ANC, foundations saddened by Namibian struggle icon's passing

Cape Town - The African National Congress and the Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada Foundations have offered their condolences following the passing of Namibian struggle icon Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo.

"The ANC has received with profound sadness the news of the passing of Comrade Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. A loyal friend of the South African people, a freedom fighter, hero and icon of Namibia’s struggle for self determination, Comrade Toivo passed today at the age of 93," the party said.

He died in Windhoek on Friday.

"South Africa has lost a true friend in Comrade Toivo ya Toivo and we send our deepest condolences to our fraternal organization, SWAPO, the people of Namibia and Comrade ya Toivo’s family on his passing."

Toivo ya Toivo was a founding member of the South Western African People’s Organization (Swapo) and its predecessor the Ovamboland People's Organization (OPO).

He was described as a Pan Africanist, a progressive internationalist, a militant workerist, and a man of strong beliefs and convictions, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantshe said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said Mandela had spent around ten years in the same section on Robben Island with Toivo and was touched by his militance and stubborn rebelliousness.

"Madiba was impressed by Toivo who refused to co-operate with the authorities and even would not participate in the system of grading prisoners to earn them a higher ranking and more privileges."

He had said that while some people 'behaved very wel' in order to be promoted, Toivo was different. 

“Andimba was not concerned about that. He didn’t care to be promoted and he wouldn’t cooperate with the authorities at all in almost everything.

“He was quite militant,” Madiba said. “He wanted very little to do with whites, with the warders.”

While Toivo and his comrades from Namibia were on Robben Island from early 1968, they were brought to the punishment section in May 1971.

Madiba and his comrades got to hear that the Namibians had embarked on a hunger strike because of their isolation and started their own solidarity hunger strike.

At the time the prison was run by the notorious Commanding Officer Colonel Piet Badenhorst and conditions were brutal.

In Mandela's famous rejection on February 10, 1985 of President PW Botha’s offer to release him if he renounced violence, Madiba, who had then served 22 years in jail, said through his daughter Zindzi: “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Herman Toivo ja Toivo, when freed, never gave any undertaking, nor was he called upon to do so.”

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation meanwhile said it was saddened by Toivo ya Toivo's passing.

“We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Comrade Toivo ya Toivo, as well as to the Namibian people, who have lost a giant of their revolution.

"While Toivo ya Toivo was a Namibian independence fighter, his close links to the South Africa struggle puts him amongst the list of the most notable of anti-apartheid stalwarts. It only fitting that we say, ‘Hamba Kahle Comrade Toivo ya Toivo,’” said foundation director Neeshan Balton.

The Economic Freedom Fighters also sent its condolences on Saturday too.

The party stood in solidarity with Toivo's family, his loved ones and people of Namibia in particular progressive forces during this difficult time.