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By: Kelvin Chiringa

Former Namibian diplomat and military commander, Lieutenant General Martin Shalli, has said Heroes Day should seek to celebrate every Namibian who is contributing in their small ways in various fields for the betterment of the country.

Shali was speaking ahead of the Heroes Day commemorations scheduled for Thursday the 26th of August 2021.

This year’s celebrations are marked by a sombre mood typified by the global Covid-19 pandemic which has taken the lives of too many that sacrificed their lives for Namibia.

The latest of lives taken from among those who fought for the emancipation of Namibia is Kazenambo Kazenambo.

“At the end of the day we produced other heroes. Today we are fighting Covid-19 and so this is another war. So, this day is dedicated to (every) other individual who performs an act of bravery in one form or the other. Whether they are scientists, a doctor, a pilot you name it. We have so many heroes. That’s what it means to me,” he said.

But the chairperson of the Peter Nanyemba Former Combatant Veterans Trust, Nkrumah Mushelenga, said the day is diminishing in its importance.

“While being proud of being an independent country where we have the right to elect our own leaders starting from the national leaders and also regional leaders, equally we are now seeing some discriminatory characteristics that are coming into being particularly aiming at discriminating veterans,” he said.

Mushelenga said 31 years later, the condition of veterans has not been uniform, as some have become better than others.

His trust has so far petitioned the patron of the veterans, President Hage Geingob, to honour a cabinet resolution that sought to pay out N$400 000 in pension money to the liberation fighters.

Up to this point, this is a promise that is yet to the fulfilled.

The veterans have expressed that they want to have a talk with Geingob.

The 27th of August has been set as the deadline upon which the resolution will have to be honoured, failure of which the veterans will sit and chart the next plan of action, he said.

For Mushelenga, war veterans have had to deal with some forms of social-economic barriers, post-independence.

This is not to say that government has not done anything for the veterans as of late.

However, there are some that feel that the economic climate has changed for the worst for such lump-sum payments to be made from the government’s purse.

“There should be money,” Mushelenga has stressed.

He has regarded those criticizing their request as merely exercising their right to form an opinion.

“Now the heroes day’s characteristics and value are also gradually diminishing. When we are talking about heroes’ day, we are talking about the people that fought. The war veterans are supposed to be the first. We used to call the 26th of August as our birthday.”

“But as time (has gone) we have seen that the role players are no longer invited either for strategic planning to plan what type of heroes’ day they want to enjoy. Some of our leaders are forgetting the bitter struggle where we came from.”

“The blood that we have shed, the tears and sweat and also our time. And mind you, we always say history is the best judge whose verdict cannot be ignored,” he said.

Mushelenga said they have tried to find out whether the President is aware of the discrimination, and the diminishing of the symbolic significance of the veterans and the 26th of August.

Meanwhile, leader of the Namibia Exiled Kids Association (NEKA), Rauna Amatati, said it must not be forgotten that the ruling party used the condition of the children of veterans as a humanitarian case.

This, according to her, was meant to solicit for aid and sympathy and the recognition of the Swapo party as a liberation vanguard and torch bearer of the struggle.

At the same time, she said NEKA has been castigated as an organisation that has exerted unnecessary demands over the years.

“I must say that if the likes of Peter Nanyemba, Shikongo, Helao Nafidi, to mention a few, where to come back, what would they say about the state of affairs of their dependents, in a country that they died for? So, the cabinet has failed in the past.”

“This would not have happened if they had solved this issue at the beginning to also make sure that the children of the liberation struggle are included in the veterans Act. And the Act needs to be, …  it must be amended. The children played a sympathetic role to gain donations, support, sympathies from the international community, hence Swapo being recognised as a liberation movement,” she said.

Kelvin Chiringa

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