Former SWATF, Koevoet members are not war veterans: Theron

OTJIWARONGO: A former SWATF Chief of Operations, Jacob Theron says Koevoet and SWATF members fought on the wrong side of the war during Namibia’s liberation struggle so they do not qualify for veteran status.

“We fought on the wrong side of the war and we don’t qualify for any war veteran status at all,” Theron said in an interview with Nampa on Monday.

The 54-year-old was reacting to calls by some South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) and Koevoet members that Government accord them war veteran status so that they can receive the same grants currently given to former freedom fighters.

Theron was the SWATF’s Chief of Operations at the military headquarters in Windhoek.

Born in Karasburg in the //Karas Region in 1960, Theron now works in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in Otjiwarongo as the Otjozondjupa research section head.

“Those of us who fought alongside the South African regime and received a salary to fight the then ‘terrorists’ – the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fighters – do not qualify for veteran status,” he said.

He went on to say many Namibians fought alongside the South West African Defence Force because they were brainwashed by that regime, adding that people like him and others were made to believe that members of PLAN, the Swapo-Party’s military wing, were terrorists.

“We were made to believe that PLAN fighters were terrorising peace in the country. We were brainwashed to fight alongside the South African regime that’s why in my view I believe that we don’t qualify to be called war veterans,” Theron said.

He also said members of PLAN fought the liberation struggle amongst hardship and out of sheer will, passion and determination to liberate Namibia from foreign occupation, saying this makes them the real war veterans and freedom fighters.

He noted that the PLAN fighters did not receive salaries.

Theron himself had undergone military training in Middelburg, Transvaal and Oudtshoorn in South Africa’s Western Cape Province in 1979 on a full salary.

“We were flown in military airplanes for training and other activities in addition to our good monthly salaries which the PLAN fighters did not have,” he stated.

He also warned both the former Koevoet and SWATF members threatening to boycott the Presidential and National Assembly elections this year to remember that they will lose twice, as not only will the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs not recognise them, but they will also not make their voices heard by electing leaders of their choice.

Also speaking to Nampa on Monday, former Swapo-Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary for education Natangwe Iithete said former SWATF and Koevoet members should stay away from government’s war veteran programmes.

Iithete thanked President Hifikepunye Pohamba for insisting that under no circumstances will they be accorded veteran status.

Speaking at Omugulugwombashe in northern Namibia last month during the unveiling of six statues of former Swapo veterans, Pohamba said he will even inform South African President Jacob Zuma not to recognise them as veterans.

The Namibian Veterans’ Act of 2008 defines a veteran as a person who was a member of the liberation struggle forces and who consistently and persistently participated in the political, diplomatic or underground activities in support of liberation struggle activities.