By Marianne Nghidengwa
A selfless man to the very end…
This is how former General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), Dr Abisai Shejavali, described Herman Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, whom he welcomed back home in 1984, after his release from Robben Island prison.
Ya Toivo passed away last Friday at his home in Klein Windhoek at the age of 92.
Shejavali said this week that Ya Toivo’s 16 years of incarceration on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, did not do enough to deter him from continuing the fight for his country’s liberation.
“We were jubilant to have him back home. People were celebrating. Likewise, he was happy to be back home,” Shejavali said.
He said that Ya Toivo was more concerned about the country’s independence than himself, while adding that his activities, upon being released, were aimed at liberating the country.
“His aim was independence. But when he was released in 1984, the country was still not liberated. So the struggle for independence continued, because his concern was exactly that.”
Shejavali was at the helm of the CCN between 1983 and 1992. He said the organisation was an important factor, in terms of mobilising internal resistance to apartheid, and was a major receiver of international funding.
He added that the CCN also lobbied the international community to put pressure on South Africa to release political prisoners.
He described the late Ya Toivo as a brave man, whose countrymen regarded him a hero. “He was to Namibia what Nelson Mandela was to South Africa. People appreciated him and regarded him as a hero.”
Echoing the same sentiments, former Swapo Deputy Secretary for Administration and CCN Treasurer, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, said Ya Toivo’s release was a big event for the country.
“That was a big event for the country. The churches played a pivotal role in assisting ex-prisoners. Of course Ya Toivo was in a different category, because of the leadership he had shown. His was a name different from others,” Ngatjizeko said.
He said the church had to ensure that the released prisoners were accommodated and briefed about the country’s socio, political and economic situation.
“Having been away from society for long, they had to be briefed about the situation on the ground. There was also a stipulation for them to join their families.”
He described Ya Toivo as a mature person, who found it easy to engage with people.
“One could see that he was jubilant to be home. He talked to people. But how he felt internally, we wouldn’t know. He was a mature person and retained the same character he had, until his death.
“We were all happy to see him and the church mobilised people to receive him.”
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015