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Kapofi, Venaani clash over Koevoet care

2023-03-03  Edward Mumbuu

Kapofi, Venaani clash over Koevoet care

 There is no moral basis to give special recognition or benefits to former South West Africa Territorial Force and Koevoet members beyond what they enjoy in an independent Namibia, defence minister Frans Kapofi has said. 

He was responding to Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani’s plea for government to consider special options to fund demands by former SWATF and Koevoet members as well as struggle kids as their frustration could be used by terrorist groups to destabilise the country. 

 On Wednesday, Venaani advanced modalities to permanently resolve concerns raised by the disgruntled groups, saying for as long as the burning issues confronting the groups remain unresolved, a serious security risk exists. 

Former SWATF and Koevoet members have been demanding recognition as war veterans, and to also qualify for benefits that come with such recognition. The lifetime perks include once-off payments, monthly allowances, and study grants for their children. They have also asked government to pay back money allegedly left for them by the apartheid regime as their pension. 

“The reality of the matter is that these people are in those two categories because of the political climate in which this country was. Like it or not, it was the political climate,” Venaani said. 

The minister, however, is adamant that the erstwhile SWATF and Koevoet officers must be content with what the government has done, and continues doing for them. 

“They [ex-SWATF and Koevoet] just want to benefit. But their case is morally very difficult to defend. Maybe for Venaani, he has a moral obligation to defend them because they served a course that he probably believed in. But for us, as me, their part is over. They should just be content with what they get as pensioners. That’s it. 

For them to be expecting other benefits after the things they have done, all these treacherous things, I don’t think they will expect any sensible person to recognise them,” Kapofi said without mincing his words. 

The SWATF and the South African counter-insurgency unit Koevoet fought tooth and nail against Swapo’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan), and other Namibian groups during the country’s protracted war for independence that pitted Namibians against each other. 

According to Kapofi, the situation the groups find themselves in is not unique to them. 

“The whole country has problems. There are so many vulnerable people here. People who are genuinely looking for jobs, academics who are trained, university graduates (sic)… they are there unemployed, the economy is struggling, and people must heed to these calls,” he added. 

Kapofi also hastened to caution that authoritative figures like Venaani should be cautious about security issues. 

“Why put such ideas in the minds of people, and which terrorists is he referring to? Maybe he [Venaani] has information that we don’t have. I would have liked to have him talking to us in confidence what he has picked up,” he stated. 

Kapofi then challenged Venaani to initiate programmes to assist the groups. 

On his part, Venaani proposed that the government taps into the reserves of the Namibia Special Risks Insurance Association (Nasria) to mitigate what he sees as a ticking time-bomb. 

“Nasria has the ability to deal with terrorism risks that are of a political nature. Nasria is sitting with a fund [asset base] of close to N$800 million. If the government engages Nasria and say they want to access this fund to mitigate the risk of terrorism, the political violence that was in this country, that brought about SWATF and the struggle kids (it may work),” Venaani suggested. 

He used an example where Nasria’s money was spent. 

Within six months of its operations, the company received one of its first claims after the bomb blast at the Oshakati First National Bank branch in February 1988. 

According to him, these funds could then be used to finance agricultural projects to be manned by the affected groups. Venaani said it should not be taken lightly when disgruntled ordinary citizens audaciously elect to shut down a strategic office. 

“How do you have a country where young children attempt to go and block the headquarters of defence in the country, and you say there is no security risk in the country? Our people could be used [and I dare not say it but I am saying it]. Terrorism that’s fuelled in Mozambique and elsewhere (sic)… people could be used to destabilise the country. 

If we do not run the race to resolve the political would-be problems in this country, one day you will find a bomb that has exploded at an important ministry that would cost this country another N$100 million,” Venaani continued. 

He was referring to last month’s incident, where about 200 children of the liberation struggle had to be dispersed by the police using rubber bullets after chaining the entrance to the defence ministry, following the ministry’s failure to meet their demands. 

Chief among the group’s demands is that the ministry, which is also responsible for veterans, gives them due recognition as they are offspring of the ex-combatants, who do not belong to the youth ministry where they were registered in 2008 for possible employment in government. 

Meanwhile, former SWATF and ex-Koevoet members have been seeking recognition from the government as war veterans in the name of reconciliation. 

Their request has largely been rejected as they do not qualify to be war veterans, according to the existing law. 

2023-03-03  Edward Mumbuu

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