New ministry for war veterans
He appointed current Minister Without Portfolio, Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, to head that Ministry.
Earlier this year, President Pohamba dealt with the issue of additional compensation for ex-Plan combatants when he addressed the nation and said: “We cannot abdicate our duty or our mandate by taking actions that will lead to the collapse of our national economy and our social order.”
The extra-ordinary address to the nation had been prompted by a group of dissatisfied ex-combatants who had set up a committee to march to State House and hand over a petition in which they demanded, inter alia, that “the unresolved issue of the welfare of ex-combatants and the recognition of their services before independence, be speeded up.”
The ex-combatants felt they should be given monetary and material rewards, such as houses, land or farms, income-generating projects or a pension, among other things, that would improve their standards of living.
Amongst their claims had been: a lump sum of N$500 000 per soldier or N$31 000 multiplied by the years each served outside the country in the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan); that all ex-combatants and their children receive free education and free medical services; that all should work until the age of 70 years and receive a monthly remuneration of N$8 000 each.
Other resolutions by the group concerned fishing quotas for all war veterans and mining concessions; that they expected Government to protect all war veterans from unfair competition in business; that they would be appointed to senior or junior positions; that Government would set up an ex-combatant fund and compelled/obligated all parastatals and business communities to contribute to it; and that Government made available a budget for them
Although refusing to comment on the address Pohamba made to the nation on the demands, the committee said it was awaiting a formal meeting with the president where they would be told about Government’s response to the issue. “The Government must come to the table and tell us we can only afford this much,” was the final comment.
At a media conference at State House on Wednesday, President Pohamba said this Ministry was being tasked to coordinate all aspects relating to the needs of ex-combatants, explaining that Tjiriange’s appointment was part of Government’s commitment to address the economic and social plight of Namibian citizens.
“We will continue to constantly monitor and evaluate the economic and social plight of all our citizens, especially those vulnerable members of our society. On the 4th of August this year, I pointed out that our government regards all those patriotic Namibians who took part in the struggle for national liberation of Namibia, regardless of whether such citizens were in exile or not, as ex-combatants”, Pohamba stated.