Veterans Appeal Board flooded by 8,286 applicants

The Veterans Appeal Board has received a flood of applications, from those who claim to have assisted PLAN fighters inside the country during the liberation struggle, but who were initially denied veteran status.
Although lump sum payments vary, depending on when the veterans joined the liberation struggle, if successful, the 8,286 appeals could end up costing an already cash-strapped Government hundreds of millions of dollars.
Registered war veterans are also paid a further N$200,000 each for their individual projects, if they successfully apply for this additional grant.
Department of Veterans Affairs in the Office of the Vice President said this week that they had rejected 12,328 applications for war veteran status last year.
However, 8,286 of these applicants have since appealed through the Veterans Appeal Board.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer this week, Senior Lecturer in the Law Faculty at the University of Namibia, Fritz Nghishililwa, who also serves as a member of the Veterans Appeal Board, confirmed that thousands of people are appealing.
“These are people that have helped PLAN fighters during the war with clothes, shelter and food, and in many other ways. While others were fighting for freedom, some of them were those who were left inside the country.
“Initially, what happened is that during the registration process, more people registered to be given veteran status, but many were rejected, because their stories did not hold water. Some could not bring evidence or witnesses to support their explanation on why they should be given veteran status,” Nghishililwa said.
He said that their stories were now being verified.
“We are carrying this out through recording their stories. Some have stories of hiding SWAPO fighters. From Omusati we have more than 2,000, Ohangwena 2,000 and many more in other regions,” he said.
About 29,677 applications for veteran status have so far been approved, since the registration process started in 2010. Senior Public Relations Officer in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Edson Haufiku, said that the appeal process will be completed during the 2017/18 financial year.
“From 14 regions, more than 8,000 applicants have appealed through the Veterans Appeal Board. There is no fixed time as to when this is expected to be completed because a number of factors are at play.
“Firstly, the appeal process is long and cumbersome, in the sense that the Veterans Appeal Board has to call in the appellants and their three witnesses, re-interview them and then proceed with the adjudication process to determine whether the aspiring veteran is granted or denied veteran status. This whole process takes about 60 days.
“Secondly, the Veterans Appeal Board is constituted by members that are employed elsewhere and not by Veterans Affairs, and thus the board can only carry out its mandate when all the members are available,” Haufiku said.