Omuthiya-A 64-year-old pensioner, whose legs were blown off when he stepped on a landmine during the country’s liberation struggle, says he has not received a disability grant since the programme’s inception.
Gabriel Sheetekela from Okawambi village in Oshikoto Region worked as a police officer for the then South African apartheid government.
He says he found it difficult in the past to make ends meets – until four years ago when he qualified for a government old-age pension.
He claims that in the past he had on several occasions approached the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare in Oshakati so that he could also benefit from the disability grant, but was informed that since he was a police officer under the Koevoet paramilitary unit and the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) during South African colonial rule he should expect his benefits to come from them.
Having tried several times to secure such grant but to no avail Sheetekela was left with no option other than to make the best out of life by working his mahangu field at his homestead, situated some 12 kilometres from Omuthiya.
“I have been struggling over the years, but fours years ago I started receiving a pension grant and that’s how we are surviving with my wife, and I am not suffering like before,” he told this reporter while weeding his field together with her wife.
The couple live alone as their children are now grown-ups who have homes of their own.
“I no longer have a problem with weeding. I do it normally. Like others, I do portions and then I rest and resume,” the senior citizen said, without any hint of self-pity.
“Apart from this I can also harvest using my wheelchair so I am pretty fine. I also fix my fence and thatch huts.”
With the current good rains Sheetekela envisages a good harvest from his fields – the results of an end to the three-year drought that he and other Namibians endured.
Regarding how he lost his legs, he said: “I walked on a landmine during one of our operations when I was a police officer. This happened in the Uukwambi area, although I cannot exactly remember the year.”
He lived in Uukwambi before relocating to Okawambi 20 years ago in search of fertile land for crop farming.
Despite his challenges, Sheetekela says he lives a normal life. His only challenge is the broken artificial limbs which specialists are unable to repair.
“I took my artificial legs for repairs at Oshakati but I was told they cannot fix them because they were ordered from South Africa and thus they are incapable of helping,” he explained.