Many Namibian liberation heroes are in the evening of their lives, an uncomfortable reality of life. The death last week of Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, at the age of nearly 93, was a sad reminder of the gradual extinction of that crop of Namibian heroes.
Namibia is drenched in the blood of revolutionary heroes – people who took up the cause of bringing about change in an existing system. The majority of such heroes excelled in the war of either resistance or liberation.
For the war of resistance, it was the Samuel Mahareros, Hendrick Witbbois and others who were the champions. Ya Toivo, Sam Nujoma, Ben Ulenga, Hage Geingob and many of their peers became heroes in the war of liberation.
They are revolutionaries who have been responsible for changes in the political, religious and even economic ideologies experienced in Namibia today, compared to how society looked like 50 or so years ago.
They decided that they had had enough of the injustices enforced by a system and decided to – directly or indirectly – take steps to facilitate the removal of that system.
But with war long gone, Namibia still faces revolutions in different spheres – be it in sport, politics or academia – with each one of those needing its own champions.
In other words, revolutionaries cannot be confined to wars alone. Namibia needs heroes of science, engineering, commerce and agriculture. We need revolutionaries of technology and industry if our own industrial revolution, as is aspired in Vision 2030, is to be realised.
Some of the key aspects that shaped the revolutionary acumen of people like Ya Toivo were fortitude, selflessness, patriotism and vision. The new heroes we’re in search of would have to possess such characteristics, else they won’t make the cut.
It was because of such characteristics that Che Guevara, the legendary Argentinian political activist, gave his life for the downfall of imperialism and the establishment of socialism. It is through his relentless work that he became the countercultural symbol of rebellion and revolution.
Namibia cannot afford to fall into the traps of other African nations who have failed to defend the legacies of their revolutionaries or produce replacements for their heroes.
Present-day DRC is not a reflection of Patrice Lumumba’s ideals since his death in 1961. The loss of Felix Moumie in Cameroon, Sylvanus Olympio in Togo, Mehdi Ben Barka of Morocco and Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique has left those nations broken in many ways.
It is hard to find new heroes in a generation that cares more for individual parochial gratification than the greater good of society. This is a generation that would stare idly at injustices as long as their own well-being is secured.
Many of Namibia’s liberation war heroes had their personal lives sorted. Geingob, Ya Toivo, Hifikepunye Pohamba and many others were schoolteachers with guaranteed income.
But, rather selflessly, they observed that while they had a certain degree of personal gratification, their immediate compatriots did not enjoy the same economic and political liberties. They hence decided to quit their jobs and head into the wilderness to fight for the greater good of their country.
Sam Nujoma, a revolutionary of global stature, left his young wife and kids behind and trekked through the jungles to find solutions to his country’s political problems.
We need heroes of that magnitude in the fields that speak to the contemporary needs of our country.