Ya Toivo a straightforward man: Guiteb

10 Jun 2017 15:30pm
OTJIWARONGO, 10 JUN (NAMPA) - A 75-year-old man, who spent eight years in the Robben Island prison with the late Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, has urged young Namibians to emulate his humility and respect for leaders.
In an interview with Nampa on Saturday, Lazarus Guiteb recalled experiences in prison with Ya Toivo who died in Windhoek on Friday at the age of 93.
He was an anti-apartheid activist, politician and political prisoner who was active in the pre-independence movement and one of the co-founders of the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) in 1960, and its predecessor the Ovamboland People's Organisation (OPO) in 1959.
He served 16 years in the Robben Island prison in the same section as South African liberation icon Nelson Mandela and was released in 1984. He then joined SWAPO in Lusaka, Zambia and returned to Namibia in 1989.
After Independence in 1990, Ya Toivo served as a Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister until 2006 when he retired.
Guiteb, who spent eight years on Robben Island, expressed shock and sadness on the passing away of his political and prison-friend.
The member of the Robben Island Prisoner Trust Fund described Ya Toivo as “an honest and true leader”. Guiteb said Ya Toivo was straightforward.
He was incarcerated with the likes of Ben Ulenga, Michael Shikongo and Ruben Itengula.
The four former political prisoners were arrested at different places in Namibia in 1976, put on trial together on 11 January 1977 and sentenced on 24 July 1977 to the Robben Island prison.
Guiteb was there from 1967 to 1984.
He said when they arrived in South Africa, the late Ya Toivo was already serving his sentence.
“We found Ya Toivo in prison in 1977 and we came face to face with him shortly after our release from Robben Island in 1984 and boarded one airplane with him back to Namibia that same year.”
Guiteb said he again met Ya Toivo in 1986 in Luanda, Angola where they shared more memories of the prison experience.
“Life was tough for everyone at Robben Island as we lived in isolation at different sections, but we made it,” said Guiteb.