By Staff Reporter
Veterans Affairs Minister, Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, is non-committal about whether or not Swapo ex-detainees would qualify as war veterans and therefore be eligible for veteran allowances as provided for in the Veterans Bill of 2007.
Allowances for war veterans will only be paid to people who “fought consistently and persistently for the liberation of Namibia”, Tjiriange said.
“This means that even those that were captured and incarcerated were fighting and were put there because they were fighting for the struggle,” he said last week.
However, Tjiriange said he could not answer whether Swapo members that were detained by the party due to suspicion that they were spies would qualify for subventions stipulated in the Veteran Bill of 2007.
“Nobody will answer that question. The people to benefit as veterans are those who meet the criteria,” he said.
Tjiriange added that there are people who were caught in the crossfire and were cleared, while others were incarcerated and came out and are still active Swapo members. He said the bottom line is that those who were persistently there and qualify would be recognised for their contribution.
Tjiriange was speaking in an interview with New Era last week to clear misunderstandings on who qualifies for the war veterans’ allowance. The budget for 2008/9 has made provision for an increase in war veterans’ allowances from N$500 to N$2 000 per month.
The new allowances will be paid once the new Veterans Bill 2007, which replaces the War Veterans Subvention Bill of 1999, has been printed and signed by President Hifikepunye Pohamba. While the old law confines itself to war veterans, the new one encompasses all veterans of the liberation struggle.
“The implication is that we are not confining ourselves to people that fought with arms but even those that contributed immensely, consistently and bravely to the struggle,” said Tjiriange, adding that this includes those who fought with arms but not excluding others.
Liberation fighters that were detained by the colonial regime and incarcerated and others that contributed under the banner of other political parties and churches also qualify for the subvention.
“As long as they fought persistently and consistently for the liberation struggle. They do not need to have fought under Swapo only,” he added. He said there were no plan fighters that were captured and used in the colonial army. He said they were either killed or imprisoned.
The criteria for qualification to the veteran fund could open applications by people from groups such as the Damara Council, Mbanderu Council, Namibian Independence Party (NIP), NUDO yo Horongo, Nanso, the trade union movement and other progressive groups.
Even people who were in the struggle and deserted for some time but came back will also form part of the beneficiaries of the subvention if the Veterans Board so decides, said Tjiriange.
The Bill defines a “veteran” as a member of the liberation forces; a person who consistently and persistently participated or engaged in any political, diplomatic or underground activity in the furtherance of the liberation struggle; and a person who, owing to his or her participation in the liberation struggle, was convicted – whether in Namibia or elsewhere – for any offence closely connected to the liberation struggle and sentenced to im-prisonment.”
Excluded from this benefit are those that collaborated with the colonial forces and in the process fought against the liberation struggle.
“We are talking of veterans of the Namibian liberation struggle not of other things. If you fought against the struggle, you can’t say you were part of the liberation struggle. You can’t qualify,” he said.
Tjiriange said some Namibians were forced by the colonial administration to fight within their structures. While others were forced against their will, the minister said others went willingly and “up to date are proud of it”.
These include former South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) and Koeveot, of whom Tjiriange said: “Whether forced or volunteered, they were part of an army that kept colonialism alive in this country. The South African army did not come here to hunt elephants, buffaloes and kudus, but to kill Namibians.”
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