Sunday 20 June 2021
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In Memory of Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: 22 August 1924 – 9 June 2017

For ninety-three years, a bright star shown on the Namibian sky! This was a star of hope for the Namibian Nation. Sadly, this star faded into oblivion on the afternoon of June 9th, 2017. Andimba Toivo ya Toivo completed his journey on Mother Earth. He went   quietly without a warning. He joined his ancestors in Eternity. The 9th June,2018 marks the first anniversary of  his departure from us. We miss him! It is important, however, to keep his memory alive given his immense contribution to the liberation of our Motherland.
The life of Andimba Toivo ya Toivo was characterized by trials and tribulations! At the personal level he experienced family tragedies in his youth. In 1935 his father died suddenly. In the same year his elder brother also died.  Andimba was at the time only eleven years old. He however had to assume the responsibility of assisting his mother to take care of the family. This was a big challenge. The patriarchal rule of Aawambo deprived the family of land after the demise of his father. The family was only saved by the extended family networks. Andimba had to play his part in insuring the well being of his siblings.
It was against this background that during the Second World War, Andimba enlisted himself in the South African Native Military Corp. He volunteered to fight against fascism on the side of the Allied Forces. This experience was crucial in shaping his world view. In particular, Ya Toivo came to appreciate the importance of education. After his demobilization from the militsary he decided to go back to school. He enrolled himself at St Marry’s Anglican School at Odibo in Oukwanyama District of Ovamboland. He studied there from 1945 to 1950. He qualified as a teacher. He however felt that he needed further education. It was for this reason that he decided to go to Cape Town in South Africa to seek for employment and the opportunities for further studies.
He arrived in Cape Town in 1951. At that time South Africa was a hot bed of anti-Apartheid struggles. The African National Congress was in intense struggle against the Apartheid laws which the ruling white only National Party were imposing on the country. Ya Toivo became interested in the struggle against Apartheid. He joined the anti-Apartheid organisations such as the African National Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Modern Youth Society. This was the beginning of a life trajectory of a protracted political struggle.
Andimba Toivo ya Toivo started to mobilise his fellow country men who were working in Cape Town and the surrounding areas. In 1957 Ya Toivo, Emil Appolus, Solmon Mifima, Thimothy Nangolo, Joseph Philemon, Peter Mweshihange, Maxton Joseph Mutongolume, Uatja Kaukuetu, and others launched the Ovamboland Peoples Congress (OPC). Ya Toivo and others started to petition the United Nations in the name of OPC. The Ovamboland Peples Congress later changed to Ovamboland Peoples Organisation (OPO) which in subsequent years changed into South West Africa Peoples Organisation(SWAPO).  On 5 September 1958 Ya Toivo sent a tape- recorded message to the Fourth Committee of the United Nations. The message read in part: “…the time has come for the people of South West Africa to exercise their rights as human beings. Having become victims of a vicious totalitarian Government of South Africa, we the people of South West Africa humbly request the United Nations to revoke the Mandate and place the Territory under the Trusteeship of the United Nations and to end the misery inflicted upon us by the Government of the Union of South Africa”. The message further urged the United Nations to send a Commission of Enquiry to South West Africa to study the appalling conditions of the people of the Territory and report back to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The South African Authorities gave Ya Toivo 72 hours to leave Cape Town. Before leaving Cape Town on 14 December 1958, Ya Toivo held a meeting with his comrades at Sea Point. He took a vow and promised them that he would not look back and shall not let them down but shall carry on the struggle even if it took him to prison.
Andimba Toivo ya Toivo returned to Northern Namibia in January 1959. At that time Northern Namibia was an isolated area which served as a reservoir of Contract labourers. The Area was under the indirect colonial rule where the chiefs exercised traditional rule under the supervision of the Native Commissioner. This was the situation Ya Toivo and his comrades faced when they returned to Ovamboland. They started their political mobilisation work under very difficult conditions. They, however, were determined to challenge the status quo. They started first to mobilise the Contract workers against the exploitative labour conditions in the Territory. They mobilised the youth against the Bantu Education system. They mobilised the peasants against the colonial Native Commissioner rule through a whip. The pollical message was well received by the population of Northern Namibia. Many young people volunteered to leave the country and join the struggle abroad. Many workers did the same. The SWAPO leadership abroad organised study opportunities for the youth. A military training programme was also initiated. The Liberation Movement further intensified the mobilization of the international community to render political, diplomatic and material support to the struggle for national liberation. By 1965 the Liberation Movement had cadres trained in guerrilla warfare. A platoon of guerrillas infiltrated the Territory and started to recruit and train new fighters inside Namibia. These were the cadres who participated in the Battle of Omugulu-Goombashe on 26 August,1966.
Following the Battle of Omugulu-Goombashe, Ya  Toivo and the entire leadership of SWAPO were arrested , transported to Pretoria and tried there under the Terrorism Act.  On February 1, 1968 Ya Toivo in his plea for mitigation Statement at Pretoria High Court re-affirmed his faith in the struggle and his trust in his people to wage that struggle to its logical end: “ I am a loyal Namibian and I could not betray my people to their enemies. I admit that I decided to assist those who had taken up arms. I know the struggle will be long and bitter. I also know that my people will wage that struggle, whatever the cost”.  On 9 February 1968 Ya Toivo was sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment at Robbin Island. He served eighteen years and was released in 1984.
Namibia attained its Independence on 21 March 1990. Indeed, the struggle was bitter and long! Through commitment, perseverance, and sacrifices the people of Namibia fulfilled the dream of Ya Toivo and his comrades. Speaking on the occasion of his 90th birthday Ya Toivo expressed his satisfaction for his humble contribution to struggle for his people:  “ I am proud to be part of a generation of men and women who were able to achieve the noble goal that we set ourselves: to liberate our motherland and to restore our dignity as equal members of human family. We followed in the footsteps of our brave ancestors, who were prepared to sacrifice their lives to challenge foreign domination and oppression”. The star of hope is physically no more with us. His courage and determination shall however continue to inspire the future generations. The youth should study and emulate the character of liberation icons such as Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. The nation need new champions in the struggle against under-development, poverty and inequality!
Citizen Nahas Angula

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