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Struggle stalwart Toivo ya Toivo remembered

15182946110_3e2cfcb4e2_zRobben Island Museum (RIM) has joined Namibians and the rest of the World in conveying its heartfelt condolences to the Republic of Namibia and the Toivo ya Toivo family for the untimely loss of a former Robben Islander and an African liberation struggle stalwart, Mr Andimba Herman ToivoyaToivo who passed away on 09 June 2017. “As a former Political Prisoner incarcerated at Robben Island Maximum Security Prison alongside other Prisoners like the late Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and many others, our memories of him as a tower of democracy and influence in Namibia remain etched in the history of the Island. A gallant son of Africa has left a legacy that we need to cherish and live,” says Mava Dada, Chief Executive Officer of RIM.

 

Similar to many other Namibian liberation heroes, Andimba Herman Toivo ya Toivo was a migrant worker in South Africa. While working in Cape Town, he was introduced to many of the contemporary communists of that time such as Dennis Goldberg, Albie Sachs, Janck and Amy Simons, amongst others. The influence of the communist teachings later sparked his interest in the liberation of his own people in South West Africa, now known as Namibia.

 

In 1960, Toivo ya Toivo founded the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), a pioneer in the struggle for liberation in Namibia.Toivo ya Toivo was arrested in 1966 together with 31 of his countrymen and they were tried under the new Terrorism Act (1967). Toivo ya Toivo and his countrymen served their sentence at Robben Island Maximum Security Prison as South West Africa had been placed under South African rule by the League of Nations following the First World War. As such, it was subjected to the atrocious apartheid system that was in place in South Africa. He was incarcerated in 1968 and served 16 years on the Island.

 

Toivo ya Toivo was imprisoned in the B Section of the Robben Island Maximum Security Prison along with the Rivonia trialists and other leaders of various liberation movements.  He was regarded by authorities of the time as a radical person who refused to compromise. However, Toivo ya Toivo is described by his contemporaries as a selfless and defiant spirit, even at the merciless hands of the relentless prison warders. His refusal to be released four years before the end of his sentence in solidarity with his comrades who were still serving their sentences bears testimony to his selflessness.

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