Opuwo-With the cold slowly creeping in about 15 ex-members of the former South West Territorial Force (SWATF) have vowed to remain put at their camp just a few metres outside Opuwo untill their demands are met.
They say they will continue to camp outside the town until the government accords them war veteran status, despite the fact they fought alongside apartheid South African forces that battled PLAN fighters and were mainly against independence during the liberation struggle.
The group say though they have waited in vain for almost two years for a response to their demands they are undeterred and only death will evict them from where they are currently camping out until they receive the recognition they want.
The group charge that apart from being discriminated against by the Swapo-led government they have lost livestock while at the camp, and some claim their wives have already abandoned them because of their absence from home.
“We had children here too, but they have returned home because the environment is not conducive,” said John Karongo an ex-SWATF soldier.
Although they have not been accorded veteran status, those that are 60 and above receive the monthly government pension.
They want the government to let bygones be bygones and uphold the policy of reconciliation so that they can reap the same benefits as the former PLAN combatants who receive a war veteran grant.
“We are still labelled as those that were blocking independence. What happened to the reconciliation policy adopted at independence? We are in trouble and so is our survival,” said Burden Muharukua.
The group said they have been camping at various spots in Opuwo but were repeatedly chased away, so they settled at the current camp in the bush outside town.
“We were told that we were scaring people and should relocate,” said Karongo.
“The same headmen we assisted are also chasing us away – we are being hidden, that is why we are in the bush,” added Muharukua.
Their daily struggles include battling for food and searching for clean potable water and sanitation.
“We usually go out to get food and share what we get among ourselves and that is how we survive,” said Karongo. The group in Opuwo is part of the former SWATF/Koevoet soldiers camping at the Commando Hall in Windhoek.