Former Koevoet/SWATF soldiers are continuing their pursuit for a seat on the dinner table alongside the people they fought tooth and nail against during Namibia’s pre-independence era.
Their primary demand is that of wanting to be accorded war veterans status.
In the last few years, the former soldiers have emerged from decades of isolation to become a pressure group that constantly make threats against government that, for now at least, remains mere rhetoric.
For anxious Namibians, though, the tough talk which is not backed up with firepower or any decisive action is not too much of a concern despite threats from the group that they may be ready to use force. It also conflicts with the country’s reconciliation policy stance.
Since assuming power in 1990, the Swapo government accommodated their former enemies, some continue to be employed in government and they enjoy all state benefits, apart from the veterans status which continues to elude them.
Elders of the Swapo Party wants government to effectively deal with former Koevoet and SWATF soldiers who continue to make remarks that threaten the peace and stability of the country.
The Swapo Party Elders Council (SPWC) also rejected demands advanced by the former SA soldiers who want government to accord them with veterans status.
Although the Swapo-led government managed to ignore and debunk calls from the group to accord them veterans status since the establishment of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs over a decade ago, the group has not surrendered in its pursuit for recognition, despite having risked their lives to prevent Namibia’s independence.
SPEC secretary Mukwaita Shanyengana, this week, out rightly rejected the demands being advanced by the former Koevoet soldiers and made it categorically clear that the fact that they[Koevoet] fought tooth and nail to keep the South African government in power at the expense of their motherland is reason enough not to allow them into the veterans category of the country.
He also said “they cannot be equated to liberation freedom fighters”.
The former Koevoets continue to stir up more tension, it recently made threats of blood spill.
The group threatened the Namibian government that if their demands are not met, then they will react with violence. They feel that even after independence they are being side-lined and excluded in Namibia.
“We will die fighting,” some of the members threatened in recent reports.
Shanyengana, a former liberation fighter for Swapo’s military wing PLAN, advised the former Koevoet and SWATF members to respect the criteria provided by the government for war veterans which they do not qualify for.
“The solution is for them to accept that they do not qualify for the veteran’s benefits but they and their families are entitled to other state grants such as pension,” Shanyengana said.
According to Shanyengana: “the manner in which certain movements were formed during the liberation struggle is reason why not every Namibian citizen is a qualified to become a veteran.”
“The colonisers did not want independence for Namibians and realised that SWAPO became a strong movement, as a result they formed their forces and used some Namibians to become soldiers and fight against independence.”
“How is it possible for them to claim equal benefits with the freedom fighters? The Koevoet were fighting against independence and as a result many of our people died. They can never be equal to our freedom fighters.”
Namibian Police Force Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga was reported to have said that the threats made by the group could be seen as treason, as taking arms against the state should be regarded as treason. There are currently no legal frameworks that support his statement.
The Ministry of Veteran Affairs was established in 2006 in compliance with the provisions made in the Namibian constitution. It is mandated to promote the projects which address the needs of the war veterans that were part of the liberation struggle. The ministry also aims at upholding and promoting the historical live changing victory that brought about freedom to the country.
The Patriot spoke to former PLAN fighter Mihe Gaomab, who also served as a Commissar in the Typhoon Unit, who said their(Koevoets) demand asking for War Veterans Status is not justified “because the war they were fighting was a Proxy War, meaning they were fighting on behalf of someone else, the Colonial Power which was universally not recognized.”
“This is where the technicality lies. If they were fighting a proxy war which was illegal, they automatically disqualify themselves as War Veterans under a legitimate State, for having being illegal warriors or soldiers. Illegality cannot be made legal,” he explained.
He further said: “They were paid soldiers. However, not all of them joined voluntary. Some joined because of the socio-political and economic conditions prevailing at the time such as pressure from family members who might have had a political agenda against SWAPO, others because of unemployment, while some were forcefully conscripted. Some off course voluntary. This also makes the whole issue complicated. The question is: Who Is Who in the Mix?”
On the War Veterans Status demand, according to Gaomab, the question needs to be asked whether the South African government and the other negotiating parties, meaning Angola, Cuba, the USA and Russia, explicitly agreed on what should have happened to SWATF and Koevoet members after independence, or whether they were covered by the Universal Declaration of Reconciliation after the elections by SWAPO, the winning party.
“I only know that they were to be demobilised, nothing else. If their status after independence was not discussed and included in the Settlement Plan, than they are at the mercy of the winners namely the SWAPO Government. Usually, after war, the winner puts the losers on trial, however that would not have helped us. The biggest issue is the absence of a written and or Codified Policy of National Reconciliation as a reference document,” he said worryingly.
Regarding concerns that more and more former SWATF soldiers are surfacing, Gaomab said: “I asked the question: Who Is Who In the Mix? I also saw women in the group. I’m not aware that there were any women soldiers in SWATF and Koevoet. I suspect that they may be in the group as sympathizers. The other question that needs to be answered is that: Did the South African Colonial Administration hand over a Dossier containing names and ranks of their proxy soldiers in SWATF and Koevoet to the UN or the new government. I remember some ZAR 24 million was paid out which was split. If not, anyone can claim or join the group.”
Gaomab said government should take deliberate measures to accelerate infrastructure development in Kunene.
He added: “I only hope that the former SWATF and Koevoet are engaged and informed in detail about the consequences of their demands. Look at this: The people who are going to interview them, are their former enemies and some are their victims and or their families have been. This was not a Civil War, which is completely a different matter. You had those fighting for independence and those who were proxies of the Colonial Occupation.”
“Let’s face it, their victims or former enemies are now in charge and they will be dealing directly with them. Government is not the UN and South African Colonial Government should have included them and their future status in the new independent dispensation. That is a lost opportunity and no one can redo that process.”