The renaming of the Ondangwa Airport to Andimba Toivo ya Toivo Airport is a welcome gesture which is highly appreciated. The act signifies the enormous contribution ya Toivo made to the growth of this town, to social and political developments in Northern Namibia and to the liberation of our motherland. Ya Toivo was one of the early business- people who traded in Northern Namibia. He was a trailblazer in business development in this town. He contributed to the economic growth of the town. More importantly, ya Toivo arrived in Northern Namibia from Cape Town in 1958 determined to change the social and political relations in the whole Northern Namibia. At the time the area was a reservoir of migrant workers under the notorious South West Africa Native Labour Association (SWANLA). The Native Commissioners controlled the people from Ondangwa through a system of indirect rule. They used the traditional rulers to enforce the colonial rule. Ya Toivo and his comrades were determined to dismantle such an arrangement by mobilizing the people to resist colonialism. It was in Ondangwa where ya Toivo was arrested on 9 September 1966 after the launch of the armed liberation struggle on 26 August 1966.
The Andimba Toivo ya Toivo Airport shall be the symbol of commitment, courage, determination, perseverance and integrity which were the embodiment of the personal qualities of Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. Through this presentation we shall hear his voice, thoughts and views through his own words, which should be the lasting legacy to the generations to come.
Andimba ya Toivo moved to Cape Town in 1951. He migrated to South Africa in order to be able to further his education while working. In Cape Town he met activists of the African National Congress, the leaders of the Congress of Democrats, the Indian Congress and those of the Coloured People’s Organization and many underground members of the Communist Party. He associated himself in particular with such figures as Professor Jack Simons and his wife, trade union leader Ray Alexander, Denis Goldberg, Albie Sachs, Ben Turok and others who were fighting for a non-racial South Africa. Through these interactions he became politically active. He witnessed the mobilization leading to the Congress of the People that adopted the Freedom Charter. He organized fellow Namibians who were working in and around Cape Town to found, the Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC) in 1957. The Organization became widely known when on 5 September 1958 ya Toivo sent a recorded message to the United Nations in New York. In this massage he informed the world body as follows:
“… 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 System of the United Nations and to end the misery inflicted upon us by the Government of South Africa.”
He further stated: “…We also request the United Nations to send a Commission to South West Africa to study the appalling conditions of our people on the spot and to report back to the General Assembly.”
This message fired the revolutionary imaginations of the Namibian patriots.
They started to mobilise themselves against the contract labour system, the Apartheid discrimination laws and foreign rule.
This led to the transformation of OPC to Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO) and eventually to the South West People’s Organization (SWAPO). The seed of liberation was planted by Andimba ya Toivo.
When the South Africa Government became aware of ya Toivo’s Petition to the United Nations, it ordered him to leave Cape Town and go back to South West Africa. Before he left Cape Town on 4 December 1958 he met his compatriots and informed them as follows: “… I took a vow and promised them that I would not look back and not let them down, but I would carry on with the struggle even if it took me to prison.”
Ya Toivo started his political mobilization work in December 1958. Northern Namibia then was politically asleep.
Traditional leaders were under strict instructions from the colonial authorities not allow political activities under the areas of their jurisdiction. Ya Toivo and his comrades found it difficult to move around and to mobilise the masses, but they persevered. The political awakening started to grow, especially among the youth.
Many young people decided to join the struggle abroad with the hope of accessing study opportunities. In this way SWAPO embarked on intensified international mobilisation campaign to gain political, material and moral support. SWAPO grew at home and abroad despite many challenges and obstacles.
On 7 August 1967 ya Toivo and many of his comrades were put on trial in the Pretoria Supreme Court. On 1 February 1968 ya Toivo delivered his Statement in Pretoria Supreme Court on behalf of himself, co-accused and his compatriots. Among others he stated:
“… I have come to know that our people cannot expect progress as a gift from anyone… Progress is something we have to struggle for.”
He continued: “… I have spent my life working for SWAPO which is an ordinary political party like any other. Suddenly we in SWAPO found that a war situation had arisen and that our colleagues and South Africa were facing each other on the field of battle. I had not been responsible for organizing my people militarily and although I believe we were unwise to fight the might of South Africa while we were so weak, I could not refuse to help them when the time came.”
He further emphasized: “…When I consider my country, I am proud that my countrymen have taken up arms for their people and I believe that anyone who calls himself a man would not despite them.”
He concluded: “…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.”
Those are the words of a courageous freedom fighter. They should inspire future generations to face the current challenges of under-development.
Andimba ya Toivo persevered in his courage and determination during his eighteen years of imprisonment in Pretoria and on Robbin Island. He was eventually released on 28 February 1984. His dedication to the liberation struggle started in 1957 and reached its height on 21 March 1990 when Namibia achieved its independence. He was one of the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the Namibian Nation who signed its first Constitution. In his valedictory statement on 16 March 2005 when he retired from the Parliament, he stated the following:
“… I am a member of a generation that brought this Parliament into being and I take pride in the contributions that we made over the past fifteen years to build a sound foundation of laws for our young nation.”
He continued: “…I appeal to the present and future members of Parliament to work selflessly, honestly, progressively and patriotically to defend the hard-won independence of our motherland Namibia.
Being a member of Parliament or even a Minister should not to be seen as an opportunity to achieve status or riches. If those are your goals, you would do better to pursue other careers.”
He concluded: “… The task of formulating laws as representatives of the Namibian people was indeed a collective responsibility for all of us, and I must proudly say that we have traversed the most difficult times and stood together in the spirit of patriotism to serve Namibia and its people first.”
Advice to future generations
During his long and productive life as a politician, leader and patriotic Namibian, Andimba ya Toivo believed in the importance of adhering to strong principles and values in the ongoing struggle of the Namibian people to achieve social and economic emancipation. I will share with you some of the valuable advice and observations that he left for us.
Andimba ya Toivo taught us, in his Farewell Address to the National Assembly, in March 2005 : “…The problem of the nation…cannot be overcome unless we as a nation embrace common values of honesty, integrity, hard-work, unity, fairness and respect and caring for each other”.
He further cautioned, in his Statement to the Fifth African Continental Conference of Solidarity with Cuba, Windhoek, 5 June 2017, a few days before his death: : “…It is possible to build a society without poverty, where children are not malnourished and can grow to achieve their potential, where justice is not limited to a privileged few, and where the expansion and refinement of democracy is a never-ending process that is owned by the people”.
His advice to the youth, in his speech at his 90th Birthday Celebration at Independence Stadium, Windhoek, on 13 September 2014: “… Study hard, work hard and remember where you come from. Your energy and innovation can make Namibia a great and prosperous nation, if you are honest and keep your eyes on our goals. I have confidence in you.
I have no doubt that we can be victorious in economic struggle, if we maintain our principles, our determination and our love for our country.”
He concluded: “… We must also maintain our solidarity with the peoples of other countries in our global village”.
Andimba ya Toivo was the embodiment of true patriotism and internationalism. His values should be the heritage of generations to come. Andimba ya Toivo Airport at Ondangwa should be the constant reminder of Andimba ya Toivo’s Voice of Liberation.