Close to 20 families of destitute former members of the then South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) and Koevoet, who were camping at ‘Herero Mall’ since January this year, have relocated to a nearby riverbed where they now live.
The group say they were left with no other option since the area they were camping at had become overcrowded.
The group of more than 1 000, who are mostly Himba-speaking, had since the beginning of this year been camping at Herero Mall, Katutura, in protest of government’s refusal to recognise them as war veterans.
They seek recognition as war veterans with benefits equal to those given to Namibians who, after a vetting process, were declared war veterans.
The benefits include N$200 000 to start up a business, a N$50 000 lump sum and a N$2 000 monthly grant.
When New Era visited the riverbed situated between Namcol’s Yetu Yama and Namibia English Primary School yesterday, a family of three was cooking lunch that consisted of animal fat off-cuts and what seemed to be animal feed.
Many of the families were said to have temporarily left their dwellings in search of their next meal and would return later in the day.
Others complained of lack of basic medical care. One woman in the group was heavily pregnant and with others lamented joblessness, hunger and extreme poverty.
Kaapehi Mbepera, a former Koevoet trooper, says life has been a struggle since they moved to Windhoek in January.
Mbepera, who lives with his wife and one of his seven children in a plastic-sheet hut, said they cannot go back to his homestead at Okonguat in the Kunene Region as they had lost all their livestock to the ongoing drought.
Mbepera, who claims to have been previously rich, says to date he has lost over 200 cattle and a number of small livestock to the drought that has recurred in the region for the past five years.
“I know that people are saying that we should go back to where we come from but what do we go back to?” he asked.
He said that for the past nine months they have been surviving on mostly handouts, leftovers, and also from selling empty beer and wine bottles they collect from the streets.
Mbepera said he and his family do not have any choice but to take whatever comes their way.
An elderly woman, Veongaomengi Tjambiru, told this reporter that she had not eaten for the past two days.
Accompanied by her grandchild Uazepirehi – who is about three years old – Tjambiru, who does not know her own age, said every little meal she gets she reserves for her grandchild.
She said that she does not get the monthly state pension of N$1 100 as she does not have any identification documents.
Tjambiru said that all she wishes for is to have a decent place she could call home for the reminder of her life.
SWATF was an auxiliary arm of the South African Defence Force and comprised the armed forces of South-West Africa (now Namibia) from 1977 to 1989.
It emerged as a product of South Africa’s political control of the territory which was granted to the former as a League of Nations mandate following World War I.
Similarly, Koevoet was a major paramilitary organisation under apartheid South Africa and an active belligerent from 1979 to 1990 in the Namibian war of independence.
Both SWATF and Koevoet are known to have perpetrated gross violations of human rights, including killings of civilians during Namibia’s liberation struggle.