Windhoek-President Hage Geingob on Friday hailed fellow struggle icon Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, whom he said was one of the greatest revolutionaries of Namibia’s liberation struggle.
Speaking at the memorial service held at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek, Geingob said Ya Toivo – who died on June 9 at the age of 92 – triumphed under difficult circumstances.
Ya Toivo was incarcerated on Robben Island for 16 years, making him the longest serving Namibian in that notorious prison.
He was laid to rest on Saturday at Heroes Acre outside Windhoek following a state funeral with full military honours.
“His nerves of steel came to the fore during the infamous trial of The State v. Tuhadeleni and 36 Others, in June 1967, where he delivered a defiant statement in his resolute talking style,” Geingob said in his speech.
Ya Toivo served as Swapo secretary-general when the Founding President Sam Nujoma was the revolutionary movement’s president. Ya Toivo retired from active politics in 2006 and the following year, 2007, Nujoma relinquished the Swapo presidency.
Geingob said deep in the apartheid headquarters of Pretoria, Ya Toivo reminded the racist South African regime: ‘We do not now, and will not in the future, recognise your right to govern us; to make laws for us, in which we had no say; to treat our country as if it were your property and us as if you are our masters.’
Geingob said Ya Toivo, a co-founder of the party, delivered this stinging rebuke in the belly of the beast with the full knowledge that his captors had no reservations about killing those who displayed dissent or resistance.
“He was ready to face the most serious of repercussions. Just like another icon of the struggle against apartheid, Comrade Nelson Mandela, who three years earlier, in the Rivonia Trial in the same court, had declared his willingness to die for the cause,” he said.
Geingob said Ya Toivo was similarly inclined to sacrifice his life for the ideal of a better humanity.
Geingob defined Ya Toivo as a stubborn, principled, fearless and selfless man who hated liars and thieves.
“When thinking about Andimba’s character, a Swahili proverb, ‘wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him’, comes to mind. It is no surprise that Comrade Ya Toivo’s character followed him all his life. Like a sweet and commanding fragrance, it permeated everything he touched,” he said.
The former president said that with a clear vision of the way ahead, Ya Toivo’s compass was calibrated to seek fairness and justice.
He said his prior life as a teacher, a farmworker, a railway police officer, a soldier in the Second World War gave him unique preparation for this difficult journey.
“Ya Toivo could speak English. Not many black people in 1958 could speak English, never mind in a court of law. Now imagine an eloquent, fearless speaker and an excellent mobiliser who used his talents to inspire hope to the oppressed and fear to the oppressors,” he said.
He said ‘Toivo’ is a Finnish name for ‘hope’ and Ya Toivo was indeed “our beacon of hope”.
Geingob said Ya Toivo delegitimised the apartheid regime and articulated a rallying cry of the oppressed by saying, ‘The struggle will be long and bitter.’
He said harassment, incarceration and exile did not break the spirit of Ya Toivo nor silence his powerful voice, “it simply made him louder”.
“Comrade Ya Toivo rose like a phoenix from the dusty sands of Omangundu,” he said, adding that his selfless service to the Namibian people serve as a constant reminder of the renewal of mind and spirit required to drive Namibia to prosperity.