Ex-Combatants Want Benefits

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK A committee of former Swapo combatants is expected to meet with President Hifikepunye Pohamba this week to talk about speeding up the payment of benefits due to ex-fighters. This follows the establishment of a committee charged with speeding the unresolved issue of the welfare of ex-combatants on the recognition of their services before independence. Ex-Swapo combatant Alex Kamwi yesterday confirmed that on May 27 about 40 war veterans met in Windhoek and agreed that a letter be sent to Pohamba requesting him to have a meeting with them before June 10. “The committee has summarily made a submission to the State President of the Republic of Namibia … requesting him to speedily address this longstanding issue and other matters,” stated Kamwi. Though the President has not yet responded to the letter, Kamwi was adamant that the meeting would take place. He regards the meeting with the President as necessary, adding, “It is a longstanding issue that has not been handled to date.” In the submission, the committee also included examples of similar situations in neighbouring countries where ex-combatants have fraternally been treated by their governments by way of recognising their services rendered while in exile. “Compared to countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola, ex-combatants received some compensation for their contribution and other benefits,” Kamwi said. 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 in the country presently do not receive assistance in any form from any individual or organisation. Only 14 per cent of them receive pension payments from Government. Ex-combatants feel they 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 standards of living. According to Kamwi who spent almost 14 years in exile, there is a need for the Government to consider including the exiled years in the pension package. He feels the years in exile should also be treated as “working years”. In an effort by Government to provide free housing as part of the benefits to be given to ex-combatants, more than 200 former combatants across the country have been registered as beneficiaries for the housing scheme. 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 in exile before 1975 and above 60 years of age. The other category considered are Robben Island prisoners as well as those who were not in exile but while being within the country suffered prominently at the hands of the colonial master, South Africa. Since the announcement of the plans to provide shelter to the group, some ex-fighters have questioned the criteria being used.

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