Windhoek – Destitute and homeless former SWATF and Koevoet members who are currently living rough in a riverbed in Katutura have appealed for shelter ahead of the rainy season. They currently live in deplorable conditions in a riverbed near Namibia English Primary School in Katutura.
The group earlier this year travelled to Windhoek from Opuwo in the Kunene Region to seek recognition as war veterans with benefits equal to those given to recognised war veterans who for fought against the South African occupation.
Over 20 ex-SWATF and former Koevoet, who have lived in plastic-sheet huts in the riverbed for several months made an impassioned appeal this week to the general public to help them obtain shelter.
“Over the last few days we’ve seen inches of rain and high winds and sometimes the weather has been absolute scary,” Tjindoozu Tjambiru told New Era yesterday.
“I appeal to good Samaritans and angels of mercy to assist us to put roofs over our heads as we are all unemployed,” he pleaded.
The group also complained of a lack of basic medical care, of chronic hunger and a lack of water.
Tjambiru told this reporter that he and his family survive mainly from food and clothes they collect at the dumpsite.
He said the food items consist mainly of cut-offs they find in nearby butcheries’ bins, which they mix with leftover maizemeal that they also collect from bins.
He says he was forced to go to the dumpsites to find food, as he lives with his unemployed wife and two children. “I have a family to take care of. We cannot sleep on an empty stomach. This is how we survive,” he said.
Asked why they do not approach government directly for support, Tjambiru said they had tried several times to obtain child support grants, but “maybe” due to the language barriers they have so far been successful, he said.
“Most of us here were never at school, so it is very difficult for us to express ourselves in any other language than Himba,” he said.
Tjambiru also does not have any knowledge of his entitlements as a Namibian citizen.
SWATF was an auxiliary arm of the South African Defence Force and comprised the armed forces of then South-West Africa (now Namibia) from 1977 to 1989.
It emerged as an instrument of South Africa’s control of the territory, which was granted to the former as a League of Nations protectorate following World War I.
Similarly, Koevoet was a major paramilitary organisation under 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 the killing of civilians. The Swapo-led government has repeatedly stuck to its guns that it would not recognise or reward anyone who fought against the country’s independence.