A COMMITTEE was established on Saturday in Rehoboth to represent Namibians who used to serve in the former South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) in a bid to gain recognition for the ex-soldiers.
Those elected to the committee are Lukas de Klerk (chairperson), Magdalene Goliath (for Erongo), pastor Hendrik Ludwicht (Karas), Fanus KÃ¼hn (Omaheke), and Salmon Fleermuys (northern Namibia) and Johan Klazen (central Namibia). Nora van Wyk was elected as secretary.
South Africa adopted a new legislation signed into law in December 2011 according to which those serving between 1960 to 1994 can register as veterans and qualify for possible support.
The committee has received the mandate from ex-soldiers, widows and children to get into contact with the South African defence ministry as well as the Council of South African Veterans.
De Klerk said it was the first time a legal body was formed to represent former South African soldiers.
The group felt that they have been neglected and denied veteran status by both the Namibian and South African governments despite the fact that they were forcibly conscripted.
De Klerk called on both governments to enter into dialogue with the ex-soldiers in the name of reconciliation.
"We all got hurt, are traumatised, lost lives, and were forced and even taken from school desks to join the army. We want to make it very clear that we were never a South West African Territorial Force. It was only a smokescreen for the international world; we fought for the South African government. That is why we are making a humble appeal to the governments not to treat us as second-class citizens and orphans; treat us equally as the constitutions of both countries prescribe," he said.
"It hurts to be treated like orphans. Fix things while it is the right time to do so."
He urged the South African government to listen with a sympathetic ear to the committee when it goes there to make a case for the forgotten soldier in Namibia, but felt positive that the soldiers have a strong case to make to the current government there.
De Klerk said many of the former soldiers are in need of rehabilitation and today find themselves in pauperised circumstances.
The committee intends to introduce itself to President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Minister of Defence Charles Namoloh.