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In Namibia, Demands of Ex-Combatants Are Not Met

In Namibia, President Hifikepunye Pohamba says meeting the demands of the ex-combatants would ruin the country’s economy. He has appealed for calm and national unity. The ex-combatants have demanded compensation for participating in Namibia’s liberation struggle. They demand free education for their children, free medical care, mining concessions, and allocation of fishing quotas. They have given the government three options to pay them: N$31000 (about $4500) for every year they spent abroad; a flat rate of N$500 (about $73) to every ex fighter; or N$31000 for 23 years to every self employed, employed, or retired fighter. They request the government protect them from unfair competition in business and appoint them to senior or junior positions in government. They also want the government to set up a fund to which private companies could contribute. The President says the demands would lead to political and social instability, which he says, no responsible government could allow.

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah is Namibia’s minister of information. She spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the demands of the ex-combatants.

“If you follow the address to the nation which the comrade president has made, he even mentioned that our national budget, annual budget is N$15 billion. Now if out of the 15 billion then you take 6 billion to meet those demands, you realize that you only remain with 9 billion in order to take care of other national commitments. Now definitely, there are things you will need to take care of, for example, education, health, providing housing and other facilities, so definitely that will lead into destabilizing the economy.”

Nandi-Ndaitwah says she does not think the demands of the ex-combatants are excessive.

“Not to say they are unreasonable, but the other thing that one has also to understand is [that] many Namibians have really participated, even those who did not go into an exile. We know of people who really suffered in the hands of the racist regime, when they had to face torture. Their houses [have] been burnt down, some of them arrested and spent years in Robin Island but 16 years of Namibian independence and even immediate after independence, the SWAPO (South West African Peoples Organization) government has really to look into the welfare of all Namibians because the country now is independent and everybody has to enjoy the fruits of the country’s independence. And nobody is disputing the significant contribution they have made to the independence of Namibia. But they have also to appreciate that the peace and stability that we are enjoying is another bonus for them for the work they have done.”

The Namibian official says her government is already working on improving the lives of the ex-combatants.

“The strategy that the government is having is really to expand on our economic activities through looking into different sectors of the economy. We are looking to improve our education sector, so that our human resources development is improved and we will be able to improve on the special safety net of our people including the ex-combatants,” she said.

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