The generals must stand down

The country must ask the brave veterans to come to the aid of nation once again. Namibia is on the brink of economic disaster. Veterans must not make further demands and add to the grave problems the country must face. The government is struggling to feed, house, protect and provide healthcare and jobs for the people.

Veterans are respected and appreciated. As a result, they have received many layers of compensation and benefits since independence. In 2020, there is no more money available and, in our view, no more benefits are required.

Recent reports claim that frustrated ex-generals wish to be appointed to posts within government or be “sent out” to represent Namibia. Such requests cannot be a priority right now. The government must care for nearly 2,000 pandemic-infected citizens (this number is rising). Thousands are in quarantine (and thousands more to come) and 10 have died. It is unseemly for veterans to make a request for additional preferential treatment in the midst of a state of emergency.

The existing wide range of veterans’ perquisites and compensation is extensive.

Veterans receive between $2,000 – N$6,000 per month depending on various criteria applied. In addition, they receive the normal old age pension. The Namibia National Liberation Veterans Association (NNLVA) has a substantial and lucrative fishing quota. That quota will never be withdrawn. Hundreds of veterans, as individuals, are part of consortiums that have won other fishing quotas. In other allocations for tenders and access to state resources, presence of a veteran as a part of the bidding team can help secure a contract.

NamPost has special loans for veterans and civil servants that are not available to the general public. There are considerations in resettlement farm allocations specifically for veterans.

Veterans receive N$200,000 each in a once-off payment for loosely defined ‘business projects’. There is an entire arm of the government with a full staff compliment assigned to take care of veteran’s affairs. Veterans have free death benefits. This is of great assistance to families that may otherwise struggle to afford dignified burials.

If the massive level of funds allocated from state coffers have not made it to the veterans’ programs, then where are they? Is there a ‘Fishrot’ style leakage of veterans’ funds too?

The generals must be aware that the government faces a 21 percent deficit representing over N$10 billion dollars. More billions are needed to repay foreign currency and Rand denominated bond and loan agreements. Government has taken the final death march to the doors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to borrow even more billions to finance a part of that deficit. Con games, corruption and poor decision-making have wasted billions. Namibia may collapse under this heavy financial strain. How can generals make any demands at this time?

The fight for an independent Namibia did not just include “40 generals”. There are armies of descendants of those who fought against German colonialism. Those past combatants lost land, cattle and their lives.

In addition, there are thousands of brave people who did not go into exile and yet took life-threatening risks to help liberate this country. Are the ‘generals’ advocating for more benefits for them too?

Veterans are a national treasure. We cannot understate this. But, to act as if they are entitled while the country is crying tears of financial despair is unrealistic.

Unemployment in Namibia is above 35 percent and rising. Youth unemployment is over 40 percent and rising. NSFAF has insufficient funding for students who qualify for university studies. Graduates with degrees are sitting at home jobless and becoming hopeless. The country has over 60 percent of its citizens below the age of 40. A larger share of government resources must cater to that demographic reality. Independence was not won to enrich those who fought in the war, but for future generations that will continue to build the nation.

It is hard to retire to a village when there are others who were also part of the struggle and yet, are still in government earning a big salary. Perhaps, envy is why the “generals” are speaking out now.

Veterans are the “backbone of the [Swapo] party.” Let the ruling party step up and provide more for the veterans. The Secretary General of the ruling party reminded everyone that Swapo has “all the money.” As it is builds its N$750 million headquarters, let it use some of those funds to satisfy the old generals.

Let the veterans once again step up to fight for the survival of Namibia and take the benefits they have earned and move on. The generals must stand down.

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