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“I am a loyal Namibian”


Soon after SWAPO launched its armed struggle in 1966, the South African government moved to crush the SWAPO leadership inside Namibia. Thirty-seven people were arrested — among them Andimba Ja Toivo, John Ya Otto, EliaserTuhadeleni, Ephraim Kamati Kaporo, David Shimuefeleni, Malakia Ushona, Kaleb Tjipahura, Johannes Nankundhu, Petrus Kamati, Kambua Kashikola, Bethuel Nunjango and Lazarus Zacharia.

The SWAPO leaders were taken to Pretoria and charged with terrorism. After spending many long months in solitary confinement, the leaders were tried in the Pretoria Supreme Court. In February 1968, the trial came to an end. The South African judge found all of the accused guilty and gave them long sentences on Robben Island.

Twenty got life, nine got 20 years and five got five years. Ja Toivo was given 20 years in prison. One person, Ephraim Kaporo, died during the trial. Before the judge passed sentence, the accused asked to say a few words to the court. Andimba Ja Toivo was chosen to be their spokesperson. The speech he delivered from the dock was — and still is — an inspiration to the Namibian people.

In his speech, Toivo spoke about the South African oppression and its illegal occupation of Namibia. He explained the reasons why SWAPO decided to take up arms and fight for the freedom of the Namibian people. We give you a shortened version of Toivo’s time- honoured speech:

‘My Lord,

“We find ourselves here in a foreign country convicted under laws made by people who we have always considered as foreigners.

We find ourselves tried by a judge who is not our countryman and who has not shared our background…

“You, my Lord, decided that you had the right to try us, because your Parliament gave you the right. That ruling has not and could not have changed our feelings.

“We are Namibians and not South Africans. We do not now, and will not in the future, recognise your right to govern us; to make laws for us in which we have no say; to treat our country as if it were your property and us as if you were 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.

“I speak of ‘we’ because I speak not only for myself, but for others as well, and especially for my fellow-accused… I think also that when I say ‘we’, the overwhelming majority of non-White people in South West Africa would like to be included…

“The South African Government has again shown its strength by detaining us for as long as It pleased; keeping some of us in solitary confinement for 300 to 400 days and bringing us to its capital to try us… and by passing an Act especially for us… It has even chosen an ugly name to call us by… (we) are called terrorists…

“It suits the Government of South Africa to say that it is ruling South West Africa with the consent of its people. This is not true. Our organisation, SWAPO, is the largest political organisation in South West Africa. We consider ourselves a political party. We know that Whites do not think of Blacks as politicians — only as agitators.

“Many of our people, through no fault of their own, have had no education at all. This does not mean that they do not know what they want. A man does not have to be formally educated to know that he wants to live with his family where he wants to live, and not where an official chooses to tell him to live; to move about freely and not require a pass; to earn a decent wage; to be free to work for the person of his choice for as long as he wants; and finally, to be ruled by the people that he wants to be ruled by, and not those who rule him because they have more guns than he has.

“We do not believe South Africa is in South West Africa in order to provide facilities and work for non-Whites. It is there for its own selfish reasons…

“Your Government, My Lord, undertook a very special responsibility when it was awarded the mandate over us after the First World War. It assumed a sacred trust to guide us towards independence and to prepare us to take our place among the nations of the world.

“We believe that South Africa abused that trust because of its apartheid and the belief that White people have been chosen by God to rule the world. We believe that for fifty years South Africa has failed to promote the development of our people… To us it has always seemed that our rulers wanted to keep us backward for their benefit…

“I have come to know that our people cannot expect progress as a gift from anyone, be it the United Nations or South Africa. Progress is something we shall have to struggle and work for…

“We are sure that the world’s efforts to help us in our plight will continue, whatever the South Africans may call us. We do not expect that independence will end our troubles but we do believe that our people are entitled — as are all people — to rule themselves…

“There are those who say that they sympathise with our aims, but that they condemn violence. I would answer that I am not by nature a man of violence…

“SWAPO itself is a non-violent organisation, but the South African government is not truly interested in whether opposition is violent or non-violent. It does not wish to hear any opposition to apartheid. Since 1963, SWAPO meetings have been banned… and we have found ourselves voteless in our own country and deprived of the right to meet and state our own political opinions…

“Is it surprising that my countrymen have taken up arms? Violence is truly fearsome but who would not defend his property and himself against a robber? And we believe that South Africa has robbed us of our country.

“I have spent my life working in SWAPO, which is an ordinary political party like any other. Suddenly we in SWAPO found that a war situation had arisen and that our colleagues and South Africa were facing each other on the field of battle.

“I am a loyal Namibian… I admit that I decided to assist those who had taken up arms. I know that the struggle will be long and bitter. I also know that my people will wage that struggle, whatever the cost.

“Only when we are granted our independence will the struggle stop. Only when our human dignity is restored to us…, will there be peace between us. We believe that South Africa has a choice — either to live with us, or to subdue us by force. If you choose to crush us and impose your will on us, then… you will live in security for only so long as your power is greater than ours.

“My co-accused and I have suffered. We are not looking forward to our imprisonment. We do not, however, feel that our efforts and sacrifice have been wasted. We believe that human suffering has its effect even on those who impose it.

“We hope that what has happened will persuade the White South Africans that we and the world may be right and they may be wrong. Only when White South Africans realise this and act on it will it be possible for us to stop our struggle for freedom and justice in the land of our birth.”

NEW WORDS intruder — a person who enters a place without permission the overwhelming majority — nearly every single person to sympathise with the aims — to support and share a belief in those aims


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