• July 21st, 2019
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Accept there was a war … Geingob tells Swapo ex-detainees



Albertina Nakale

WINDHOEK - President Hage Geingob yesterday told a group who claim they were kept in detention by Swapo during the liberation struggle to accept that any such act was part of the war that Namibia underwent.
The group must thus move on with the times in the name of national reconciliation, Geingob told the group during their visit to State House yesterday.
The President accepted an invitation to have an audience with a group of Swapo ex-detainees, representing survivors from the infamous dungeons and those who allegedly disappeared while in exile during the dark days of the liberation struggle.


Geingob was responding to the group’s representative and co-founder of Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS) advocacy group, Pauline Dempers, who appealed to government to reconsider and have open talks on the predicament in which direct and indirect victims of the so-called Lubango dungeons find themselves. 
The group feel that during Swapo’s 23-year guerrilla war against South African occupation, the movement was rocked by a series of internal crises and violent purges, which – just like the wide range of human rights abuses committed by the apartheid regime – have never been officially investigated.
They said that for years ex-detainees lived with death hanging over their heads. They added that since their return to Namibia, it has been mixed experiences for them.
Equally, Dempers said they could not rebuild their lives and have been displaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although some became successful in their personal and professional lives, she noted that unwarranted political stigmatisation, family ostracism, community marginalisation, job discrimination and economic exclusion continued to be a grim reality.
However, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who was also present, told the group that the laws are clear when it comes to job opportunities and that any incidences or form of discrimination should be reported through the proper established channels.
There are allegations that while in exile, Swapo had imprisoned some of its own members, and that some detainees were tortured, while others are said to have disappeared without trace.
Many of the detainees were suspected to have been spying on Swapo on orders of the enemy.
The group asked Geingob to jointly find ways of restoring their stolen dignity, saying they are not enjoying the fruits of independence as they still bear the “spy-tag”, which they want removed totally.
In this regard, Geingob told them that blanket amnesty was issued for both sides of the conflict and a policy of national reconciliation, which is based on a commitment to closure for the sake of nation-building, was adopted.
“We are saying that there was a blanket amnesty between South Africa and Swapo to free all those in the dungeons. If we are complaining, then we must also call the Koevoets to come and account for their atrocities,” Geingob reacted. 
Further, Geingob questioned the group why it always brought up the issue of Lubango dungeons when it is an election year.
He also explained to them that many Namibians lost their loved ones during the war, both inside and outside Namibia, hence their issue cannot be treated differently from other war-related incidences.
Geingob said he understood the pain of being labelled as a spy, adding that he too went through name-calling such as “CIA” [Central Intelligence Agency] agent.
He stressed that there are people whose families died during the Cassinga massacre, but they do not ask for special treatment due to national reconciliation. 
Geingob said if every affected Namibian started to bring up their issues stemming from the war, such acts would defeat the purpose of national reconciliation and the country would be up in flames. 
“Are you denying that there were no spies? If we are saying there were spies, we are not saying you were the spies. What proposal are you making for those who were wrongly accused to heal? The blanket amnesty meant whatever Swapo did in exile, forget it and whatever South Africa did, forget it.”
“We have to accept that there was a war. We all lost in a war. How about those parents whose children died in Cassinga and those who disappeared? They are also angry,” Geingob remarked.
Therefore, he cautioned the former detainees to forget what happened during the war and move forward for nation-building like other Namibians who were equally affected and tortured, or whose family members disappeared with no trace.
 


Albertina Nakale
2019-05-16 09:30:17 2 months ago

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