Windhoek — An unspecified number of registered war veterans have been swindled off their hard-earned cash by a group called Repatriation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RRR) that solicited money purportedly to register them for fishing rights.
RRR has been going around the country calling meetings with war veterans requesting them to provide copies of their identity documents and cash payments purportedly aimed at registering them as beneficiaries for fishing rights.
The meetings are said to have taken place in Windhoek, Rundu and Ongwediva among other places.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau in May announced new requirements for new fishing rights which are up for grabs and all Namibians, particularly the formerly disadvantaged, are encouraged to apply.
The actions by RRR was not received well by the government in particular the Ministry of Veterans Affairs who yesterday condemned the illegal practice, saying those who think they can abuse the system in order to exploit veterans should be put to shame.
The Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Hilma Nicanor yesterday vowed that veterans are expected to apply in their own individual rights or in the manner that is in tandem with the provisions of the Marine Resources Act of 2000.
"I wish to remind the RRR group that all programmes and activities related to the welfare of the veterans of Namibia's liberation struggle is and remain the responsibility of veterans' affairs and we shall not tolerate that nay person or nay group interfere with the responsibilities that we are entrusted with," Nicanor reacted.
Although Nicanor could not confirm the amount of money swindled so far from veteran members, New Era understands the amounts ranged from N$100 to as much as N$700. She urged all veterans of the liberation struggle to refrain from the activities of the RRR group, as their agenda is unknown to the ministry. Nicanor emphasised the department of veterans' affairs is mandated to coordinate all government efforts on all aspects related to addressing the plight of veterans of the liberation struggle, and to ensure that the needs and aspirations of veterans are met. She promised the ministry will engage the RRR to find out their intentions but could also not specify what action will be taken against the organisation.
However, she said if any war veteran feels swindled off their money, there are laws in Namibia to deal with such matters.
Despite the economic hardship facing not only Namibia, she said the department of veterans' affairs will continue to ensure that the plight of the veterans of the liberation struggle are addressed.
"Veterans Affairs department vehemently condemn the activities of the RRR group that is going around the country with the pretext of serving the interests of veterans of the liberation struggle. The interests of veterans of the liberation struggle are to be taken up through the recognised channels as per the Veterans Act (Act No 2 of 2008), which provides for the establishment of the veterans' association," he remarked.
Therefore, she said the only recognised body that should serve as a mouthpiece on the issues affecting veterans' welfare is the Namibia National Liberation Veterans Association (NNLVA).
Based on this, Nicanor called on the RRR group to stop engaging the veterans of the national liberation struggle with immediate effect. She thanked those veterans who have realised that the operations of the RRR group are illegal and have distanced themselves from them and urged and cautioned others to be vigilant and refrain from accepting unwarranted invitation from persons not mandated to deal with their issues.
NNLVA President retired Commissioner Ben Shikovelo urged registered war veterans to apply on their own for fishing rights or approach their offices for any assistance.
Although Namibia has approximately 30 000 war veterans, only about 6 000 of them are registered members of NNLVA.
Therefore, Shikovelo urged recognised veterans to register under the legally NNLVA umbrella.