Nujoma Firm on Ex-Combatants

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Following what he recently termed unrealistic demands from some ex-combatants, Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma again strongly condemned the demands. A group that calls itself the Committee of Swapo Ex-Combatants has in recent weeks been in the news after its members demanded compensation for their efforts from Government. Addressing a rally in Katutura on Saturday, Nujoma strongly condemned the group, saying no one was promised compensation or any other material benefit after the liberation struggle. Nujoma who served as the Commander-in-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) dismissed ongoing rumours that the Swapo-led government has money available to compensate all those who were in exile. “These are pure lies. The United Nations is there. Where is the money? These failed elements are lying to confuse our people. The Namibian people must shun them and reject this propaganda …,” he fumed. He added this committee is twisting the history of the national liberation struggle led by Swapo and thus must be condemned. A few weeks ago, the committee met President Hifikepunye Pohamba at State House where they presented him with their demands. The committee claims to represent all those who were in exile. Nujoma last Saturday questioned who gave this committee the mandate to represent all the people. He reiterated, “These misguided elements must be condemned and be rejected with the contempt they deserve.” He added that it would be morally wrong for anyone to think that only Namibians who were in exile must be compensated for their participation in the liberation struggle, especially that the war was waged on three fronts. On the political front, the people at home engaged colonial regimes through mass demonstrations and workers’ strikes particularly that of 1971. On the diplomatic front, Swapo mobilized the international community to isolate the apartheid regime while PLAN engaged racist minority troops. The list of atrocities against the communities inside Namibia is long, Nujoma said. Many people were brutally massacred by the enemy especially at Cassinga, Oshatotwa, Epinga, Oshikuku, Oshakati and Barclays Bank, he said. “The situation was worse for those who were inside the country because they did not have any weapons. As a leader, I cannot claim that only ex-combatants fought alone. The credit goes to all who sacrificed their lives,” he said. Before the committee presented its demands, it allegedly conducted studies in some neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola, South Africa and Mozambique where according to them former fighters were compensated. The committee demands among other things that Government pays every ex-combatant N$31 000 multiplied by the number of years spent abroad, that the Governments pays out a flat amount of N$500 000 to every ex-combatant, that their children receive free education and medical services. They also want the ex-combatants to be allowed to work until the age of 70, be remunerated N$8 000 per month and that they should be protected from what they call unfair competition in business. According to Nujoma, “These are reactionaries; where do we get all that money if we do not even have enough schools, some children are still learning under trees, we still have to train teachers…?” To meet all these demands, it would mean that the Namibian taxpayers fork out more than N$6 billion. Nujoma further stated that it was not true that Government has turned a blind eye to the plight of ex-combatants. He revealed that in 1998, Cabinet established a Technical Committee on Ex-combatants aimed at identifying and categorizing former PLAN combatants’ socio-economic circumstances and recommend measures for their permanent and reasonable integration into the Namibian society. Through this nationwide exercise, 8 777 ex-combatants were employed in the public service of the country. Those who were more than 55 years old and unemployed and those who were less than 55 years but disabled were registered with the War Veterans Trust Fund administered by the Ministry of Health and Social Services for a monthly social grant of N$500 in addition to their monthly pensions. All these resolutions, Nujoma explained, were implemented in April 1999. He singled out the chairpersn of the committee Ruusa Malulu as one of the people offered employment in 1998 but who declined. “One wonders how a person who was offered employment and refused can stand up today and threaten the Swapo Party Government with unrealistic demands.” He says that the aim of this committee is not about the welfare of ex-combatants but these are subversive elements pursuing a political agenda through falsehoods to divide the Namibian nation. The former president chastised Malulu, saying she is confused. Apparently, Malulu has been spreading rumours that Nujoma was given a farm free of charge by Swapo and also that a farm was given to him by the late Werner List of Ohlthaver and List Group of Companies. Nujoma revealed his farm loan is with AgriBank and that he pays instalments every year. He did not spare a harsh word for Phil ya Nangoloh: “Phil was sent by Swapo to the then Soviet Union and now he claims to represent human rights, what rights? We must expose these elements for what they are. We should name and shame them. And we will shame them wherever they are,” he said. He urged all Namibians irrespective of their political background to promote the Government’s policy of national reconciliation, peace and stability to enhance the socio-economic development of all Namibians. Nujoma said this during an interactive meeting with residents of Katutura East District. The meeting was attended by Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda, the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Dr Abraham Iyambo, the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council Margaret Mensah-Williams, district executive members, branch executive members, section leaders, wing leadership at all levels, as well as supportive community members.