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By Asser Ntinda

Recent renewed calls by former members of the murderous military units of the apartheid South African government - the South West Africa Territory Force, SWATF, and the ruthless counter insurgency unit, Koevoet - clearly show that some people are taking the policy of national reconciliation for granted. We are a nation still in pain and in deep grief over what happened in the past. The price we had to pay for us to exercise our rights to self-determination today cannot be measured.

Education Deputy Minister, Dr David Namwandi, always says that "do not scratch where it does not itch." Namibians paid with their blood and lives for this country's independence. The apartheid colonial regime of South Africa had one and only one aim - to perpetuate and defend its illegal occupation of Namibia by all means at its disposal. Killing innocent souls became the norm, rather than the exception. It unleashed on Namibians unspeakable atrocities rarely seen in modern warfare.

Schooled in the "superiority of the white race," the apartheid rulers never valued the lives of black people. Perpetuating its colonial rule over Namibia took center-stage, in all it said and did. In the process, it created military and paramilitary units to ruthlessly further that objective. SWATF and Koevoet were two of those feared units. They were set up to kill and suppress our people's yearnings for freedom and independence.

These units were merciless, ruthless and brutal. For them, killing was a hobby they enjoyed most. We only need to take a look at "Their Blood Waters Our Freedom," and see how many brave sons and daughters of Namibia paid with their lives for Namibia to be free. And that book is far from being complete. What happened between 1966 when SWAPO launched the armed struggle and 1990 when independence was finally achieved is a story of a nation whose people braved the brutalities of the apartheid regime and emerged victorious.

In fighting for their inalienable rights to freedom and self-determination, Namibians have rewritten their history. In that history, there is a chapter on what SWATF and Koevoet did in the name of apartheid South Africa. That chapter makes tragic reading. It chronicles a catalogue of atrocities. Innocent people were murdered and paraded like hunting trophies. The murderers enjoyed as they were pictured next to the dead bodies. Some smiled. Others held onto smashed heads of lifeless bodies.

How do you explain a person being pictured next to a corpse with his middle finger sticking out? How does one smile at a lifeless body whose head is completely shuttered? How does one cut off a head of a person and hold it up like a trophy? These are depressing pictures of ruthless SWATF/Koevoet elements executing fellow human beings in the name of the apartheid regime of South Africa. We have over 2000 of those depressing pictures taken by the perpetrators of such atrocities themselves. The way they smiled as photos were being taken showed that killing was their passionate hobby.

I must admit that it was one of those hard editorial decisions I had to take to publish those photos. Even after I had taken that hard decision, I still had to carefully select which ones I should publish and which ones I should leave out. The gruesome ones I left out. If these photos that we have published today shock and depress you, I must tell you that the worst ones we have not published yet. And maybe we will never. Even if one wanted to publish all of them, one simply couldn't.

Those are ghastly photos to look at. Put yourself in the last moments of those murdered people. They died excruciating deaths. Those murdered souls had their brothers and sisters. They had their children. They had their parents. They had friends and loved ones. Yet, nobody knows where their graves are. Their unmarked graves litter the jungles and forests of northern Namibia and southern Angola. They paid the ultimate price for Namibia to be free. In their quest for freedom and independence, no price was too high to pay. They paid with their lives for us to be what we are today. They never lived to witness and enjoy the freedom and independence that some people take for granted today.

It is sickening to note that those SWATF/Koevoet elements danced and pranced at the deaths of those innocent souls, displaying their severed body parts like trophies, mounting dead corpses on Casspirs and smiling as cameras flashed to take photos. Some of the perpetrators of such atrocities are with us today, walking about and around our streets, enjoying the freedom and independence they had ruthlessly fought against.

True, the Policy of National Reconciliation was framed to heal the wounds of the past. It was not a sign of weakness on the part of the SWAPO Party government. It was anchored on the principle of forgiving. Its sacred clarion call is to discourage revenge. There are many angry families out there still looking for their loved ones. Those families still see the murderers of their loved ones daily, walking freely and earning salaries. Had it not been for the policy of national reconciliation, they could have revenged. An eye for an eye could have unleashed a bloody and endless civil war in which thousands of people could have still perished. SWAPO was wise enough to adopt the policy of national reconciliation. However, it is therefore highly repugnant, abhorrent and irresponsible for ex-SWATF/ Koevoet elements to regroup and put pressure on the government to recognize them as war veterans who should be compensated. Who do these people think they are?

Having murdered and paraded so many innocent people whose only crime was to demand and fight for their rights to freedom and independence, these murderers now have the gut to publicly demand payment for the atrocities they had committed! What are they up to? Instead of repenting and showing remorse for their deeds during the war, they want us to recognize them as war veterans! What nonsense is this? That is taking national reconciliation too far.

The wounds of the past have not yet healed. They will not heal in our life time. However, we have a huge responsibility over our shoulders. Careless and irresponsible public statements such as those being made by those ex-SWATF/Koevoet elements can incite war. The peace and stability we enjoy today should not be taken for granted. Those gallant sons and daughters sacrificed their lives for peace and stability. We can only honour their sacrifices by sustaining and nurturing peace and stability we have been enjoying since independence.

Namibia is going through momentous times. We have a sacred duty to help ease Namibia's march to a greater future. We should discharge this responsibility commitment and devotion. For these ex-SWATF/Koevoet elements to wish to impose themselves on us as "war veterans" is as absurd as it is an exercise in futility and an illusion of staggering proportions. That illusion must be viciously smashed with sledgehammers. We owe it to posterity to do so without any mercy. Let this be our rendezvous with history, our date with destiny.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura