By Petronella Sibeene
The housing project for war veterans has entered a second phase, with the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development touring the northern parts of the country with a view to verifying the housing needs of would-be beneficiaries before actual construction starts.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Erastus Negonga yesterday told New Era that Government has completed the first phase of the project that saw 45 war veterans acquiring new and modern houses. He added that he was visiting the northern regions to identify more beneficiaries for this government project.
The initiative to construct low-cost houses was taken by Government after realizing that most of the targeted group wallow in poverty and their living conditions are deplorable.
During the financial year 2006/7, the 45 two- and three-bedroom houses were constructed in Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kavango, Kunene, Caprivi, Khomas, Karas and Otjozondjupa regions.
According to the PS, Government has for this financial year set aside N$3 million for the construction of between 20 and 30 houses for war veterans.
“The second phase starts early next year. The housing needs for these people are indeed acute,” he said.
Negonga added that some war veterans desire to build modern and sustainable houses but a lack of resources and the need to attend to other pressing needs such as hunger and poverty have made this difficult.
Given their areas of residence as well, it is not easy to find building materials, the PS said.
About 250 war veterans were listed as beneficiaries of this project based on the criteria as provided by Cabinet.
The directive was given by Cabinet to the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development John Pandeni 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 to be considered for housing benefits includes Robben Island prisoners as well as those who did not go into exile but nevertheless suffered at the hands of the South African occupational forces.
During the first phase, the technical committee in this venture interviewed a total of 191 war veterans, 23 former Robben Island prisoners and 105 internally brutalized persons countrywide.
The ministries of Defence, Labour and Social Welfare, Lands and Resettlement, and the National Planning Commission and Social Economic Integration Programme (SIPE) assisted the committee for ex-combatants.
Those who conducted the interviews established that the housing needs war veterans are very acute and need urgent attention.
For the first phase, Government set aside N$5.8 million to be used in the construction of houses, and 48 former Robben Island political prisoners, PLAN war veterans and people brutalized internally are going to benefit from the 45 houses constructed, while another two houses will be renovated.
Cabinet also instructed the Trust Fund for Regional Development and Equity Provision to avail N$1.5 million to equip the houses with solar home systems and plastic water catchment tanks.
Further, it was resolved that for the next five years, N$2 million will be made available on an annual basis from the Social Housing Programme of the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development.
According to Negonga, apart from the housing needs, there are many challenges faced by war veterans.
In an attempt to address the plight of these people, Government last year established the Ministry of Veteran Affairs, which was followed by the tabling of the Veterans Bill this year.
This piece of legislation affirms the State’s recognition of the important role veterans played in the attainment of the country’s independence and acceptance of a “special responsibility to take care of the welfare of veterans and dependants of veterans”, said the Minister of Veteran Affairs Ngarikutuke Tjiriange.
The Bill defines what a “veteran” is, and makes provision for the establishment of a Veterans Fund from which financial assistance will be provided to veterans and their dependants, and to assist these groups of people to engage in economic projects.
The Bill further makes provision for the registration of veterans and their dependants.
There are between 40 000 and 50 000 veterans countrywide.
Recently, veteran affairs ministers from Mozambique and Zimbabwe were in the country to share information with Namibia on how their countries successfully implemented and addressed demands for monetary compensation by former freedom fighters.
Mozambique and Zimbabwe have considerable experience in compensation methods for veterans.