28 000 out of 45 000 applicants pass veterans status: Iyambo
As the country marks its Heroes Day this month, Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Nickey Iyambo uses the occasion to inform the nation on observing with reverence and deep appreciation the emancipation and freedom that was brought about by the country’s fallen and living heroes and heroines. To date, over 45 000 applicants have been submitted to his Ministry but only 28 000 have made the cut, he explains…
PF: How can you describe your tenure at the Ministry of Veterans Affairs?
NI: My tenure here so far has been very interesting and indeed rewarding. You see, this Ministry is not a static institution, but a dynamic one in the pursuits of veteran’s programmes. I am even happy because I am serving the comrades in need.
PF: The issue of war veterans’ compensations is a hot issue currently why so?
NI: Compensation for veterans is an ongoing matter. As long as there are veterans who are not registered they will continue to come for registration. You know, compensation will always be a hot issue. However, I want you to know that only veterans who are approved by the Veterans Board will receive compensation.
PF: Can you shed more light into the criterion for selection of veterans?
NI: The criteria for qualification to be awarded veteran status are prescribed by the Veterans Act, Act No. 2 of 2008 and the Regulations. It is not a guess work. Currently the total number of people who applied is 45,000 but only 28,000 passed the test. I hear some people come to tell how many public political meetings they have attended: that is not the issue. It is your personal consistent and persistent participation in the process of the liberation struggle, outside or inside the country or underground work which count. Having attended meetings or having given PLAN fighters food once or twice does not qualify you to be accorded veteran status.
PF: The list of war veterans seems to be getting longer and longer, where are the loop holes in the system?
NI: The list for those who apply cannot be determined in advance, but those who will pass the test are those who meet the criteria of the law referred to earlier. Thus, there are no loopholes in the system. We should not have, say, more than about 65,000 veterans in this country; therefore the list will not be getting longer and longer. People can come to apply but will they pass the test? is the question.
PF: The current state of the disbursement of funds has created a free for all, we know you as a strict person what is really going on here?
NI: In my view it is NOT a free for all and I repeat it is definitely NOT a free for all! Funds are budgeted for specific programmes whether for the individual veteran projects or for welfare programmes. I as a person can tell you: Should I get to know that somebody is involved in irregularities in the Ministry, I will immediately report that person to the Police, cum the Anti-Corruption Commission so that a thorough investigation can be carried out. It is for that reason that you are hearing that investigations about alleged corruption in the Ministry are going on. Whoever will engage themselves in corruption in my Ministry will definitely feel the heat of the law! If the culprits are found guilty in a court of law I will strongly recommend their dismissal from the Ministry. I will not tolerate a dishonest person who wants to steal from the Namibian people! By the way, funds are audited by the Auditor General. Therefore, disbursement of such funds cannot be said to create a situation of “free for all”!
PF: Do you have a model of compensating war veterans in a sustainable manner without affecting the fiscal in the long run?
NI: The current mode of compensation follows the policy decision which was thoroughly debated in Cabinet and a decision made. Budgetary provisions are made every year for that purpose. It may not be enough but that is what the country can afford. The model or the practice we follow is that of annual budgeting.
PF: Children of the liberation struggle are also demanding compensation, are they not your headache too?
NI: If you know the functions of your own Government, you will know that the Children of the Liberation Struggle are not the issue of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. As a Ministry of the same Government, we have sympathy for them, the same way we feel for other young Namibians who are not employed today.
PF: Do we have international best practices on the management of war veterans, what has Namibia learnt from these?
NI: International practice on war veterans differ depending on the history and nature of the war of a country: It could have been a result of civil conflicts or war of aggression. In the case of Namibia it was a war of liberation from colonialism and of freedom from oppression. So far we are doing what our country is able to do for our veterans.
PF: As we commemorate Heroe’s Day what significance does this day hold for you personally and the ministry?
NI: For me Heroes Day is a day where one must stop and reflect where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going in future. For this Ministry it is one of the important days in the annals of the existence of the Ministry. Heroes’ Day is the day for the entire country. It is the commemorative day on which Namibians have decided enough is enough and they took up arms to face the enemy. It must be remembered that Namibia’s liberation was not delivered on a silver platter but it cost many lives which is why we say “Their Blood Waters Our Freedom”! In saying so I believe I speak for many if not for all Namibians.
PF: Are you not worried that the legacy of liberation war heroes is evaporating into thin air, how should it be preserved?
NI: Yes, I am actually worried as it appears that Namibians have short memories. The legacy of the national liberation struggle must be taught in our schools as soon as possible and the history of the struggle must be written by Namibians themselves. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs is currently doing its part by recording the liberation experiences and accounts of living veterans.
PF: How best should we honour our fallen heroes?
NI: There are many ways in which fallen heroes and heroines can be honoured for example there will be a law very soon describing processes and procedures of how Namibian heroes and heroines including foreign ones, must be honoured. We can also regularly visit the known graves of heroes and heroines, naming streets and places of importance after them or erect statues, to again and again be reminded of their heroic deeds.
PF: Materialism, greed, corruption are eating away and reversing all the gains made, how safe is Namibia for the next generation?
