Dealing with liberation heroes’ issues
(MI): There has been dissatisfaction among veterans of the liberation struggle about how the government is dealing with their plight, what is your stake on this?
(NM): Yes, that is something that we are very much aware of. If you look at issues such as housing, counselling, and land distribution those are some of the issues that were not adequately addressed. We still have veterans without proper houses, without land and those not counselled since returning from exile. Some are still waiting for the payout of their N$200 000 projects and some projects are still not approved. But we are hopeful that government will prioritise these things.
(MI): What is you Trust’s role when it comes to veterans’ issues?
(NM): Our main objective is to fight for the well-being of the veterans and their dependents. As a trust, we want to see it to that veterans have houses, they are playing a part in the economic activities of the country they have fought for, and that they have land – here we mean they are also resettled. We also want their dependents like spouses and children also taken good care of. We have registered companies under our Trust and we want to get tenders and fish rights so that veterans can benefit.
(MI): We understand there was a cabinet directive (No.3rd /25.03.14/004) made during the tenure of former president Hifikepunye Pohamba on the ‘Buyback pension for ex-PLAN combatants veterans payout whereby ex-veterans would get a cash payment N$400 000 upon retirement from public service.
Was that decision implemented? Did the veterans get their money, and if not where is the delay?
(NM): Thank you for bringing up that issue. It pains us that such a directive, which could have benefited veterans and their dependent is being ignored. We do not know where the delay is. Seven years down the line government is still quiet about it. We even wonder if some veterans are aware of this money which is due to them. Each veteran was to receive N$400 000 on top of their own pension contributions upon retiring from public service. The Office of the Prime Minister was supposed to coordinate everything. We do not know why the Prime Minister is mum on the matter.
This is not something new. It’s a clear directive and needs to be complied with. It is our hope that the relevant authorities gives it utmost attention.
(MI): War veterans worldwide are vulnerable to perilous behaviour such as alcohol and drug abuse due to the horrors of the war and many always turn to the two in order to soothe their post stress trauma disorder (PSTD), how is your Trust helping in this regard?
(NM): Right now, I do not see anything being done to assist with the counselling of veterans of the liberation struggle. People are attacking veterans and calling them names. Our comrades are in a deep problem with many still suffering from psychological conditions and hallucinations all the time. As a Trust, we are finding ways of engaging government through the relevant ministries to expedite the establishment of an effective counselling and welfare programme for them and their dependents. Albeit it is a little bit late, some can still be assisted.
(MI): Some still believe Swapo and government have failed to put up proper programmes to assist with the resettling and rehabilitation of veterans upon their return from exile. Do you subscribe to the same school of thought?
(NM): I am not in the business of criticising, but from my own observation little was done. First, government took long to recognise veterans of the liberation struggle. Second, the implementation of the many programmes meant for veterans is moving at a snail space. Whoever is responsible, be it the government or the party (Swapo), should speed up the process. They should focus on housing, counselling, resettlement and the awarding of fishing rights to veterans through the representatives like Trusts and organisations.
However, proper mechanisms ought to be put in place to thwart the abuse of fishing rights by a few greedy individuals masquerading as veterans or veteran representatives. We further call upon the remaining N$200 000 projects to be paid out in cash.
(MI): Land acquisition and fish quota allocation are some of the areas in which veterans claim they have been neglected. What is your trust doing about these two issues?
(NM): Veterans should resettled. I have received a lot of complaints about corruption in the veterans’ ministry with regards to the allocation of land to veterans. They are not resettling the right people. We will soon engage the ministry to map out a way forward. We cannot have veterans overlooked whilst land is given to undeserving individuals. We will do the same with the awarding of the fish rights. We want fish quotas to be allocated per region or through constituencies countrywide. This is in order to curb the abuse by ghost veterans. The ministry needs a database that will contain all veterans in every constituency.
(MI): There appears to be division among veterans of the liberation struggle when it comes to who to lead their organisations. Why are you not speaking in one voice?
(NM): This is because there are some people who claim to represent veterans but their genuine aim is self-interest. They do not have the interests of veterans at heart. And these are even the people abusing the name of veterans. They are not true leaders. True and sympathetic people are the ones needed to lead the veterans in the country.