THE Nelson Mandela Foundation sends its condolences to the family, comrades and friends of Namibian freedom fighter, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, who has passed away at the age of 92.
Nelson Mandela spent around ten years in the same section on Robben Island with Ya Toivo and was touched by his militancy and stubborn rebelliousness.
Madiba was impressed by Toivo who refused to co-operate with the authorities and even would not participate in the system of grading prisoners to earn them a higher ranking and more privileges. He said that while some people, “behaved very well”, in order to be promoted, Ya Toivo was different.
“Andimba was not concerned about that. He didn’t care to be promoted and he wouldn’t cooperate with the authorities at all, in almost everything.”
“He was quite militant,” Madiba said. “He wanted very little to do with whites, with the warders.”
While Ya Toivo and his comrades from Namibia were on Robben Island, from early 1968, they were brought to the punishment section in May 1971.
Madiba and his comrades got to hear that the Namibians had embarked on a hunger strike, because of their isolation, and started their own solidarity hunger strike.
At the time the prison was run by the notorious commanding officer, Colonel Piet Badenhorst, and conditions were brutal.
The solidarity hunger strike angered the warders, who on 28 May 1971, embarked on a raid of B Section. Madiba and his comrades were stripped and made to stand in the icy winter night for some time, while their cells were searched. They only stopped their tormenting when Govan Mbeki collapsed. The next day Madiba and his comrades heard that the Namibians had been beaten up. Ya Toivo, who Madiba called “a formidable freedom fighter,” in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, had hit back and knocked down a warder.
Madiba left Robben Island on 31 March 1982, two years before Ya Toivo was released after having served 16 years of a 20 year sentence. In his famous rejection, on 10 February 1985, of apartheid South African President PW Botha’s offer to release him if he renounced violence, Madiba who had then served 22 years in jail said, through his daughter Zindzi, “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Herman Toivo ya Toivo, when freed, never gave any undertaking, nor was he called upon to do so.”
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015