Moral and Just Response to the ‘Struggle Kids’ [opinion]

IF YOU ask me whether the youths claiming to be the children of the liberation struggle have a case, my answer is a resounding yes, yes and yes.

And as a nation that was liberated through the sacrifice of other people’s blood, we have the responsibility to resolve their demands. As free people in a hard-won democracy, we should rally behind their cause, a cause that literally screams for moral compassion and a humanitarian response.

Collectively, that burden is on the government, especially at presidential level, to acknowledge and recognise that these youths have a moral case.

Here I am not only talking about those children born to exile parents but also the “in-xile” – as Joe Diescho would say – children born to fallen comrades who remained in the country – “inside the belly of the beast” – as it was referred to in some circles during the struggle. They too find themselves in similar deplorable socioeconomic circumstances, and probably even much deeper because they are so invisible to the politics of our systems.

Many of us, at the societal level, also seem to have all but forgotten about the sacrifice made by these fallen heroes and heroines in exile and “in-xile.” The differences between the children left behind by fallen comrades and those with living parentsother social support systems is the supporting and nurturing environment in terms of family stability, economic stability and other social support received.

As beneficiaries of the national liberation struggle, certainly we have a sacred trust with those who sacrificed their lives on our behalf, and owe moralmaterial support to their childrenfamilies. We owe the child of a liberation war combatant, who spent most of hisher exile time at the battlefront and therefore did not acquire the necessary educationskills to survive and support hisher family in an independent Namibia.

Therefore, word that the ‘exile kids’ recently have resorted to some sort of desperate measures (or rather a cry for help) of blocking the roads to demand money from motorists, came as a reminder that, as a nation, we have not done much to come up with acceptable solutions to their plight.

It is also a reminder that years have gone by since the ‘struggle kids’ first presented their demands and the government is still not close to any holistic approach, but only the bungling response of reserving them entry-level government jobs – an approach that is resulting in growing public frustration and division as it is mainly viewed as preferential treatment for the ‘struggle kids’ at the expense of other people in similar dire situations of finding employment.

What is not being done is coming up with social measuresmechanisms specifically focusing on the ‘struggle kids’ (both exile and “in-xile”) in order to provide them with a variety of resources and programmes specifically designed to support them (especially those who lost one or both parents to the national liberation cause) socially, economically and educationally.

Yet, there is another problem that I believe is actually at the core of this moral crisis of ‘struggle kids’. That has to do with the “politics of the elders”. Government’s response to the discourse and politics of our national liberation struggle has been adult-focused. The government set up the Development Brigade for ex-combatants. We erected an impressive and expensive “Heroes Acre”. As if those were not enough, we also showered adults with a Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs.

Left out in the cold are the voiceless and invisible ‘children of the struggle’.

What astonishes me most, however, is Swapo missing in action in aocating the ‘struggle kids’ cause. From where I was trained in the Tobias Hainyeko military training centre, camaraderie runs deeper. One never leaves your “hailwa me-trencher” behind when wounded or killed in action. It is a guerilla thing, but that sacred bond goes to the children and families left behind by fallen comrades!

What is happening with the ‘struggle kids’ is nothing but a betrayal of our fallen comrades’ trust. I am shaken to my core and perplexed at the elitism of our government priorities and lifestyle of some Swapo politicians.

In the African tradition, the adults and the gest eat last in order to make sure that all children, the weaker and vulnerable are served and fed first. That does not seem to be the case in Namibia when it comes to solving the needs of the ‘struggle kids’, the weak and the vulnerable.

* The author is a lecturer at Unam. His work examines the intersection between policy and governance.

Source : The Namibian