Admin delays put a hold on December pension payments for military veterans

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“Delays in the administrative process” put a temporary hold on old soldiers receiving their first military pension pay-out this month (December) according to Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla.

He and Minister Thandi Modise addressed a briefing on the issue in Pretoria yesterday (Thursday, 22 December) following an earlier announcement by Deputy President David Mabuza who indicated the pensions would go to properly registered military veterans before year-end. Mabuza chairs a presidential task team on military veterans at the behest of President Cyril Ramaphosa. The former Mpumalanga premier and currently South Africa’s second citizen is seemingly set to exit the deputy presidency following this month’s ANC (African National Congress) national elective conference in Johannesburg.

“The process to roll out the pension pay-out will commence after the lapse of the 30 days tabling in Parliament. The department [presumably of military veterans] will in the meantime take in applications and process them accordingly through the government pension processes and system,” he is reported as saying by SAnews.

“In the process of implementation of this decision we were confronted with unavoidable administrative processes which resulted in the delay in the payment of the pension benefits. One of these was the requirement that the Draft Pension Regulations and the Pension Benefit Access form should be tabled in Parliament. These were tabled in Parliament early in December 2022. This will in turn legalise operationalisation of the pension pay-out to military veterans.”

The Department of Military Veterans (DMV) he said is “working around the clock” to ensure pension benefits as disbursed “as soon as possible”.

He told the briefing military veterans are now allowed to access government’s social relief of distress (SRD) grant of R1 250 a month.

“This is a significant improvement on the previous R350 social relief support paid to veterans. The department should find alternative ways to implement such support in an effective and equitable manner to ensure all who are eligible benefit,” he said.

R27 million is available for military veterans’ pensions in the current financial year rising to R102 million in 2023/24 and dropping to R109 in 2024/25. The payments are legislated in the Military Veterans Act of 2011.

Responding to a Democratic Alliance (DA) statement that the act was solely intended for soldiers and fighters in the previous non-statutory forces, such as Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) and Apla (Azanian Peoples’ Liberation Army), Modise said “no military veteran from the statutory forces [presumably the then SA Defence Force (SADF)] will go without a pension”. She is reported by News24 as saying this is “on the presumption these members already receive a State pension”.

“Welfare was never intended for statutory forces but for destitute, non-statutory military forces. We cannot allow, in all fairness, a member with a pension. If your pension is higher than the special pension you need to choose which pension you want to be on – no double dipping,” the digital news site has Modise saying.