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SWATF/Koevoets not 'war veterans'
- 'Over my dead body,' President Pohamba

By Asser Ntinda
The SWAPO Party government has dismissed as nonsensical and insulting current attempts by former members of the notorious killer units, the South West Africa Territory Force, SWATF, and the brutal counter insurgency unit, Koevoet, to have them recognized as war veterans and receive lump-sum payouts currently being given to former freedom fighters.

Several SWAPO Party leaders and government officials said that the Policy of National Reconciliation adopted by the government at independence in 1990 should not be abused, but should rather be seen in the context of national healing. While Namibians have forgiven one another, those who were at the receiving end of the colonial forces have not forgotten the brutalities and atrocities committed against them during the liberation struggle.

Both SWATF and Koevoet were created by the apartheid colonial regime of South Africa to fight against former freedom fighters, mainly former combatants of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia, PLAN.

Unable to contain military attacks and combat operations launched by PLAN combatants, members of these units turned against innocent civilians, brutally killing them and parading their bodies to instill fear in the people so that they stopped supporting and helping or giving information to PLAN combatants.

Setting the tone, the usually calm President Hifikepunye Pohamba was visibly upset by such calls. He used Cassinga Day commemoration to strongly condemn such attempts, saying that former SWATF/Koevoet members could not be recognized as war veterans.

He said they should forget about that fantasy and would never receive cash payments like former PLAN combatants and war veterans of the liberation struggle. He said Namibians went through a brutal war and those sided with the apartheid regime had caused untold sufferings to many people in the country.

"Over my dead body," said President Pohamba. "This will not happen while I am in that Office. We know how our people were brutally murdered by these forces, innocent civilians and children were killed by these elements. Now they want to be recognized as war veterans?

"Never ever. This will not happen. Veterans for having done what? Children, women and the elderly were massacred in cold blood. We have forgiven, but we will never forget... This is the essence of the Policy of National Reconciliation, peace and stability."

Two separate groups claiming to represent former SWATF/Koevoet members have so far emerged. One group calls itself the Old South African Soldiers in Namibia, OSASN, while another one calls itself the Namibia War Veterans Trust, NWVT. The groups want both the Namibian and South African governments to "recognize them as war veterans" and get "compensated."

NWVT's chairperson, Pastor Jan Jaars recently claimed in the media that the "peace in South Africa was created by SWATF and Koevoet soldiers," and they should therefore be recognized as "war veterans and be compensated."

The Ministry of Veterans Affairs has already dismissed as absurd calls by former SWATF/Koevoet elements that they too should receive cash payouts as "war veterans." The Ministry said that only war veterans who had fought for the independence of Namibia should benefit under the Veterans Act, not those who fought against independence.

SWAPO Party Youth League Secretary, Cde Elijah Ngurare, said calls for former SWATF and Koevoet soldiers to be recognized as war veterans and be compensated for their military service sent gruesome shivers in the spine of every Namibian who had vivid memories of the war. He said that such calls exhumed painful memories that were to be buried by the policy of national reconciliation that essentially says, "we shall forgive, but not forget."

"These calls therefore force us to remember the trauma of Apartheid's psychological warfare such as seeing dead bodies being pulled by military trucks (Casspirs) and dead bodies mounted on tyres. The apartheid soldiers both, black and white, seemed quite content and bizarrely fascinated by treating such dead bodies like trophy hunters," said Cde Ngurare. "This is part of that dark chapter of the war that we hoped to forget for the sake of national reconciliation and independence.

But with these calls, we remember very painfully the precious lives of Namibian sons and daughter cut short by the Apartheid regime through SWATF and Koevoet. Their demands for monetary compensation are an affront to the policy of national reconciliation. For the past 22 years of independence, they have lived in peace while their victims have continued to suppress the anger in the name of national reconciliation. With these calls, we must be forced to reexamine this silence of the victims.

"Let these pictures now be reprinted for all to see the crimes committed by the Apartheid regime. Let there be questions asked like: where are these former SWATF and Koevoet operatives in our government today? In the NDF for example, what role are they playing? Are they cleaners or are they being favoured over former PLAN combatants? Where are they in the Namibian Police? Where are they in the Government or Private Sector?

"I therefore agree with President Pohamba that such calls must not be entertained and must be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. We are for the policy of national reconciliation and have always been but this must not be at the expense of our national conscience. Those who fought against independence and those who fought for independence are not the same; and posterity knows the difference just as we do."

Oshikoto Governor, Penda ya Ndakolo, served as a political commissar in PLAN during the liberation struggle. He said that it seemed some people were trying to disrupt peace and stability which Namibia had enjoyed since independence. He said the Veterans Act was very clearly on who were the veterans and who were not.

"SWATF/Koevoet elements served as instruments of oppression and suppression. They committed untold atrocities against innocent people in this country. What is it that they have done for which we should thank them and call them war veterans? They are insulting us if they want us to recognize them as war veterans," said Ya Ndakolo.

"We will never recognize them as war veterans. Veterans for having done what? Recognizing them as war veterans means that appreciating the atrocities they had committed against Namibians. They brutally murdered our fathers and mothers. They burned our parents' houses. We will never honour them for having committed such atrocities.

"I agree with President Pohamba, over our dead bodies. We will never recognize them as war veterans. National reconciliation does not mean that we should appreciate those atrocities. There is nothing to thank them for, absolutely nothing."


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura