War vets furious over housing 'propaganda'
15 July 2020 | Infrastructure
People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) pioneer war veterans - most of whom are still living in poverty and squalor - say they are not impressed by government handing over a house to 72-year-old retired army colonel Fillipus Amutenya 'Zulu' Nandenga so late in his life, calling the exercise “a mockery” and “propaganda”.
They said after he retired in 2008, Nandenga stayed in dilapidated house used by a former South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) commander, and the government has incorporated his new house into the old one.
“This sounds like a mockery to somebody's life. Where was government for the past 30 years when Nandenga needed this house the most and had the capacity to appreciate it? What is paining Nandenga now is not his living conditions, but his physical condition,” said a veteran, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“To me, this is like propaganda, just for him to be paraded in the media that the government has built him a house.
“It is true that they have built him a house, but it is at a time when he is on the verge of dying, although we are all dying.”
Dedicated to freedom
In 1991, Nandenga joined the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) and was given the lowly rank of warrant officer, despite his extensive training and experience.
He attained the rank of colonel after serving in the military for 18 years, before his retirement in 2008.
The veterans said Nandenga is weary physically and mentally, after suffering for many years. “For someone who dedicated his life to the freedom of the country and was a regional commander in exile, the rank of colonel was not befitting for him. “This is showing that they see his contribution to our freedom as nothing. This does not only apply to Zulu, but to many others.
“Some were senior commanders in exile, but they did not get any employment after independence,” another veteran said. “The only time high government officials remember us (struggle veterans) is during the 26 August commemorations and when we are no longer alive.”
The group, mainly consisting of veterans who joined the liberation struggle between 1960 and 1973, said the handover is pure propaganda and makes a mockery of the living conditions that many veterans are still enduring.
Govt official living large
The group also lamented their poverty, claiming their plight is being overlooked, while fellow combatants, some of whom are now senior government officials, are living in luxury.
This past Friday, Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba handed over the N$790 000 government-sponsored three-bedroom house to Nandenga at Oshakati East, near the NDF's 263 Motorised Infantry Battalion's base.
According to Mbumba, Nandenga joined the liberation struggle in 1963 at the age of 15 and established the northern front, before becoming its regional commander in 1977 at the age of 29.
“He was a great political commissar who went about motivating his fellow combatants. When morale was low, he reminded us that transport was coming and when food was (in) short (supply), he would make a way,” Mbumba said, while thanking Nandenga for his contribution to the liberation struggle.
Mbumba explained that government-funded houses are donated to war veterans as a token of appreciation, and beneficiaries are expected to pay for municipal services such as water, electricity and refuse removal.
He pointed out that, to date, government has constructed 299 decent houses for eligible veterans in the country, while at the same time admitting that the waiting list is still long.