ONGWEDIVA – Government is expected to spend close to N$100 million this year on over 500 war veterans as part of the hard cash payout initially meant for income-generating projects.
A decision by the authorities to give the long-awaited cash pay-out to insistent war veterans has come as a burdensome expense
for the already-financially struggling government.
For many years, the war veterans have
been demanding the N$200 000 pay-out meant for veterans who want to engage in income-generating projects be paid out to them in hard cash.
The veterans affairs ministry has been running a programme, called the Individual Veterans Programme (IVP), through which veterans can apply for funding to initiate their cash-generating projects, worth
between N$150 000 and N$200 000.
However, due to various reasons, some veterans insisted on hard cash over projects.
It was on these demands that Cabinet took a decision late last year to give a lump sum payment but at a reduced amount of N$170 000 to qualifying veterans.
The amount was reduced to accommodate more beneficiaries in the financial resources made available for that specific project.
The disbursement already began in March 2022, and about 252 veterans have already been paid out to date.
In a telephonic interview with New Era, the ministry’s spokesperson Petrus Shilumbu indicated by the end of this year, a total of 552 veterans would be paid out.
The ministry will spend close to N$10o million on this year’s batch only.
The current backlog stands at over 11 000 and requires funding of N$2.2 billion.
Shilumbu said although the ministry intends on meeting the veterans’ demands and uplifting their living standards, it should be noted that “it is an expensive obligation” to the ministry and the government.
“All the veterans who were not given individual projects will be paid out in cash. So, it is an expensive exercise also looking at the large number of veterans who are yet to receive their payment,” he said.
“The government doesn’t have money. We are hearing the outcries, but we all know the economic difficulties Namibia is facing. It is not an easy task to take such a decision at this stage.”
According to statistics from the ministry, since the creation of the veteran’s affairs division, the government has so far paid 28 510 veterans a once-off lump sum of N$50 000, while 1 535 veterans were also given a once-off payment of N$20 000 each.
The veterans continue to enjoy their benefits, as the government provides them with a minimum monthly allowance of N$2 500 that is given to about 19 716 veterans.
On top of that, some veterans are qualified to receive an additional improvement grant.
The improvement grants are divided into three categories: N$5 000, given to former fighters and those who were deployed between 1960-1970.
Those deployed between 1971-1981 get an additional grant of N$4 000, while the last category of militias and those who were deployed between 1982-1989 earn N$3 000 per month.
The fighters of the liberation struggle are also provided with medical assistance, funeral assistance and educational grants, among many other benefits.
Although the Namibia National Veterans Association president Ben Shikongo questioned the rationale of the N$30 000 deductions from the initial amount, he welcomed the initiative, saying despite economic challenges, the government has done its best to cater to the needs of the veterans.
“The government is trying, by all means, to make sure they meet our demands,” he told journalists last week.
“There are those who are still insisting but those of us who have been working in the government understand the situation.”
Approached for a comment, the spokesperson of the Former Plan Combatant Association (FPCA), Charles Mubita, said he would be the happiest person alive if the ex-plan combatants receive their payment.
The People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) was Swapo’s military wing during the struggle for Namibia’s liberation.
Mubita said the majority of the former combatants have not received their payment, compared to other war veterans.
Contrary to his opinion, veterans affairs minister Frans Kapofi said the payment would be made on a first-come, first-served basis.
He said this in a documentary that was released by the ministry in August this year.
“It doesn’t matter whether you had a gun or you didn’t have a gun; our policy doesn’t discriminate. Those who were in PLAN are calling to be the first ones to be recognised, but that is against our policy. We have to honour our project and give a fair chance to all our national veterans, irrespective of their roles during the liberation struggle,” he explained.
He, however, said an exemption could be made, provided there is justification as to why some veterans want to be recognised first.