AS the news filtered in about the death of Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo last Friday, many Namibians must have felt a feeling of disbelief.
Even at the age of 92, the anti-apartheid icon, who many this week referred to as Land of the Brave’s very own Nelson Mandela, had never strayed far from the hearts and minds of most Namibians.
He had retired from active politics in 2006, after an illustrious political career, having served his country diligently and honesty in three Cabinet portfolios, mines and energy, labour and prisons and correctional services.
During the liberation struggle, he was incarcerated in the notorious Robben Island apartheid prison from the age of 43. He spent 16 years locked up under the most atrocious conditions imaginable, far from his loved ones and the nation he was trying to liberate.
No one can know what he was actually going through, and whether despair and hopelessness had threatened to overwhelm him.
No one can know what thoughts he may have had during his time in solitary confinement, where he fumed and fought against his imprisonment in a foreign land, while having to drink up the hatred and disgust of racists.
But the story of Ya Toivo’s life did not end there.
This in itself is a testament to the kind of man he was, uncompromising and unbreakable, in the face of whatever life could throw at him.
After his release, the founding member of the ruling party rejoined Swapo in Lusaka, where he continued to work tirelessly for the liberation of his people. From 1984 to 1991, he was the Swapo Secretary-General.
And when the sweet smell of freedom finally began to permeate the air, he returned home, to play a further role in the development of the land of his birth.
So great was his stature, that he could easily have challenged Dr Sam Nujoma for the Swapo, and ultimately the Namibian presidency, but that is not who Ya Toivo was.
He lived, and ultimately died, with his principles intact.
It was his selflessness, and his desire to see his country free, that had motivated his years of activism and sacrifice.
The allure of ultimate power, as the Head of State, did not concern him, and he went about quietly and efficiently taking up the cudgels of building a post-apartheid Namibia, to the benefit of all. In today’s cut-throat and power-hungry political circus, it may be difficult for the current protagonists to understand this kind of character.
During his farewell speech from government on 15 March 2005, delivered in the National Assembly, Ya Toivo urged his fellow MPs to act as “models of public and private conduct to your fellow citizens, particularly the youth”.
He added that there was no room in the public service for “people who use their positions to enrich themselves”.
This sentiment remains a breath of fresh air in the current political dynamic in Namibia and Africa, generally.
Ya Toivo never even had a second thought about clinging to political life, and remained above the unfolding political dramas in the current.
And today, as we feel the pain of his loss, together with his wife and children, we have to ask ourselves how this man was fashioned, formed and cut from such a unique cloth.
Perhaps it is therefore appropriate to ask: How is a man measured in the end?
Is it by the accolades received, a happy family life, friendships fostered, depth of intellectual ability or the material wealth that is accumulated during his days on earth?
In the case of the man, the activist, the leader, Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, it was about living a life of principle, above all else. May his soul rest in eternal peace!
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015