WINDHOEK – Former Robben Island prisoner, Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, has described the late Gerson Veii – himself a former inmate at the notorious island jail – as a fearless and uncompromising freedom fighter, who contributed significantly to the independence of Namibia.
Ya Toivo said Veii made a “sterling” contribution to the struggle for liberation and sacrificed a lot in his life to ensure the attainment of freedom and democracy.
“He will be remembered for his energy, stubbornness, efficiency and commitment to making this country a better place for each one of us day. He will also be remembered for his passion for human rights for all,” 90-year-old Ya Toivo said.
The two former inmates shared a ward on Robben Island for three years, Ya Toivo told New Era exclusively yesterday. Ya Toivo was incarcerated for 19 years, while Veii spent five years in the infamous prison.
Ya Toivo recollects that because of his fluency in Afrikaans, Veii was used as a negotiator between the white colonial supremos and black prisoners.
“The fact the President Hifikepunye Pohamba offered him a hero’s funeral at the Heroes Acre speaks volumes of his contribution,” he said.
Veii, 79, died on Saturday in Windhoek. He was a founding member of Swanu and served as the party’s president from 1968 to 1982. After independence he was appointed as the first governor of Kunene Region.
According to the deceased’s younger brother, Katjimuina, Veii was the first Namibian to be tried under the 1962 Sabotage Act of apartheid South Africa. Following a December 1967 speech in Windhoek’s Old Location against the incarceration of Swapo leaders in the wake of the military actions at Omugulugwombashe he was arrested, convicted of inciting racial hatred, and sentenced to five years in prison. He spent one year in solitary confinement in Pretoria, and a further four years on Robben Island.
Upon his release in 1972, he had developed a brain tumour and several other debilitating health problems. His family suspected that he was experimented on Robben Island. He is survived by his wife, Adele, and eight children.
Veii will be laid to rest next week Wednesday at the Heroes Acre and a memorial services is to be held at Parliament Gardens on Tuesday.