Former soldiers desperate for help

Residents of Pomfret in the North West Province are still fighting for a better life, as they are without electricity, water and an income for survival.

A group of good Samaritans are concerned about the former members of the famous 32 Battalion (32 Bn) and their families.

Pomfret is found on the edge of the Kalahari Desert between Tosca and Bray, near the border of Botswana.

There is no economic activity and as it is seclu-ded, residents have to survive without municipal and provincial government support.

During the first weekend of December, Marius Geldenhuys and six other members of the Kimberley Shellhole Moths arrived in a sponsored car with a trailer, loaded with mattresses and clothing, and handed this to José Lourenco (group leader of the former 32 Bn members).

Pomfret is an old asbestos minetown that later became a military camp, which was officially closed in 2000.

The residents live in dilapidated houses and many homes, the club, pool and clinic have been left in ruins.

Most of the residents were Portuguese soldiers from Angola – FNLA and Unita – who later joined the former South African Defence Force (SADF).

They were trained in the mid-70s by Col. Jan Breytenbach, who then incorporated them into 32 Bn, also known as Buffalo Battalion, with their base in the former South West Africa.

When the former SADF moved out of Namibia after its independence, 32 Bn was moved to Pomfret in the 1990s and was disbanded in 1993.

Most members and their families were left behind in Pomfret, although the provincial government withdrew its support and the infrastructure decayed.

“There is an information board on which the development of a bulk water infrastructure was announced, but there is no water,” says Geldenhuys.

“People pay a donkey cart owner to fill up empty water containers in a 10 km trip once a week.

“However, José and his people are not negative.

“The people make the best out of their circumstances.

“You can still do without electricity, but with no water it is terrible.

“We want to raise money for a solar power pump to get water from the well.”

According to a member of the 32 Bn veterans’ association, the conditions have weakened drastically over the past two years.

“There are only a few veterans left. Many of them do security work elsewhere, while others relocated in 2008.

“The widows and descendants who are still living here, either live on army pension or an old age grant.

“Eskom disconnected the electricity supply due to illegal connections.

“There is very little rainfall, and the wells are out of order.

“The residents also need non-perishable food,” says Geldenhuys.

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