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Ya Toivo celebrates 90th birthday

By Kayele M. Kambombo
Andimba Herman Toivo ya Toivo, who is the most renowned as liberation struggle icon of our time celebrated his milestone 90th birthday last Saturday in Windhoek at the Independence Stadium.

The belated occasion was attended by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings former Ghanaian President, anti-apartheid lawyer, Advocate George Bizo, some couple of Robben Islanders, Parliamentarians as well as people from all walks of life. Other dignitaries came from as far as Russia, Finland and the United States of America.

The liberation struggle stalwart, brave and living hero, ya Toivo was described by many as a fearless and a pillar of strength. Ya Toivo was one of the 37 South West African (now Namibians) defendants on trial in Pretoria from August 1967 to 1968.

Among them were other leaders of SWAPO: Acting President Comrade Nathaniel Maxuilili, Acting Secretary General Cde John Otto and Cde Jason Mutumbulwa (all are late). All were charged under the Terrorism Act, with attempting to overthrow the colonial government of South Africa and to replace it with a government constituted by SWAPO members. By then, the South African government has said that "at least 82 other individuals are involved and new mass trials may be held."

Ya Toivo's famous statement that he delivered under the oath in a Pretoria court on February 1, 1968 reached the world when he spoke pointedly: "We are Namibians and not South Africans. We do not now, and will not in the future recognize your right to govern us; to make laws for us in which we have no say; to treat our country as if it were your property and us as if you were our masters".

This was indeed a sign of bravery as Ya Toivo spoke, not for himself but for the others, especially those of his fellow accused who had not had the benefit of any education and included the overwhelming majority of non-white people in the then South West Africa. Speaking at the same occasion President Hifikepunye Pohamba gave rave review of Comrade Toivo ya Toivo "as an extraordinary man, a dedicated patriot, and an international and progressive thinker."

The Head of State reassured Ya Toivo that the nation recognises his mammoth contribution to the struggle for Namibia's liberation and independence, as well as "your sterling and significant role in the socioeconomic development of our country following the attainment of independence. I am here this morning to say that as a nation, we deeply appreciate you, and are inspired by your exceptional qualities of bravery, tenacity and leadership at a crucial time of the formation of our national liberation movement.". President Pohamba told the audience that "as a result of his foresight and ability to understand social and political issues, he became one of the pioneer freedom fighters who spearheaded Namibia's modern resistance against colonial oppression and the exploitation of our workers.

"On this special occasion of your 90th birthday celebration, we rejoice with you, your entire family and indeed the entire Namibian nation."

"Words are not sufficient to describe the sense of joy in our hearts and on our faces," said the President, adding that "as we share with you this special and indeed, rare occasion. Not many people have been as fortunate or as blessed with longevity, good health and soundness of mind as you are. "Most often, society fails to praise outstanding sons such as Ya Toivo. I would like to say you are an extra-ordinary man, comrade Ya Toivo," said the President. Other former political prisoners described ya Toivo as a stubborn, determined but disciplined man fighter.

Ya Toivo said he was proud to have been part of a small Cape Town group of workers and others from then-South West Africa who "set out to restore dignity to our people and to achieve freedom and independence for our motherland. We had a vision of what we wanted to achieve, but could not have imagined what it would ultimately take to achieve our goals. Because our ideas were shared by many others in South Africa, our organizational initiative spread like wildfire. It was embraced by the oppressed and exploited people of our country, who soon flocked to SWAPO as the unifying force to overcome apartheid and colonial oppression. Ya Toivo paid tribute to the thousands of Namibians who sacrificed their lives or lost husbands, wives, children and other loved ones in the struggle to liberate Namibia. "I pay tribute also to my comrades who suffered long years of imprisonment and to the tens of thousands of Namibian youth who left the country to take up the liberation struggle. I equally pay tribute to the masses of our people who suffered under a reign of terror as they conducted the struggle at home to end the South African rule.

He also paid tribute to the governments and the millions people throughout the world that stood in solidarity with Namibia's liberation struggle. "I had foreseen that the struggle would be long and bitter, but I had confidence in our people. I knew that we would struggle against all odds until we achieved our freedom. I was confident that the world was on our side. We have eventually succeeded", said Ya Toivo.

The liberation icon emphasized on unity of the Namibian people as the most important pre-condition to obtain the goals that Namibians have set for themselves. "We must cherish this unity and nurture it. Tribalism has no place in our society. We are Namibians first, and should not allow ourselves to be divided", advised Ya Toivo.

"The unity of our people also requires that we wage war against the vast gap between the few rich and the masses of the poor among our people. The shameful income inequality that exists in Namibia today undermines the dignity for which we struggled and is the major obstacle to achieving our aspirations. We cannot maintain and nurture unity if we permit inequality to fester. "We must dedicate ourselves to work for the common welfare of our people until we achieve total economic emancipation. We must work harder to eliminate corruption, selfishness, greed and intolerance from our society. This is how we will safeguard our precious peace and how we will go forward to become a nation whose people can fully enjoy the fruits of independence", said Ya Toivo.

Ya Toivo insisted on young Namibians to focus on their education in order to further build the nation... "I had to leave the country in search of better education because of the situation that prevailed during the colonial period, but you are fortunate enough to have it right here at home. You need to make use of this opportunity to study and build this country," he said. Ya Toivo served the Namibian Government as a cabinet minister from 1990 - 2006. He was appointed by the first and former President Dr Sam Nujoma and served in three portfolios. He served as the first Minister of Mines and Energy than as Minister Labour and Social Welfare and then Minister of Prisons and Correctional Services (now renamed Ministry of Safety and Security) until his retirement in 2006 at the age of 82.

The liberation stalwart married Advocate Vicky Erenstein on 29 March 1990 and they established a family consisting of two nephews, Isak and Philemon, and later, girls twins Nashikoto and Mutaleni, who were born in 1993.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura