Speaker extols fallen struggle icon

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George Sanzila

Windhoek-Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi, has described the late struggle stalwart Andimba Toivo ya Toivo as a selfless and dedicated leader who defended social and economic justice for all during the trying times of apartheid.

The Speaker noted that Ya Toivo’s ultimate goal throughout his political activism was to pursue Namibia’s self-determination even at the expense of his own incarceration.

Katjavivi was paying tribute to Ya Toivo at the family residence on Monday where scores of mourners gathered to remember a fallen giant whose outstanding gallantry played a key role in Namibia attaining political independence.

He noted that despite Ya Toivo facing inhuman and sometimes life-threatening treatment from his South African jailers he remained steadfast and resolutely believed that independence would be achieved.

“Comrade Andimba dedicated his long and active life to the cause of the people of Namibia. He had a vision that Namibia would be a country whose proud people can determine their own destiny. He was committed to social and economic justice for all, anchored on the improvement of the lives of ordinary people to which Swapo has been committed since its foundation,” reminisced Katjavivi.

Even though he did not achieve the fabled reputation that surrounded Nelson Mandela, they were both jailed for many years in the notorious Robben Island prison.

Katjavivi further related his first encounter with the fallen hero which emanated from the setting up of Swapo representation in the UK to raise awareness on the plight of Namibian liberation fighters who had been put on trial in South Africa following the introduction of the terrorism act.

Katjavivi then spearheaded the Swapo foreign relations office covering the rest of Western Europe on instruction of founding president Sam Nujoma.

“My first task was to mobilise international public opinion against the South African regime in Namibia and to raise awareness of the ongoing trial of our people in Pretoria. We worked to ensure that the trial was properly observed as the international committee of the Red Cross and other organisations were fully deployed to constantly monitor the welfare of Namibian political prisoners in South African jails.” The generated international solidarity would result in the appointment of Ya Toivo as vice-president of the University of Hull in the United Kingdom by the students union in camaraderie and support for him and other Namibian political prisoners. Ya Toivo was released in 1984 and met Katjavivi in the United Kingdom where he visited the university to offer his appreciation for the support and assistance that had contributed to his release.

“When comrade Andimba was released in 1984 he joined the rest of us in exile and undertook a familiarization tour around the world. On one of these tours he visited the UK and that is where I first met him. He insisted that he must visit the University of Hull to express his thanks in person to the student union,” narrated the Speaker.

Katjavivi noted that Ya Toivo was a unifying force that fiercely advocated for the downtrodden as his own early life as a farm worker was once subjected to exploitation and abuse. “He was calm, peaceful and easily approachable. He was a unifying force. He was a farm worker who experienced first-hand the terrible conditions of contract workers. This played a major part in his involvement to liberate Namibia. His politics has always been rooted in concern for workers and the underprivileged,” eulogised Katjavivi.

He implored Namibians to continue to work hard and maintain peace and stability in keeping with the spirit of Ya Toivo.

The struggle stalwart, who died last week Friday, has been accorded national hero status and will be buried at Heroes Acre on June 24.

* George Sanzila is the chief information officer in the division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly.

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