War Vets ‘Open for Dialogue’

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Following hard-hitting remarks from Swapo Party leader Dr Sam Nujoma, the Committee on the Welfare of Ex-Plan Combatants that is demanding fishing quotas, mining concessions, farms and other financial benefits appears to have softened its stance by acknowledging that “Nujoma is our father” and that they are open for dialogue on the issue. The group feels there is a need to find common ground with the Government on their demands and that Nujoma as their “father” is entitled to his opinion. Alex Kamwi the group’s spokesperson in an interview with New Era yesterday said the ex-combatants are still open to negotiations though on the other hand, they insist they may stage a huge demonstration on September 04 if their demands are not addressed. “We are still prepared to negotiate before the march and we are still waiting for President Pohamba to come back to us,” said Kamwi. He noted the ex-combatants are angry about the current situation and have aired their grievances openly on NBC’s phone-in programmes the National Chat Show and Open Line. “All the ex-combatants are very angry and we’ll be forced to march come September 4,” said Kamwi, adding that the committee will be well prepared for the planned demonstration they say will be attended by all ex-combatants countrywide. “What the Founding Father said is his own opinion and we are not going to deny him as his children. We still regard him as our father,” he said in response to the caustic remarks made by Nujoma who also dismissed the group as opportunistic. Kamwi feels that their resolutions are not new as this apparently has the blessing of the Swapo Elders Council that proposed the scheme in a document titled: “Swapo Party Elders’ Council Comments On The Technical Committee on Former Robben Island Prisoners and Long Serving Ex-Plan Combatants”. In the document, suggestions were made to compensate all ex-combatants. The committee says for now it is still open for discussions. “The resolutions are not final and if our leaders want, they can come up with counter proposals, but let’s sit down and talk,” said Kamwi. According to him, the committee was still waiting for a promised response from President Pohamba. Kamwi said on June 16 the Head of State said that he would give them feedback after he had discussed the matter with Dr Nujoma and Swapo Secretary General Ngarikutuke Tjiriange. Nujoma blasted the ex-fighters at a recent Swapo Party rally, saying that their demands are “unconstitutional” and “unrealistic.” He further rejected and condemned in the strongest terms the demands being made by the group. Last Friday, the group met Nujoma who informed them that their committee was formed outside the provisions of Swapo’s constitution and cannot operate within its structures. The Swapo president called on all structures of the party not to give any support to the proposed demonstrations of the committee. “You must ensure that these misguided fanatics under the leadership of Ruusa Malulu are not allowed to organise any meeting or demonstrations under the name of the Swapo Party,” said Nujoma. Nujoma felt the group consists of individuals who only have a clear agenda of dividing the Namibian people and to disturb the hard won peace and stability in the country, as well as to bring the history of the national liberation struggle led by Swapo into disrepute. “They go around spreading rumours and twisting the history about our national liberation struggle to suit their personal agendas and self interests,” reads his statement. As part of their resolutions, the committee demands that all ex-combatants and their children get free education and free medical services, all should work until the age of 70 years, get each a monthly remuneration of N$8 000. Other resolutions are that all war veterans be allocated fishing quotas and mining concessions; that they expect Government to protect all war veterans from unfair competition in business; appointments to senior or junior positions; that Government must also set up an ex-combatant fund and compel/obligate all parastatals and business communities to make contributions to it; and a budget from Government. However, Nujoma feels that these demands are “unrealistic” as they would cost the state billions of dollars and ultimately lead the country to bankruptcy. The total financial implications will amount to more than N$6 billion, which constitutes more than 50 percent of the country’s annual budget. Referring to the members of the committee including the chairperson Ruusa Malulu, sentiments were expressed that the ruling party “will not allow such opportunists to disturb the peace and tranquillity that we enjoy in our country today”. The war of liberation was a national undertaking for Namibians both inside and outside the country. Nujoma stated that “nobody was promised compensation or other payment after the war”. He said Government has done a lot for the ex-combatants by integrating 8777 former fighters into the Public Service and State-Owned Enterprises. Cabinet also resolved that all ex-combatants over 55 would be enrolled in the War Veterans Fund, currently being administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. The resolutions by the ex-combatants were passed at a consultative meeting of more than 2 000 members that was held on July 15 at Greenwell Matongo Community Hall in Katutura.