UPM Eyes Ex-Koevoet and Swaft Vote

FORMER members of the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) have been encouraged to vote for the opposition United People’s Movement in national elections scheduled for this year, to enhance their chances of being granted the war veterans’ status for their role during the war of liberation.

Lukas de Klerk, the chairperson of the Old South African Soldiers in Namibia committee (OSASN) and member of the United People’s Movement (UPM) said the only way ex-SWATF and ex-Koevoet members can achieve their status is by doing it on both a national and international platform.

He was addressing a gathering of about 150 former soldiers at Moses van der Byl Primary school in Windhoek, who voiced their concerns on what they consider a betrayal of the policy of national reconciliation by the government which has refused to recognise them as war veterans.

“All members must vote for the UPM to enable it to get seats in parliament. The party will then aocate the soldiers’ rights and promote the amendment of the Veterans’ Act to include all soldiers,” said De Klerk who added that the Act does not cater for former Koevoet and SWATF members, but only for those who fought for Namibia’s liberation.

The Veterans’ Act of 2008 defines a ‘veteran’ as any person who was a member of the liberation forces and who consistently and persistently participated or engaged in any political, diplomatic or underground activity in furtherance of the liberation struggle or owing to his or her participation in the liberation struggle, was convicted, whether in Namibia or elsewhere, of any offence closely connected to the struggle, and sentenced to imprisonment.

The Act further states that it does not include a person who during the war, deserted the struggle unless that person subsequently rejoined the struggle. “War” means the armed struggle waged in Namibia and other countries by the liberation forces against the colonial forces, and which struggle resulted in the attainment of the independence of Namibia on 21 March 1990.

This comes after President Hifikepunye Pohamba publicly called the Koevoet soldiers ‘murderers’ and declared he would not grant them war veterans’ status. He also said he would inform South African president Jacob Zuma, to ignore them as well. Pohamba said this at the unveiling of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fighters’ statues at Omugulu-Gwombashe, in late May.

“Pohamba failed to practise reconciliation by not treating us as Namibians, and thus he goes against the Namibian Constitution which calls for equal treatment for all, regardless of affiliation,” said De Klerk, also describing the President as a murderer.

Some of the ex-soldiers supported De Klerk’s view, saying that the party might open the door for them to get the recognition as war veterans, while others were not keen on the idea, saying politics is riddled with corruption and as soon as people get into power, they will forget about the former SWATF and Koevoet members.. One of the former soldiers, Isaack Khorob, who is now a pastor, felt that voting for the party might not solve anything as most people will forget their promises when they get into power. “I trust God to help us, but I do not support politics.”

Ex-SWATF member, Sidney Cloete, on the other hand, said voting for the party might actually assist them in getting what they want: “I believe this party will fight for our rights.” Meanwhile, a member of the Swapo Party Youth League and chairperson of the National Youth Council, Natangwe Ithete, warned the old South African soldiers and Koevoet members not to open old wounds.

“Namibia has a policy of national reconciliation, which means for the sake of reconciliation we forgive Koevoet and the SWATF members for killing our parents and leaving us orphans. They must not threaten us by saying they will not vote when they were fighting against Namibia’s independence and democratic right (to vote). What difference will it make if they don’t vote? We are busy healing the wounds of the SWATF and Koevoet activities and they must not try to reopen those wounds,” Ithete said.

Source : The Namibian