Last Friday a dark cloud descended not only on Namibia, but on the entire African continent – and indeed, the international fraternity, when Herman Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo ultimately bowed out of the game of life.
Surely, he was not just a Namibian nationalist and freedom fighter, but in the dictum of Africanists, such as Kwame Nkurumah, African liberation would not be complete until the whole of Africa was liberated.
Ya Toivo surely must have been imbued by these words of wisdom, based on the indisputable premise that the African liberation jigsaw would only be complete with Namibia liberated, as well.
Thus it was not incidental that he served 16 years in the notorious place of political incarceration, Robben Island, together with contemporary freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela, Hitjevi Veii and Ahmad Kathrada, to mention a few.
These stalwarts together and under difficult prison conditions formed a formidable team of indomitable African lions and quintessential Africanists.
Beyond being an Africanist and African liberation fighter, Ya Toivo, was an internationalist, because before the ultimate founding of Swapo in the late 1960s he was among those who established its precursors, the Ovamboland People’s Organisation (OPO) and the Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC), which agitated mainly for the rights of contract labourers from the north.
Ya Toivo died three days before the 121st commemmoration of the political execution of erstwhile paramount chief of the Ovambanderu Kahimemua Nguvauva. Nguvauva died at the hands of a firing squad of the Schutztruppe, Imperial Germany’s colonial military troops in what was then German South West Africa.
He was executed exactly 121 years ago this Monday in Okahandja, together with another stalwart in the resistance against German colonialism, Nikodemus Kambahahiza Kavikunua after the Battle of Otjunda on May 6, 1896, in which a German by the name of Lampe was killed.
This angered the Germans, who subsequently embarked on a hot pursuit of Kahimemua, whom they captured at Omukuruvaro, and thereafter took him to Okahandja, where they executed him together with Kavikunua.
During the Battle of Otjunda about 3,000 cattle belonging to the Ovambanderu were confiscated, while the total number of cattle confiscated from the Ovambanderu between 1896 and 1897 were later estimated at 12,000.
The Battle of Otjunda led to the first exodus to then British Protectorate of Bechuanaland of the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu, respective followers of the two chiefs, Kavikunua and Nguvauva, who thus escaped extermination by the German military command and its indigenous allies at the time, which included a faction of the Ovaherero under Samuel Maharero, some Batswana and Nama.
Thus, as the Ovambanderu and the wider Namibian fraternity converges this weekend at their holy shrine in Okahandja, in remembrance of the 121st anniversary of the execution of erstwhile chief Nguvauva, and others like Munjuku II Nguvaauva, who were also laid to rest there, they cannot but also have in their deepest hearts, the memory of just departed Ya Toivo.
But it is futile for Namibians to pay tribute to the likes of Nguvauva and Ya Toivo if we cannot emulate their heroism, as well as the good values and virtues they represented. Foremost among these values was volunteerism and self sacrifice; values that do not come easily to us these days.
If one thinks of the rampant looting of the national wealth, it is a sad reminder of the decadence in which the country has been slowly regressing and deteriorating while the national coffers have been looted empty in broad daylight, like the recent disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars from SME Bank.
It is a well known fact that these millions, unlike those who have been in charge of them would like us believe, are now traceless and must have been stashed somewhere in foreign safe havens, only to be reclaimed by the looters and their accomplices; this while the country is bleeding from deep budgetary cuts.
The irony is that these very same looters are jumping on the bandwagon in paying homage to icons, like Ya Toivo. How dishonest! And most disturbing, those responsible shall never be brought to book.
Certainly, given such elements – who would be the first to pretend heartfelt grief in the event of national losses, such as that visited upon the country with the bowing out of Ya Toivo – this country needs serious soul searching.
This should be done if the homage we pay to our dearly departed heroes and heroines, and the annual pilgrimages to the shrines of many of our ancestors that we undertake, are to have any practical and everlasting meaning.