Seeking for a dignified reception and dignified durable welfare
‘You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree’
By Nkrumah Mushelenga
Comrade President of Swapo party, comrade Prime Minister of the Swapo Government, it is crucial for the veterans of the liberation struggle to highlight that although ex-combatants did not fight as mercenaries, a consideration of their welfare needs was supposed to be taken seriously in the spirit of achieving a smooth transition from war to peace.
Our needs analysis for integration support programme was supposed to include; cash payments (buyback pension for ex-PLAN combatant veterans), health care, counselling, job placement, land distribution, shelters and school fees for children, just to mention a few.
First there was no structured programme to manage and coordinate demobilisation of ex-PLAN combatants and civilian returnees on our arrival in this country. Secondly some returnees were given N$10 upon arrival as a settlement fund. Thirdly, we did not go through the demobilisation process, nor did we participate in UNHCR organised Rehabilitation and Resettlement Programme for Ex-PLAN combatants and returnees.
In Zimbabwe, the programme was aimed at preparing disabled ex-combatants for education and work. The central agenda was to incorporate ex-war veterans in nearly all sectors of the economy so that they would become industrious and self-reliant. The research concluded that, if the government had effectively complimented OXFAM efforts, the ex-combatants would not have landed into abject poverty.
It is a fact that health care services in this country have become a ‘private public service’ system as opposed to public health care service delivery. Thus, many veterans are facing various health problems such as HIV/AIDS, mental stress or disorders and cancer caused by the war, and other long term sicknesses.
Some critics of the welfare argue that war veterans did not fight as mercenaries, hence why should they be paid after the war?
But it is important to note that the war for national liberation was a voluntary war to liberate the motherland Namibia. But it is also vital for the born free to understand that while fighting was going on, there were two components of workers in this country, the uniformed and civilian component, hence, the Public Service Act, to regulate salaries and public service pension to be paid out at retirement age of 60.
There is a proverb which says ‘prevention is better than cure’, and that ‘truth never hides’. The reintegration of ex-PLAN veterans was not given priority; no demobilisation budget was given to meet their social economic needs. As such comrade President history has it that from 1990 to 2021, a reasonable number of ex-PLAN combatants continue to swimming in abject poverty due to increasing economic hardships.
In order to promote the much spoken and desired contemporary veterans’ human security, policy makers and implementers should be encouraged to consider the following;
Buyback pension for ex-PLAN Veterans must be paid out within an agreeable prescribed date and time taking into consideration the beneficiaries’ age group.
Veterans’ fish quotas be allocated per region and per constituency to avoid ghost veterans.
Veterans data base be established per constituency.
Analysis data base be registered per constituency.
Veteran land analysis be established at constituency level.
Projects should be replaced by cash payment.
Part iii veteran fund: (a) money payable to the veterans’ fund, (b) domestic (c) and (d) of Veterans’ Act 2 of 2008 should be audited.
Transparently complete the land issue and be realistic that land should be obtained by those ready to produce to feed the nation and export so that the country can earn the needed foreign currency.
Outsource and pay the balance to the veterans’ welfare and set a limit to their benefits.
Acknowledge and tolerate the different opinions and groups of the war veterans.
Amend discriminatory provision under Part vii on the ground of limitation of veterans’ association to promote self-reliance through regional competitions.
Use participatory tactics when handling veterans instead of relying on the threats.
Come up with capacity building workshops for the veterans in the utilisation of financial and material resources in different areas of the economy.
Empower the veterans so that they uphold the unbreakable values and principles of the liberation struggle that cover various freedoms (expression, association, choice and assembly among others), societal justice, respect for human dignity, integrity and peace.
WHAT YOU can DO FOR NAMIBIA
It is a fact that, you can’t hate the roots of a tree, and not hate the tree. You can’t hate your origin and not end up hating yourself. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself. Malcolm X (1965).
In the case of Namibia, may I use the same phrase to depict the same message to appeal to all veterans of the Namibian liberation struggle and to fellow Namibians: ‘Ask not what Namibia will do for you; ask what we can do for our motherland Namibia’.
To my fellow citizens of the world, particularly those who have chosen Namibia as your domicile, ‘ask not what Namibia will do for you, but what together we can do for Namibia, the land of the brave’.
Comrade compatriots, negative things are being said particularly by the youth against the welfare system to provide a safety net for the marginalised and needy veterans.
The term welfare in this case, refers to basic needs which are empirically fundamental to the welfare of the war veterans’ socio-economic, psychological and political well-being such as; employment, health, education and resettlement (land).
‘History is the best judge whose verdict cannot be ignored’. Allow me to quote an abstract by Mr. Nediel Hove whose main thrust was to examine the extent to which the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front led government handled the welfare of war veterans since 1980 to 2013.
Guided by primary and secondary sources, the presentation pointed out that the government in Zimbabwe ignored crucial but fundamental aspects of the welfare of the war veterans in its post-conflict disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process. The studies on war veterans in Zimbabwe indeed admitted that war veterans were marginalised because no whole-hearted attempts were made to provide the veterans with economic muscles to help them fit in the civilian society particularly given their limited financial capacity and academic qualifications.
Comrade President all is not yet lost. You can still by the blessing of God invent a unique Namibian social economic growth disciplinary formula. First to unite, the divided veteran communities, to motivate and positively influence the general public towards financial discipline, and secondly, systematically implementing the recommended roadmap towards social economic durable self-reliance.
*Nkrumah Mushelenga is a Rt. Commissioner for Refugees, former Namibia National Liberation Veterans Association National Coordinator, and the founder and trustee of Peter Nanyemba ex-PLAN Combatant Veterans Trust (p.n.p.c.v. t.)