I know the Ministry of Veteran Affairs is now flooded with applications as everybody is competing for their place under the sun to claim veteran status, but I don’t think folks like us need to show who the real kamerades (comrades) are.
The word ‘veteran’ has become such a curse for many, just like mentioning ‘struggle kids’ leaves a bad taste in the mouths. But the other day it actually dawned on me that we the offspring of the 60s and 70s who were born at a time of heightened civil strife in Namibia can call ourselves ‘veterans’ – because we were student activists.
This I realised after spending a few weeks reminiscing about the past with my fellow classmates from Martin Luther High School (MLH).
Does anyone remember that little church school in the bush near Okombahe that was at times referred to as the “Swapo camp where they raise little terrorists” during the apartheid days?
Yes, that’s the one where many revolutionary kids were schooled who today hold some of the most prestigious positions in government and the private sector.
These kids who spoke the Queen’s language like no other, were horrible at sports and athletics but when it came to debating and politics, they were the most brilliant minds.
I remember the days when we had to run for cover every time those humongous rugby lanies got on the train at Usakos or Okahandja to donder us for daring to sing liberation songs and toyi-toying the night away.
I always wonder whether those lanies contacted each other on those farm-lines: “Piet, die klein Swapo dondertjies is weer op die trein. Kom gou!” (Those little Swapo rascals are on the train again. Come quickly!)
I remember the countrywide school boycott of 1988, the lost look on our teachers’ faces trying to stop us from boycotting school and the baffled looks on our parents’ faces.
Those were the days when Casspirs were weekend visitors to the lokasie and you had to make sure you had your wet towel in hand in case they drove by and threw teargas in your yard.
Ndju see, don’t let our Tura manners and kasie taal fool you today. We can do the 90-degree toyi-toyi and remember many freedom songs like we just came back from the bush war in Angola. We had no cellphone or computers to aid us in organising meetings but we were determined to bury Bantu Education by walking the distance in the dusty streets of Katutura when the only tarred road stopped at Katutura Hospital from town.
So, don’t be surprised when you see a lot of those era’s kids stop at the Veterans office claiming recognition. You can quiz them on the tales of propaganda stories like “Die Grensvegter” (The Border Fighter), “Die Wit Tier” (White Tiger), “Apache” and “Ruiter in Swart” (Rider in Black).
Also ask them whether they ate brötchens at some strange political gathering where they might have celebrated a new “government” in the ‘80s or whether they witnessed the demolition of old Komponi (old migrant compound) in Katutura, then you will know they are the ones.
But as for me, I have decided not to apply for veteran status because I feel there are people who need that money more than me. I am just saying this not because I am wealthy but as a proud Namibian and with so much sufferings of my fellow countrymen, I would rather want to give something than expect something from my country.
We know there are a lot of Johnny-come-lately’s who sport the blue, red and green colours on their dash-ports and want to push others on the edge, but it’s okay, let them get the money. After all, Namibia is for all of us, but I hope they put the money to good use and don’t squander it on young kamborotos who have no idea what it means to be a veteran.