Namibia's 'father of liberation' released from South African jail

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

After Namibia's Herman Toivo ja Toivo's sudden release from South African jail last week, almost everyone here is wondering what he will say - and do - next.

Before he was convicted of terrorism and disappeared behind bars 16 years ago , Toivo gave a stirring speech from the dock, regarded by some as the most eloquent explanation ever given of why Namibians want independence from South Africa.

He told the court: ''We do not expect that independence will end our troubles , but we do believe that our people are entitled - as are all peoples - to rule themselves. It is not really a question of whether South Africa treats us well or badly, but that South West Africa is our country and we wish to be our own masters.''

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Toivo's release now comes amid signs of new momentum toward independence for Namibia. (For UN report on latest moves, see next page). Analysts here say Pretoria's early release of the man it once jailed for terrorism has several possible motives.

South Africa has already agreed to a cease-fire and a ''disengagement'' of its troops from southern Angola, where it battles Namibian guerrillas. The release of Toivo is meant to further the impression that Pretoria is making concessions and is operating ''in good faith'' toward a Namibia settlement, say analysts. This could enhance Pretoria's bargaining position as settlement negotiations gather pace.

Toivo's release may also be calculated to improve the political standing of the antiguerrilla front of internal political parties in Namibia - the so-called Multi-Party Conference (MPC). The MPC called for the release of Toivo a matter of days before Pretoria took the step.

Finally, Pretoria may be up to a little mischief. Toivo's release may be aimed at sowing some confusion among the leadership of SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization), the Namibian guerrilla movement of which Toivo is a cofounder.

Many regard Toivo as the ''father of liberation'' in Namibia. He is considered one of the territory's most charismatic black leaders, a reputation seemingly enhanced by his long jail term. Toivo returned to the political scene in Namibia apparently unbowed. Emerging from a car on arrival in Windhoek, Toivo shouted the SWAPO slogan, ''one Namibia, one nation.''

Toivo's defiant attitude has already raised doubts that he will do anything to enhance the standing of the more moderate MPC. Pretoria has over the years tried to build an internal political alternative to SWAPO that might beat it at the polls. The six political parties making up the MPC claim complete autonomy from Pretoria. But South Africa clearly views the grouping favorably.

Toivo reportedly said after his release that ''I am convinced SWAPO is the only party that can free Namibia.''

Toivo also gave a stiff rebuke to MPC leader Andreas Shipanga, who in 1958 helped Toivo found the predecessor organization to SWAPO. Toivo said Shipanga came to visit him on the day of his release, but Toivo said he turned his back on his former colleague and accused him of being a traitor.

Andre du Pissani, an analyst at the University of South Africa, doubts Toivo's release will seriously upset SWAPO or threaten the leadership of Sam Nujoma.

''South Africa still has the idea that it can force a leadership schism in SWAPO,'' says du Pissani. But in his view that is a reflection that Pretoria ''has lost touch with the feelings on the ground'' in Namibia and continues to underestimate SWAPO's organizational strength.

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