War Vets Clarify Stance

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The national committee for the welfare of ex-combatants/War Veterans yesterday announced that their demands are nothing personal but they have a right to fight for their welfare and compensation. Yesterday, the committee held a press conference, which according to the Administrative and Public Relations Secretary Alex Kamwi was aimed at clearing up some of the unresolved issues. Kamwi stated that the United Nations Director of Operations Nicolas Bwakira on July 6, 1989 addressed ex-combatants in Luanda, Angola, where he revealed that each repatriated person would receive US$80 000. Although he could not show any evidence, Kamwi was adamant that these former soldiers have this record in their diaries. The committee also reported that currently, there are investigations to establish the weight of the packages they feel they deserve. According to Kamwi, the government’s report of 1996 to the World Bank Report under the title The Namibian case is based on the demobilization and reintegration process designed for adult soldiers reports that PLAN ex-combatants received the same benefits of demobilization package as the civilian refugees, each unemployed ex-combatant was given a lump sum to address his or her basic needs and returnees received initial rehabilitation assistance for their short-term needs, including agricultural production packages. The committee denies having received any of these packages. “The only package received was a N$10 when we left the centres during 1989. If this N$10 is the severance one-time pay and a demobilization package, then government still owes us the balance of what we were supposed to receive and we strenuously and vehemently demand it as soon as possible,” said Kamwi. He added, “this report shows that definitely and without doubt there was something we were supposed to receive which is either misappropriated or incorrectly misused.” The committee also announced a nationwide demonstration earmarked for early September. The spokesperson further said that the demands, which many have viewed as “unrealistic” are laid down on the ground for mutual negotiations with the government, aimed at reaching an amicable solution. The committee demands among others, that the government pays out to every ex-combatant N$31 000 multiplied by the years spent abroad; that the government pays out a flat moderate amount of N$500 000 to every ex-combatant; that their children receive free education and medical services; that ex-combatants be allowed to work till the age of 70 years; that they be remunerated N$8 000 per month, be allocated fishing quarters and mining concessions; and be protected from unfair competition in business. These demands, Kamwi explained, were given to the government so that it can choose what would be cheaper. He added, “We deplore the fact that there might have been some miscalculations from the part of the Swapo party President that resulted in the exorbitant figure in the neighbourhood of N$6 billion. “If ex-combatants are paid based on years they spent abroad, the amount would be around N$2 billion and not N$6 billion,” Kamwi said. He therefore called on President Hifikepunye Pohamba to take a fresh look at the issue with the seriousness it deserves. The committee also stated that it has never demeaned the contribution to the liberation struggle of people who were fighting inside the country nor do committee members claim that they fought more than those who were in the country. It also (the committee) strongly stated that they are Swapo members and shall remain so for the rest of their lives.