The first time I met him, it was the year 2010 and I was a scholar at Delta Secondary School Windhoek, where I was chairperson of the history society. It was independence weekend and Delta Secondary School was having its annual Namibia Independence Day celebration, just before the long weekend. I was to receive the liberation struggle activist and I was nervous. Receiving him at the entrance to the soccer field were the ceremony was to take place, he was flanked by his two daughters Mutaleni and Nashikoto Ya Toivo. On that day of meeting an iconic apartheid activist, I was left in awe of this man who was bigger than life and so full of life, he joined in on the dancing of the scholars. His speech was vibrant and I remember him making the entire school laugh and leaving a feeling of such inspiration.
I could not have known that years down the line I would befriend his daughter, whom I had shied away from upon the first introduction. It took a year after meeting Mutaleni, for our friendship to flourish and become a real friendship. She was a mixture of both mother and father, but her humility above all shone through. Making all the stories I had heard about her father, come to life in the eyes of his daughter. Her kind spirit and heart being the biggest draw to her.
The first time I was to meet her father I could barely get myself to suppress the nervous. She laughed it off and urged me to go ahead and go introduce myself. I walked into the living room where he sat in his massage chair and my mouth went dry. I was amazed at the thought of introducing myself to a man I had read about in library books, heard about in heroic stories and once met. Mutaleni urged me into the living room and continued to introduce me casually. I wasn’t sure whether I was to kneel before the man who fought for my independence or simply extend a hand. The latter felt short of the real gratitude I felt for the moment. However, I went ahead and extended a hand.
He asked me to take a seat so he can ask me questions about myself. It is on that day after being asked by Herman Andimba Ya Toivo where I am from, in the northern parts of Namibia, that I learnt one very fundamental part of myself. I had no idea who I was or where I was from. I tried to explain that I did not know my father’s family, as my grandfather had died in the liberation struggle and that my grandmother lived in Tsumeb, yet he would have none of it. He insisted, in his stubborn manner that I later learned to love, that I ought to know my heritage and at least know where home was in the north. For as far as he was concerned, no Oshiwambo girl was from Tsumeb, even if her grandmother resided there. I sat and listened to the well of wisdom the man that is Mr. Ya Toivo possessed, as he schooled me on the heritage of the Oshiwambo speaking tribe and walked away inspired. Inspired to find out where my roots were and if not go there, at least understand who I am and where I am from.
After the first encounter, we had many more when I would visit his daughter. Yet, it took the death of Mr. ya Toivo for me to realize the sad truth. I had ample opportunity to sit with the hero and learn from him, if not listen to his life story, and I did none of that. I feel a deep sense of regret, for all the times Mutaleni would urge me to go sit by him and I would plead I was afraid to go speak to him. Something I direly regret, as there was so much I could have learnt if I would have mastered up the courage to just have a seat and let him speak.
With every regret comes a lesson. The greatest lesson learnt is that I am never to take for granted the well of wisdom possessed by anyone. I am to take time out and get to know the people around me and in my life, because one day may be too late.
May his soul rest in peace.
Go well my hero. Go well Herman Andimba Ya Toivo.
Photo Credit: Afterschool Multimedia
With a tab bit of crazy