By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Following Government’s pledge to provide free housing to veterans of the liberation struggle, more than 200 ex-combatants across the country have been registered as beneficiaries for the scheme. The war veteran technical committee under the chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Erastus Negonga would soon submit a list of names of the veterans. Early this year, the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development John Pandeni was directed by Cabinet to look into the housing conditions of war veterans with specific reference to those who went into exile before 1975 and those who are above 60 years of age. The other category being considered are the Robben Island prisoners as well as those who did not go into exile but nevertheless suffered at the hands of the brutal South African occupational forces. Frans Nghitila, the chief liaison and public relations officer in the ministry, indicated in an interview that for the past two months the committee has travelled to all the regions in the country to register all those who fall within the three categories. Currently, the committee is busy compiling a report that would soon be forwarded to Cabinet for further analysis and action. The committee is composed of nine representatives from institutions that have experienced and are currently dealing with war veterans such as the Social Economic Integration Programme for Ex-Combatants (SIPE), the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement and the National Planning Commission (NPC). Early in February 2006, the committee visited regions believed to have a large number of former fighters. “We visited Kunene, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Caprivi, Kavango and Khomas regions. The second visit was in March and we concentrated on other regions such as Omaheke, Hardap, Erongo, Karas and Otjozondjupa,” stated Nghitila. Upon concluding visits in the other regions, a re-visit to the first covered regions was done to accommodate those who might not have made it during first registration. “The response was good and we are happy that we were able to undertake this exercise,” he told New Era. Apart from the registration of veterans of the liberation struggle, Nghitila though declined to elaborate and acknowledged that other challenges were identified in the regions. “We discovered that so many people do not qualify under these conditions but live in deplorable conditions due to lack of employment. We have picked issues that would form part of the recommendations,” he added. Since the announcement of the Government’s plans to provide shelter to the ex-fighters, some ex-combatants who could be regarded as unfitting in the three categories have aired complaints. “What makes the Robben Island prisoners an exception? They were given 10 head 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,” lamented Willy Amutenya, a former combatant and prisoner. New Era further learnt that there have been a few cases of former ex-fighters’ children wanting to register for the housing scheme with reasons that though their parents have passed on, they can benefit on their behalf as children. Nghitila said the mandate is clear and specific. “Maybe such cases will form part of the recommendations.” Based on a report titled ‘An Investigation into the Lives of Namibia Ex-fighters – 15 Years after Independence’ carried out by the People’s Education, Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment (P.E.A.C.E.) organisation, the majority of ex-fighters presently do not receive assistance in any form from any individual or organisation. Only 14 per cent of them receive pension payments from Government. They feel ex-fighters should be given monetary and material rewards such as houses, land or farms, income-generating projects, or a pension among other things that would improve their standard of living.
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