Namibia: War Veterans Accused of Breaking Covid Rules

A GROUP of former People's Liberation Army of Namibia [Plan] fighters was allowed by the police and ministry of health to hold their reunion at Ondeshifiilwa village north west of Oshakati in Ohangwena region.

The reunion started last Friday and ended on Sunday with hundreds of people attending the event, which was in violation of Covid-19 regulations banning more than 50 people from converging in one place.

According to sources, the event was attended by more than 400 ex-fighters from all the 14 regions. Cattle were slaughtered and the ex-freedom fighters feasted and sang struggle songs.

"We were there but we adhered to Covid-19 regulations. Each group was divided into 50 people. There were no violations of Covid-19 regulations. We did not even talk to each other," said a former fighter who said he only attended the event on Sunday.

Ohangwena police spokesperson sergeant Andrew Nghiyolwa said the police had granted permission for the ex-combatants to come together, but the ministry of health was responsible for ensuring that Covid-19 protocols were adhered to.

"If Covid-19 regulations were not adhered to, I think the ministry of health will be in a better position to answer, because a letter was written stating how they [ex-combatants] were expected to behave," he said.

Former presidential pilot Natangwe Kashihakumwa, who was the programme director, also denied they violated Covid-19 regulations.

"Those saying we violated the regulations are from the other group of ex-Plan fighters who are against our group. We were divided into groups of 40, 45 and 50. We were also 200 to 300 metres from each other. The police were also there.

"I was briefed by Ohangwena head of operations on how we should behave. There were no violations of the regulations at all," he said.

However, those who were also in attendance said people were singing struggle songs and drinking alcohol together, especially on Friday night and Saturday.

One of the organisers, Mathias Johannes, said the occasion would be well organised and all Covid-19 protocols were going to be taken into consideration.

Ohangwena regional director John Hango said it was not the responsibility of the ministry of health to see whether the regulations were followed or not but that of the police.

"I did not receive a letter from war veterans. I only heard about their meeting from the commissioner and she was also concerned whether the regulations would be adhered to," Hango said.

Ohangwena regional commander commissioner Elizabeth Sibolile did not answer several calls to her mobile phone.

Ondeshifiilwa is one site that conjures up poignant memories of Namibia's bitter struggle for freedom and self-determination. This is where former Plan fighters clashed with the South African army on 2 April 1989.

The battle took place at a time the forces on both sides were expected to be confined to bases in compliance with the implementation of United Nations Resolution 435.

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