Thousands of Namibians, who joined forces with the South African forces during the pre-independence era, are learning the hard way how it feels to be in a position of weakness, with many of them living from hand to mouth.
The former members of the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) and Koevoet, who sided with the colonisers to prevent the country from gaining political freedom, have unsuccessfully attempted to force Government to recognise them as war veterans.
Despite the continuous rejection by both Government and the public, the group remains adamant that they must be recognised because some of them joined Koevoet by force.
They also want Parliament to review the War Veterans Act 2008, so that it includes former soldiers of SWATF, also known as Koevoet members, to access government benefits for war veterans.
The group is alleging that the current Act has seen former Koevoet members facing unfair treatment and discrimination at the hands of the Namibian government.
A group of former Koevoet members continues to camp at the Ovaherero Kommando in Katutura hoping to get the attention of the authorities, although their life there is characterised by begging, hunger and deplorable living conditions.
The group, consisting mostly of the Ovahimba tribe from north-western Namibia, is living on donations for survival, with many having deserted their families to join the movement. As a result, they have come to Windhoek where they have been exposed to harsh living conditions with water, electricity and basic sanitation remaining a pipedream.
During a recent visit to their camp in Katutura along the Klemens Kapuuo Street, The Patriot learnt first-hand the challenges and struggles the former SWATF members have to deal with daily.
On an ordinary day, former soldiers consisting mostly of men, spend their time under an established shade structure, as they patiently wait to get their names registered and verified on a database that was created to keep track of the beneficiaries and determine whether they are legitimate or not.
The sad reality for them, however, is that Windhoek is not a city of ‘milk and honey’, as some may have thought prior to leaving their homes to fight for their course.
Every day, an array of challenges – ranging from collecting firewood, scarcity of food, water, sanitation and noise pollution from the nearby bars in Herero Mall – present themselves to the former soldiers, unlike the privileges they enjoyed prior to 1990.
Firstly, the group solicits funds among its members and sympathisers, which it uses to buy food.
The most popular meal for the day is porridge, soup and sometimes beef. Another challenge is water, which is fetched from nearby houses. The task of collecting water is mainly allocated to the women and the fact that they have to cross the road every now and then is a challenge in itself.
Another task, also predominantly carried out by the women is fetching firewood used for cooking. The women walk long distances to riverbeds to collect firewood. Moreover, sanitation is another major challenge, as City of Windhoek has cut off water supply to the Kommando, leaving them with no choice but to resort to the nearby bushes and riverbeds when nature calls.
However, with all odds staked against the group members, they remain adamant that they will not leave Windhoek until they get what was rightfully “theirs”, even if it means staying there at the Kommando throughout the festive season. Sources in the know told this paper that the Namibia War Veterans Trust (Namvet) representatives will meet President Hage Geingob in the next few days to state their case.
The Patriot’s efforts to contact the group’s spokesperson, Jabulani Ndeunyama, for confirmation were not successful as his mobile phone went unanswered. According to past media reports, Namvet has been demanding N$36 million from government, which according to them, was paid through the Namibian government by the South African government.
The group also wants its members to be recognised as war veterans and receive benefits equal to those given to Namibians who, after a vetting process, were declared war veterans.
However, President Geingob told the unsettled group that the Namibian government does not have the said N$36 million pension money that they claim was received from South Africa.