Namibian ex-SA apartheid soldiers petition over compensation

By Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek – Namibia ex-soldiers who fought on the side of the apartheid South African forces (ex-South West African Territorial Force/Koevoet) have petitioned the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) to intervene after the government refused to recognize them as war veterans.

The petition demanded the urgent recognition of all ex-SWATF and Koevoet soldiers as Namibians without discrimination as well as payments of benefits by the Ministry of Veterans Affairs.

Close to 300 former SWATF/Koevoet members staged a peaceful demonstration from the high-density of Katutura to the NSHR offices on Wednesday morning to hand over the petition to director Phil Ya Nangolo.

The petition calls for NSHR to intervene and to assist them to take their petition to United Nations Commission for Human Rights.

Handing the petition on behalf of the Namibia War Veterans Trust (Namvet), an organisation that claims to represent the ex-fighters, Frans Jabulani said despite the national reconciliation policy in existence, the former SWATF/Koevoet members are currently discriminated against and do not enjoy the fruits of independence.

“If the national leaders are instigating the general public against us, is that not incitement for violence,” Jabulani questioned.

He said the N$36 million that SWAPO claimed that the ex-Koevoet received from the old government of South Africa was shared equally between the ex-combatants and some of it went to SWAPO politicians and the ruling party.

“When Namibia gained independence in 1990, former President Dr Sam Nujoma guaranteed Namibians that SWAPO was fighting to free all Namibians, and that we will all equally enjoy the fruits of independence regardless of whether one was Koevoet or SWAPO PLAN fighter and we all welcomed the move,” he said.

However, Jabulani said after the Founding Father stepped down, things started changing for the worse. He said discrimination started to emerge and there was now derogatory language, especially when the Ministry of Veterans Affairs was created as it claimed that beneficiaries were only those who were persistently and consistently with SWAPO during the liberation struggle.

“The former President Hifikepunye Pohamba told us to go and demand the veteran status from South Africa and he even told us to go to the bush to start the war and he will fund us there,” Jabulani said

He said although current President Hage Geingob promised the Namibian nation that he wouldl address the issue of SWATF/Koevoet and even invited them to State House for deliberations, he later made an U-turn.

“On 26 August, President Geingob slipped back and rebuked the former soldiers and told them to go to South Africa and leave him alone,” said Jabulani.

He said the recent attacks had triggered hatred and a hostility against the ex-soldiers.

Accepting the petition, Ya Nangolo said it was against the constitution of Namibia to discriminate people for being former SWATF and Koevoet, sand that his office would do its best to ensure their plight is addressed.

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