By Elvis Muraranganda
FORMER President Hifikepunye Pohamba has described fallen Namibian liberation icon and former Robben Island prisoner, Herman Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, as an African and global hero.
Pohamba was speaking on Tuesday night at Ya Toivo’s Klein Windhoek residence, where a host of dignitaries had come to pay their respects, following the former Robben Island prisoner’s death last Friday.
At the wake service, it was also confirmed that Ya Toivo will be buried at the Heroes’ Acre on the 24 June, and that his memorial service will be held a day before, at a location yet to be announced.
On Thursday, his remains will be flown to the North for a memorial service at a school bearing his name, before returning to Windhoek on 17 June.
On Tuesday, Pohamba narrated his encounters with the late Swapo stalwart, and also elaborated on the pivotal role Ya Toivo had played in the struggle for Namibia’s liberation, and the formative stages of Swapo.
“After the independence of this country, I visited Robben Island with him. We went to see the conditions under which they were living and working,” a sombre Pohamba said.
“But despite the conditions there, none of them submitted to the South Africans.
“The liberation of this country did not come on a silver platter. Under the leadership of Sam Nujoma, Ya Toivo and many others, it came through bloodshed. Some people seem not to be recognising this,” Pohamba said.
“He (Ya Toivo) was a hero to African countries and a hero of the world.”
Pohamba also stressed that the late Peter Nanyemba should not be forgotten in the annals of history, because he “played a big a role, when it came to the fight for liberation”.
Nanyemba was a Namibian freedom fighter and guerrilla commander of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), who died in a car accident in Lubango, Angola in 1983.
Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) leader Jeremiah Nambinga, who is also a former Swapo politician, said Ya Toivo had taught Namibians how to live among other human beings.
“I was asked by the Ya Toivo family to say something. I thought it will never happen, given the political situation in the country. I am deeply honoured,” Nambinga said.
He also gave his account of how Ya Toivo refused to be released from Robben Island, in solidarity with others behind bars in the notorious prison.
Ya Toivo served 16 years in Robben Island prison, in the same section as Nelson Mandela.
He was released from prison in 1984 and rejoined Swapo in exile in Lusaka, Zambia. He returned to Namibia in 1989, in the wake of the country’s independence and served as a member of parliament and as a Cabinet minister in Nujoma’s government. He retired from active politics in 2006.
Nambinga said that Ya Toivo had questioned the agenda of the apartheid government, when they wanted to release him from Robben Island.
“He said, Nambinga, I am here for a course; I wonder what the agenda of the South Africans is to release me, while my fellow inmates are still in prison?” he recalled on Tuesday.
National Assembly Speaker, Peter Katjavivi, gave a brief history of Ya Toivo, from the Second World War, his discharge from the army, his school life, career as a teacher, contract labourer and his employment in South Africa, up to his imprisonment on Robben Island.
“He was a non-assuming, highly principled individual. He was an anchor for activism, and in him one found a reliable big brother, friend and uncle,” said Katjavivi.
“His home became a mobilising centre, even when they thought they [the South Africans] had demobilised him in their own way.
“He was committed to economic and social justice for all. Even in his advanced age, he attended the Conference on African Solidarity with Cuba, and he delivered.
“He was always gentle, had a great sense of humour, and was a unifying force; he had fatherly qualities towards the Namibian people.”
Katjavivi stressed that the best tribute that Namibians can give to Ya Toivo, is to continue working hard to maintain peace and stability.
“He was larger than life, and will always remain with us. His footsteps will forever be part of this country, from generation to generation.”
The wake service was also attended by Nujoma, former First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Swapo Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba, former Prime Minister Nahas Angula and academics, Joseph Diescho and Andrew Niikondo, among many other dignitaries.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015