Ya Toivo a towering figure - Maharaj

26 Aug 2014 18:00pm
By: Pearl Coetzee
WINDHOEK, 26 AUG (NAMPA) – Andimba Herman Toivo ya Toivo is a towering figure in the struggle for Namibia’s independence and an inseparable part of the founding fathers of the Namibian nation.
This was said by South African President Jacob Zuma's Special Adviser and Spokesperson, Mac Maharaj during a dinner conversation with Ya Toivo at parliament gardens in Windhoek last Thursday.
The event was held in celebration of the Namibian struggle icon’s 90th birthday celebration on Friday.
The dinner event was also attended by family members, friends and comrades such as Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob, Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, former Cabinet Minister Helmut Angula and former politician and military commander Helao Shityuwete among many others.
“I am extraordinary honoured, proud and privileged to be here with you (Ya Toivo), your family, sister, friends and comrades to share your 90th birthday - a celebration of a life that was dedicated to make a difference to the lives of many others,” Maharaj pointed out.
He took the guests down memory lane to a time when they (Ya Toivo and him) were working in a clandestine manner on anti-apartheid activities in Cape Town, South Africa.
He made reference to a barber shop in 55 Somerset Street in Cape Town where Ya Toivo and many others regularly visited to discuss issues. These discussions included the establishment of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) as well as the detention of Namibian comrades in SA prisons.
He also painted a picture of their days as political prisoners at Robben Island near Cape Town.
“As a prisoner, Ya Toivo was not an easy fellow and was often up for a fight with the prison authorities. He was very stubborn,” said Maharaj.
He said a prison warden once attacked Ya Toivo during a routine cell search, and moments later the warden was lying flat on the floor because Ya Toivo punched him down.
Ya Toivo was then made to spent 18 months in solitary confinement. As he had no one to talk to whilst in solitary confinement, Maharaj and the other cell mates were seriously worried that Ya Toivo might simply go mad.
In another incident, between 1972 and 1973, the then South African Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger visited Robben Island. Former South African President Nelson Mandela raised a lot of issues with him, but also suggested that Kruger meets with Ya Toivo as he (Mandela) could not speak on behalf of the Namibian prisoners, according to Maharaj.
Kruger agreed and Ya Toivo was summoned to his office. However, in a short while, Ya Toivo was back in his cell. According to Maharaj, the meeting never reached the first item on the agenda due to Ya Toivo’s “stubbornness”.
Issues to be discussed with Kruger included the treatment of prisoners, food and clothing amongst other matters.
When Kruger asked Ya Toivo if he came from South West Africa (SWA), Ya Toivo insisted that he came from Namibia.
Whenever Kruger talked about SWA, Andima continued to say Namibia.
“See how stubborn he was,” Maharaj noted.
After the audience's laughter died down, Maharaj told the guests that Ya Toivo reminded Kruger that he was brought from his cell and that he had never wanted to see him in the first place.
Maharaj said Ya Toivo, him and many others cheated the hangman during those days.
“Today is a very proud moment. You have done the Namibian people justice and you have served the cause for your people and the people of the entire world,” he added.
Ya Toivo was released from prison in 1984, and he became the Secretary-General of SWAPO from then till 1991. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly and became Namibia’s first Minister of Mines and Energy after independence. He was appointed Minister of Labour in 1999 and later moved to the Ministry of Prisons until his retirement from active politics in 2006.