NI: Materialism, greed and corruption are evils and in Namibia these evils are showing their ugly heads. I am afraid if nothing is drastically done they are going to gain ground. It must be emphasized that corruption is a poison and poison kills. Corruption destroys individuals, families, villages and even communities. It can even damage the whole nation which is something to be regretted. However, Namibia has good laws: We must just use them effectively to punish those who are making themselves guilty of these evils. Stricter enforcement of laws can help us to reduce, even to prevent these evils. We must make Namibia safer for generations to come! Those who will involve themselves in evil practices must be punished and punished heavily. A free Namibia is not for self-enrichment or corrupt people.
PF: Twenty two years latter marginalized communities are way below the rest of the populations. Where did we miss the mark?
NI: Marginalization is a very difficult issue. It can be found in all countries of the world and you cannot compare countries on an equal basis. In Namibia we are trying to narrow the gaps in our different living standards. However, I think we can do more to help our communities that are falling behind particularly in areas of health and education.
PF: What are the burning issue(s) you feel Namibia should deal with in the best interest of all?
NI The unequal distribution of the resources in Namibia need to be look at very urgently otherwise the situation of one or more different living conditions and standards of the same people in the same country is unacceptable as far as I am concerned.
PF: Many commentators believe that the ruling party has become rudderless. Was there a particular moment in our history when things started to fall apart?
NI: Who are these commentators? Who are they to tell us that the ruling party does not have direction? It is known by everybody that the ruling party is keeping this country together. Even the birds know about that. They must be ill informed commentators if this is what they think of the ruling party!
PF: There are calls that the current crop of ministers, deputies, Pses have over stayed their welcome, it’s time to pave way for new blood, any comment on that?
NI: Ministers and Deputy Ministers are appointed by the appropriate authority who is the President of the Republic of Namibia and he can relieve them of their responsibilities if he feels they have become useless. Pses are serving under the Public Service Act: when their times for retirement come, they normally retire.
PF: Outside the ministry robes what kind of a person is Dr Nickey Iyambo?
NI: Nickey Iyambo outside the Ministry is a normal family man and a humble Namibian citizen. In my spare time I enjoy reading books, so far I have read the following books, “Kaiser’s Holocust” by David Oluoga and Casper W. Erichsen, the “Guerilla Fighter” by Peter Ekandjo, “Eight Days in September” by Frank Chikane, currently I am busy reading “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins), newspapers and magazines and visit friends.
PF: What legacy would you like to leave behind?
NI: A legacy of commitment, honesty and hard work. Aluta Continua!! Victoria é Certa!! PF
DR NICKEY IYAMBO
Dr Nickey Iyambo will go down in the Namibian history as a celebrated struggle icon who dedicated his life for the liberation struggle. Not only has he lived to oversee the ideals of the struggle in the post-independence, but he has held various senior portfolios in the ruling Swapo party and in the Government.
His participation in the liberation struggle dates back to 1964 when Swapo gave him a political assignment in the Tanzania External Service for the Voice of Namibia in Tanzania.
In 1965, Dr Iyambo went to Europe to pursue studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland and in 1969, he graduated with an MSc. in Social Science. In 1970, he creamed it off with an MA in Political Science.
After completing his studies, he returned to Tanzania and participated in the consultative meeting in Tanzania from December 1969 to January 1970.
Having been bitten by the academic bug, he went back to the University of Helsinki, this time, for medical studies and graduated in 1980 with an MD (in Medicine). After completion of his medical degree, he worked briefly in Finland.
The liberation call was far from over and this time, he went to Angola where he got appointed as the first Swapo’s Head of Military Health Services.
This assignment saw him working as a member of Swapo’s Military Council. He worked as Head of the Health Services in Kwanza-Sul in Angola from 1984 to 1989.
In 1989, he was appointed as the first Swapo leader to come back to Namibia to clear the political landmines before all could finally come back home. Upon arrival, he was appointed as the liaison officer of Swapo to the UN High Commission for Refugees to Namibia during the election period.
Later, Dr Iyambo was appointed as the member of the constitutional drafting committee, the constitution was finalised in 1990, leading to independence on the 21st of March 1990.
Dr Iyambo was appointed as the first Minister of Health and Social Services upon independence; a portfolio he held for six and a half years.
In total, Dr Iyambo has held eight ministerial portfolios, which include being the Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing; Minister of Mines and Energy; Minister of Agriculture Water and Forestry; Minister of Safety and Security and the current one as Minister of Veterans Affairs.
While Dr Iyambo faced various inevitable skirmishes in various situations in the war zones, the Kalulu battle in the middle-east Angola in November of 1983 is the most memorable to date. During this confrontation, he served under the first mechanised brigade led by Brigadier Commander Ngoya ya Kayala.
Dr Iyambo was deeply touched and influenced by who he describes as the forerunner, creator and builder of the revolution among them the former Swapo Defense Secretary, the late Enias Peter Nanyemba.
Dr Iyambo pays tribute to the gallant freedom fighters namely the following fallen heroes; Greenwell Matongo, Tobias Hainyeko, Dimo Hamambo, Helao Nafidi and many more.
The list extends to the contemporal Rtd Lt General Martin Shali, Rtd Lt . Gen. Jesus Hawala and Rtd Maj. Gen Charles Namholo. Finally, he pays tribute to the untiring, the unwavering and the determined visionary leader, Dr Sam Shafishuna Nuuyoma - ‘the water of our revolution’.
Dr Iyambo says all these sacrifices were stimulated and sustained by the love for this God-given country and the desire for it to be free. This is the reason why they (who are still alive) will continue to do all they can to see the fruition of the liberation ideals.