I delivered this speech at the Devotional Service of the late struggle icon, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, held at his house on 20 June 2017.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths:
the valiant never taste of death but once.”
Tatekulu Ya Toivo has been eulogized since he left us last Friday to join our ancestors. He made a contribution to this great country of ours, which I feel neither qualified nor competent to narrate, because quite frankly, I am not worthy of that task.
I looked up to him with such awe and admiration, and I know from the depth of my soul that, even on my best day, I can never be half the man he was.
In 1984, when Tatekulu Ya Toivo was released from prison, we enjoyed a minute joyous daybreak, which ended the long night of his captivity on Robben Island.
Upon his release from incarceration, he didn’t rest on his laurels or take the tranquilizing drug of comfort and entitlement. He knew that a lot more needed to be done and that the historic burden of our independence befell his generation.
Immediately upon his release in 1984, he continued the struggle, because 16 years earlier at his world famous trial he had aptly put it to a certain Judge Rudolph, that:
“The struggle will be a long and bitter one, but my people would wage the struggle no matter the cost.”
He decided to continue the struggle for our independence because he knew that although he had left Robben Island, his fellow countrymen and women continued to be imprisoned by the chains of apartheid colonialism.
I am mindful of the fact that 27 years after independence, our people still find themselves imprisoned by the triple-threat of hunger, poverty and disease.
Some are engulfed in a sea of poverty while their fellow countrymen and women are swimming in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
The continuation of this state of affairs might render the Namibian dream that Tatekulu Ya Toivo envisioned, a nightmare.
Tatekulu Ya Toivo and his generation returned from exile, but until today many of our countrymen and women, isolated from material wealth and prosperity to which they were supposed to become heirs, find themselves in exile in their own country of birth.
So we need to confront ourselves with the question: will the Namibian dream, the dream of Tatekulu Ya Toivo and his generation, remain a dream deferred as was so eloquently put by the African-American poet, Langston Hughes, when he said:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
The Namibian dream remains just that for some and a nightmare to the vast majority of our people. This prevents them from sharing in our Republic’s promissory note of UNITY, LIBERTY AND JUSTICE.
I am mindful of the fact that if a person is stripped of his dignity, by taking away his ability to have a job or an income, there won’t be any Unity, Liberty or even the possibility of Justice.
Every day I am confronted by the question: if the historic responsibility of liberating our country befell my generation, would we have liberated this country given our current state of vilification, victimization and isolation?
I will never know the answer to that question, and I can only speculate.
But one thing I know for sure is that we are the descendants of brave men and women such as Tatekulu Ya Toivo. Their political DNA of hard work, selfless struggle and commitment are embedded in our political DNA.
As we gather here tonight and for the days to come, let us read and reflect on the political Last Will and Testament of Tatekulu Ya Toivo.
His will is leaving us a wealth of generosity, hard work, commitment and steadfastness. So, as we cash that cheque of moral commitment, we should ensure that it benefits all, especially the vulnerable.
We are the heirs of the Namibian revolution. We are endowed with a large vault of generational wealth, which came as a result of the hard work and toil of the generation of Tatekulu Ya Toivo.
In that vault, he bequeathed us with riches of patriotic pride. He wanted us to know whom we truly are and whom we should not try to imitate.
He deposited the richness of patriotic pride already in 1968 when he put it to the apartheid judge, when he said:
“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 had no say; to treat our country as if it was your property and us as if you are our masters. We have always regarded South Africa as an intruder in our country. This is how we have always felt and this is how we feel now and it is on this basis that we have faced this trial”.
In 1968 already, Tatekulu Ya Toivo warned us that we should not let outsiders treat our country like it was their property and as if they were our Masters.
My generation’s struggle is one of economic emancipation. The question is: do you trust us to take on that struggle?
The baton has been passed on and there is no turning back. My generation is ready to take on that struggle, which needs new soldiers and new strategies and we are determined not to be the generation that kills the Namibian dream. For William Shakespear said
“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great. Some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
My people, we are the ones that we have been waiting for.