The Namibian War Veterans Trust (NWVT) has issued a fresh appeal forgovernment to accord war veterans status to former members of the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) and South West Africa Police Counter Insurgency Unit (Koevet) regiments which backed theapartheid-era South African Defence Force (SADF) against nationalist guerrillas during the war of liberation.
In a petition submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, NWVT spokesperson Jabulani Ndeunyemasaid most ex-fighters were suffering because the government does notconsider them as war veterans.
The ex-fighters were also denied the war gratuities paid out at independence in 1990 to ex-members of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), the former military wing of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO).
Out of nearly 25 000 registered former SWATF and Koevet soldiers, 3885 are reportedly suffering from mental health problems arising frompost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), blindness and other disabilities inflicted by war.
The majority are reportedly living in squalid conditions characterised by extreme poverty, misery and deprivation.
Through the new petition, Ndeunyema sought parliamentary support fortheir call for the amendment of the Namibian War Veterans Act of 2008, which only recognises ex-PLAN guerrillas as war veterans, to include ex-SWATF and ex-Koevoet members.
“All war veterans in Namibia are in dire need of adequate healthcareand medical aid support, especially home-based care for the chronically ill veterans,” Ndeunyema said.
The group is demanding a gratuity, monthly pension and benefits that include education, training, skills development, health-care assistance, psychological and counselling support for its members.
Committee chairman Sebastian Karupu said parliament would consider the demands listed in the petition against the provisions of the Constitution as well as Namibia’s international treaty obligationsbefore making a determination.
Following a sustained NWVT campaign for recognition in 2012, former President Hipikefunye Pohamba ruled out amending the War Veterans Act to include ex-SADF units. He said they should demand their compensation from the South African government, which was their employer.