By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek President Hifikepunye Pohamba has taken another step forward in addressing the plight of the ex-combatants by setting up a new ministry, which will be known as the Ministry of Veterans Affairs. Pohamba yesterday announced that he had decided to abolish the position of Minister Without Portfolio and appointed its incumbent Ngarikutuke Tjiriange to head the new ministry. The president said that since Namibia’s independence, the government had introduced special programmes to address the economic and social plight of vulnerable people. He said further studies carried out by government have shown that the time has come to create a central focal point where the needs of all ex-combatants could be dealt with in a holistic manner. “I have decided after consulting my colleagues to create a central focal point where the needs of ex-combatants could be addressed.” Dealing with the issue at a press conference at State House, which was attended by a number of cabinet ministers, Pohamba said his government would continue to monitor and evaluate the economic and social plight of all citizens, especially the vulnerable members of society. “On 4th August, I had the privilege of addressing the nation on the issue of ex-combatants and I pointed out that our government regards all those patriotic Namibians who took part in the struggle for the national liberation of Namibia, regardless of whether such citizens were in exile or not, as ex-combatants.” The President said that it should be noted that ex-combatants fall into various categories and therefore their needs are not uniform. “We have a category of citizens who, owing to their advanced age, could not obtain employment. in an independent Namibia, while others only worked for a few years after Namibia’s independence before they were due for retirement and this group is generally referred to as war veterans.” Pohamba said that this group has special needs since their means of self-support are very limited. “It is for this reason that our government put in place programmes aimed at addressing their special needs.” He added that others may be classified in terms of their level of academic and professional education while others may be classified as war orphans. The President also revealed that in the interest of curbing expenditure on personnel and to reduce the wage bill, the staff of the new ministry will as far as possible be drawn from the existing civil servants from some offices, ministries and agencies. The president did not give more details on what exactly the mandate of the new ministry will be but said the ministry would be tasked to coordinate all aspects relating to the needs of ex-combatants. Concluding the media briefing, Pohamba once again quoted and re-emphasized what he said when he addressed the nation on 4th August. He quoted: “As a responsible government, we will continue to constantly monitor and review the socio-economic plight of those patriotic Namibians who took part in the struggle for national liberation, with the view to improving their plight when our economy is in a position to do so. I, therefore, appeal for calm, national unity and hard work so that we can grow the economy and thereby improve the socio-economic plight of all our citizens.” Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Committee of the Welfare of Ex-Combatants, Alex Kamwi, congratulated the President for the step taken, adding that this decision forms part of the case study the committee recommended to Pohamba during their meeting with him in July 2006. “We are happy. We urge Tjiriange to work on our resolutions and petitions as presented to the President during our meeting on 14 September 2006,” he said.
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