War veteran wins status case at court

By Maria Kandjungu

THE High Court has ruled that it is unlawful for the Namibia Veterans board to reject an application to grant veteran status to a person on the basis that their contribution to the liberation struggle was minimal as such reasoning is “irrelevant and unimportant”.

This was noted in a recent judgement delivered by Acting Judge Collins Parker in the case of 60-year-old Saima Leonard who approached the court early this year asking it to force the veterans’ appeal board to relook at her application to be granted veteran status and subsequently perks that come with such a status.

Leonard applied for veteran status in 2017 claiming that at the age of 19, she hid a PLAN fighter in the mahangu storage at her homestead and prepared food for him. She further claimed that she used to monitor the hole where guns were hidden by PLAN fighters and was punished for it after captured fighters revealed that they were getting assistance from her household.

She however received a rejection from the board on the basis that her contributions were minimal and that those contributions were on the instructions of her parents. The decision was upheld by the appeal board.

Parker however ruled that such reasoning was unlawful and cannot be upheld as there are three main requirements concisely laid out in the Veterans Act 2 of 2008 and one of those is that a person applying for recognition should have ‘consistently and persistently participated or engaged in any political diplomatic or underground activity in furtherance of the liberation struggle’.

He  added that rejecting an application on further basis that a person’s contributions were based on instruction of another person is also unlawful and an additional requirement by the board themselves which is not stipulated in the act.

“The act does not require the applicant for registration to have carried out any of the prescribed activities on his or her own volition and not under the instructed of another person,” Parker stated adding that, “The veterans’ board and the veterans’ appeal board relied on extraneous requirements to reject appellant’s application. They are not entitled to do that in terms of the Act. They acted utra vires [beyond the authority/powers of] the Act.”

The judge instructed that the application be sent back to the appeal board who should apply the correct statutory requirements. He instructed that the board changes all panellists and include a magistrate or retired magistrate on the panel that would relook at Leonard’s case.

String of similar cases

Leonard’s case is among at least 15 other unfinalised cases of hopeful veterans who have separately approached the High Court with grievances on the basis used by the veterans’ board to reject their applications for veteran status.

Most of these applications for veteran status were also rejected on the same or similar basis and are also seeking the intervention of the High Court to have their cases relooked at by the veterans’ appeal board

War veterans in Namibia receive a fixed monthly income of N$2 200 and qualify to apply for free government houses built under the mass housing. They also can apply for the N$200 000 government grants to start income generating projects. War veterans who were jailed on Robben Island, and others who served as combatants in exile, in some cases receive up to N$6 000 a month. While high-ranking political and military veterans receive a lump sum of N$500 000 and also benefit from the mass housing programme.