Ex-combatants suffer from post-war traumaBy: SELMA SHIPANGA
MANY Namibians suffer from post-war trauma as a result of the liberation struggle, a report released yesterday said.
Twenty-two years into independence, many ex-combatants, former South West Africa Territorial Force (SWAFT) and South African Defence Force (SADF) members, children of the liberation struggle, as well as members of the public continue to suffer from post-war traumatic stress, anger, frustration, as well as unresolved grief, the report says.
The report from a pilot study by the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs was presented at a workshop in Windhoek yesterday.
It found that the root cause of some of the anger and frustration experienced by ex-combatants lies in them being referred to as ‘Old Blood’.
Some said they experience anger and frustration “for not being appreciated by the communities for the sacrifice they made in the liberation struggle”.
Resettlement processes which are too slow to accommodate ex-combatants on commercial farms, low salaries that cannot feed families or build houses, graves of Plan fighters killed in the struggle, which have no tombstones are also among the problems ex-combatants said they face.
Still, many highlighted poverty as the main social problem.
The aim of the study was to establish whether there is a need for spiritual and psychosocial counselling for Namibians as a result of the negative effects of the war.
The study, which was carried out in the Khomas Region alone, shows that many ex-combatants are confronted by a number of social problems, including poverty and family problems.
The project was done through the Veterans’ Affairs Ministry by Reverend Tshapaka Kapolo, head of pastoral care at the Council of Churches in Namibia, from May 1 until June 8 this year. More than 1 200 people were interviewed.
Problems cited by members of the public includes alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, high rates of crime, robbery, suicide, abortion, road accidents amongst others.
SWAFT and SADF members said they suffer from fear, anxiety, sadness and depression.
“We were recruited to the military service (SWAFT and SADF) in compulsory terms, according to the constitution of South Africa that time because South Africa was controlling our country. But I have been all along a Swapo member,” one member was quoted as saying.
Kapolo said the national liberation struggle left Namibians with various spiritual and psychosocial scars and problems.
“Lives of many Namibians were lost inside and outside the country. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects both ex-combatants of Plan and former Koevoet fighters, if these problems are not addressed, they will remain a threat to the welfare and productivity of the nation,” Kapolo said in the report.
He said spiritual and psychosocial support services are therefore inevitable for the wellbeing of Namibian citizens, and would need the full support of political, traditional, non-governmental and religious leaders. “All stakeholders need to stand together in order to mobilise the community to understand the importance of counselling,” he said.
The study will map the way forward in establishing how best the spiritual and psychosocial counselling will be administered.