availed himself at the disposal of the party.”
Ulenga who was a Swapo deputy minister and diplomat until forming the Congress of Democrats in 1999, stressed that after Ya Toivo’s release it was not clear what his position in the party was; they only heard later that he was the SG.
Ulenga added that the position was first held by the late Jacob Kuhangua and was vacant at the time of Ya Toivo’s release.
During a 2012 interview with the NBC, Ya Toivo said, “They asked me what position I wanted and I asked them what positions they wanted to give. I said it was up to them and they gave me the position of SG.”
Swapo spokesperson Helmut Angula indicated that Swapo has always had a constitution, which guides the election of office bearers.
“At the time, when he was released, we held a large central committee meeting, which elected the leadership for five years. There was no special position reserved for anyone. But out of consideration, the leadership at the time decided to restructure, to allow and accommodate Comrade Ya Toivo, and they felt the position of SG was the befitting for him,” Angula explained.
He added that at the time there could have been those who wanted Ya Toivo to become president, but they never spoke out about it.
“Personally, I do not think that according to the constitution, he had an option of choosing a position he wants. We had not had any congress, but held enlarged central committees, which made decision in [absence] of the congress,” Angula said.
“Anyone could be elected to any position; no one can demand what positions they want. But of course, we are all entitled to our opinions. I do not think there was any time that Ya Toivo demanded for a specific position.”
Former Swapo parliamentarian, Ben Amathila, told mourners at the Ya Toivo residence this week that Swapo and the nation had failed Ya Toivo.
“We have failed Ya Toivo, in not recognising him with a befitting honour, while he was alive. It is not about positions and money, but honouring him for what he did for this country,” said Amathila.
He added that the famous Ya Toivo speech in the trial that led to his sentencing in a Pretoria court in 1968 should become part of the school’s history curriculum.
Just like Ya Toivo who founded OPO which culminated into Swapo, veteran politician Mburumba Kerina who is revered for coining the name Namibia, described him as martyr whose contribution to this country cannot be underplayed.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015