‘Housing Scheme Should Include All Ex-POW’s’

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK The Government’s plans to provide free housing to veterans of the liberation struggle has received praise from Willy Amutenya, a former combatant and prisoner of war (POW) who lost one of his arms during the war. He said this was a good move, but only if it includes all war veterans and not only those imprisoned on Robben Island. Amutenya spent six years from 1978 to 1984 at Kai-kanachab prison, a military concentration camp near Mariental after South African occupation forces captured him during the Cassinga raid at the ‘Vietnam’ camp in Angola. “I was disappointed when I saw the announcement on NBC-TV on Tuesday. I’m not against the idea, the idea is good, but the fact that it appears as if prisoners of war held at Kai-kanachab were not included,” he said. The former warrior said this was not the first time they have been hearing about this. “We don’t know how they came up with the names of the people interviewed by the governors. Even people called me asking me what is this, why are we not included, why only Robben Island’s ex-prisoners. Are we not in misery or are we not recognised prisoners of war,” he asked. “I have a real feeling that Kai-kanachab was the only camp with more women. We were very young and we lost many opportunities while in prison, especially our education. That is why we don’t have skills to help ourselves even to get decent jobs,” lamented the ex-POW. He said because of imprisonment for seven years, they could not produce children and start a family of their own. What was more painful also, is that they were never trained. He says because they believed in Swapo, they did not surrender to the enemy and after their release many of them went into exile to continue with the struggle. He suggested that a clear definition be made about what the Government means by war veterans, as there are many categories. “What makes the Robben Island prisoners an exception? They were given 10 heads of cattle each to start farming. Even during Heroes Day, none of us received medals. We regard ourselves as heroes. You go through that heat of imprisonment, you need to be a hero. A better future was our dream,” he said. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the “hidden division” in the ruling party, as well as parliamentarians not passionately addressing public issues and their level of honesty in parliament. “I think this is lack of political maturity amongst our leaders, people don’t want to accept that that’s what happened (Hifikepunye Pohamba being chosen as President) and is over,” he said. He said this hidden division was clearly spilling over into the nation. “I see how people debate in cucashops. It’s very worrying. There are some of our comrades who are more power-hungry trying to impose their leadership claiming they have a democratic right. That is where the division started.” With regard to parliamentarians, he said when debating in parliament, they sometimes “lack reflexibility and honesty”. If people are debating about employment, they must have a passion for the masses. They should stop the mentality of self-defence. Our Parliament is an open debate for every one to see. If one MP sees the other one is wrong, they must stand up and address issues honestly. This is to all MPs irrespective of their political affiliation, he said. Amutenya was also optimistic that the Anti-Corruption Commission would achieve its objectives only if it gets real support from stakeholders and appreciation from all the people of goodwill, adding that the commission should also investigate individuals who were in the past linked to corruption.