Namvet wants 'refund'

Ex-soldiers say they have been duped out of their wages and pension payouts.

08 August 2019 | Politics

The Namibia War Veterans Trust (Namvet) is once again demanding answers from the Swapo-led government, as well as Standard Bank Namibia, about the N$36 million paid out by the former apartheid South African government that was earmarked for former SWATF and Koevoet soldiers.

The former soldiers wrote a letter to finance minister Calle Schlettwein in June in which they asked that he “unlock the box file” presumably containing information about the millions, and make it public.

In the letter they claim the money was meant to be the monthly salaries of former SWATF and Koevoet members for eight months from May to December 1989.

They say only 37% of the ex-soldiers received N$1 300 each, while others received nothing.

President Hage Geingob said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2015 that N$12 million of this money had gone to the former SWATF/Koevoet members, N$12 million to former PLAN fighters, and the remaining N$12 million to the government.

However, Schlettwein responded to the Namvet letter on 12 July by saying that the N$36 million “was never deposited with treasury”.

“Was the money carried in a briefcase from South Africa?” asked Namvet leader Jabulani Ndeunyema. “We want to know the truth to end the hostile environment.”

Namvet says Geingob, who was the then prime minister, has to answer for the millions, claiming the money was “dubiously distributed, mismanaged and went missing”.

It also demands that Standard Bank Namibia, where the money was deposited, releases a document allegedly attached to the N$36 million specifying who the beneficiaries of the money ought to have been.

“We are very angry with the financial institution, and we demand that Standard Bank give an understandable response,” said Ndeunyema, adding that Standard Bank must acknowledge that it “failed to do the right thing”. Standard Bank Namibia said it is yet to investigate these claims. George Smieer, a former SWATF soldier and secretary of information and mobilisation of the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), said at the press briefing shared with Namvet yesterday that he had met a certain Theron, then a manager at the Standard Bank head office in Windhoek, about the millions in the early 1990s. Smieer claimed that Theron informed him that he [Theron] had been under “extreme political pressure” to release the money to the Swapo leadership.

Smieer said he was informed by Theron that N$12 million of this money was given to the now defunct Development Brigade Corporation (DBC) in Ondangwa and “some millions” was used by Swapo “to buy buses”.

“Our view is that this was a criminal act,” said Smieer, adding that the ex-soldiers will demand the millions back from Standard Bank Namibia within the next two months.

“Standard Bank was under duress; there was a fear factor from the Swapo government,” Smieer said.

The ex-soldiers also demand pension payouts from sums directly deducted from their wages under the South African Defence Insurance Scheme, which they say they never received.

“These pension monies are still accumulating millions in interest. Every second our pension monies are increasing in value. Once we get that payout all of us will be multi-millionaires,” Smieer said.

Smieer further claimed that the former SWATF/Koevoet members are shareholders in the Seaside Hotel & Spa at Swakopmund – owned by the NDF Force Foundation – through their contributions made to the former SWA Defence Force Foundation.



Namvet enters political fray

The Namvet leadership yesterday also announced that it had formed a political party that intended to contest the November general elections. Namvet will make an official announcement in this regard on 15 August.

In the meantime, Ndeunyema said, Namvet had “suspended” its demand for war veteran status for the former SWATF/Koevoet members, since the new party would engage in a political dialogue on this matter from April next year.

Namvet member Simeon Papama said ex-SWATF/Koevoet members have been used as voting fodder by other political parties over the last 29 years.

“We got nothing in return. From now on we will represent ourselves,” Papama said.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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