Disgruntled former members of the South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) and Koevoet counter-insurgency unit have assured government of sustained protests in days to come, following yesterday’s protest that disrupted the rush-hour traffic in Katutura.
Dozens of former agents of SWATF and Koevoet, mostly from the Ovahimba tribe, blocked traffic along Kamberipa Street in Katutura near Herero Mall in protest over alleged unfair treatment by government.
The protesters sat down in the middle of road, preventing oncoming vehicles from passing through. They demand N$36 million from government, which – according to them – was paid to them through the Namibian government by the South African government.
The group also seeks recognition as war veterans with benefits equal to those given to Namibians who, after a vetting process, were declared war veterans.
The war veterans’ benefits include a N$2 000 monthly grant, a once-off lump sum of N$50 000 and N$200 000 to start a business.
In one of his addresses last year, President Hage Geingob told the dissident group that Namibia does not have the approximately N$36 million pension money they claim was received from South Africa.
“Go to South Africa. We are not accountable for it. N$36 million was going to be given to SWATF and our president at the time (Sam Nujoma) said we are reconciling, why don’t we share it with all those who were fighting?”
Geingob said although the Namibian government inherited the country from the South African government, it is not accountable for what the South African regime did during its illegal occupation.
Speaking on behalf of the group yesterday, Namibia War Veterans Trust (Namvet) chairperson Jabulani Ndeunyema vowed not to go home until their demands are met by the current government.
“After the successful protest today we’re now saying there’s no going back on pressing this regime so that it listens to our concerns,” Ndeunyema told protesters. “Be prepared to die for what is rightfully yours,” he said to loud applause from former members of SWATF and Koevoet.
He said they would only cease their protests if Geingob expressed himself on their demand to be recognised as war veterans.
“We will go home if Geingob can send us a letter to say that the government will not recognise us as war veterans, or that we are not wanted. We will go home to either die or wait for the next president,” he said.
The group has been staging a sit-in protest at the Red Flag Commando Hall near Herero Mall in Katutura, as well as at a place they have dubbed the “Namvet Bastion and Memorial Park”, some 10 kilometres outside Opuwo.
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 the South Africa occupation and an active belligerent from 1979 to 1990 in the Namibian war of independence.
Both SWATF and Koevoet are known to have perpetrated gross human rights violations, including the killing of civilians with impunity during Namibia’s liberation struggle.