We Don’t Qualify for Veterans’ Status – Theron

FORMER South West African Territorial Force (SWAFT) chief of operations Jacob Theron says former Koevoet members and those of his force fought on the wrong side of the war during Namibia’s liberation struggle and as such, they do not qualify for veterans’ status.

Theron was the SWATF chief of operations at the military headquarters in Windhoek.

“We fought on the wrong side of the war and we do not qualify for any war veterans’ status at all,” he said.

The 54-year-old Theron was reacting to calls by former SWATF and Koevoet members that government should accord them war veteran status so that they can receive the grants currently being given to former freedom fighters.

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 veterans’ status,” he said.

He also said many Namibians fought alongside the South West African Defence Force because they were brainwashed by that regime, and that people like him and others were made to believe that members of Plan were terrorists.

“We were made to believe that Plan fighters were terrorising people in the country. We were brainwashed to fight alongside the South African regime.

That is why, in my view, we don’t qualify to be called war veterans,” Theron said.

He also said Plan fighters faced hardships during the struggle and fought out of sheer will, passion and determination to liberate Namibia from foreign occupation. This makes them the real war veterans and freedom fighters, he said.

Theron also noted that Plan fighters did not receive salaries like SWATF and Koevoet soldiers.

Theron said he underwent 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 planes for training and other activities in addition to our good monthly salaries which the Plan fighters did not have,” he stated.

He warned both the former Koevoet and SWATF members threatening to boycott the Presidential and National Assembly elections this year that they will be double losers, 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 veterans programmes.

Iithete expressed gratitude to President Hifikepunye Pohamba for insisting that under no circumstances will ex-Koevoet members be accorded veterans’ status.

Speaking at Omugulugwombashe in northern Namibia last month during the unveiling of six statues of former Swapo veterans, Pohamba said he will even urge 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 and who consistently and persistently participated in the political, diplomatic or underground activities in support of the struggle.

Nampa

Source : The Namibian