“Critical weaknesses” still to be overcome at DMV – Makwetla

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Thabang Makwetla is deputy to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise and has political responsibility for South Africa’s military veteran community.

That the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) has not performed to the satisfaction of old soldiers is documented and admitted by the deputy minister in his budget vote address to the National Assembly (NA) last month and the DMV annual performance plan (APP). The plan was, according to the document, tabled in Parliament in March.

His budget vote address notes, among others, “Last year when we presented our plans we pointed out we were optimistic about prospects for meaningful advances in our work”.

“This was because there were and still are several critical subjective weaknesses which we could have and will overcome. We must stick to the rule book to achieve a turnaround of DMV and regain lost time fixing the back end of the department and ratchet up output of the front end,” he told Parliamentarians.

Reliable and capacitated internal audit controls, proper legal and labour services, an adequately staffed human resource branch, more planners, disciplined conventional supply chain management and communicators were some needs Makwetla named as “debilitating gaps” that need to be attended to.

Automation of and in the DMV is “still work in progress” with only “modest advances”.

On the credit side of the DMV ledger, the deputy minister pointed to payment of over R6 million in injury and trauma compensation, and extending veterans’ health services in the wake of an endorsement by the Presidential task team on military veterans.

Implementation of improved healthcare has, he said, “not received sufficient administrative attention” hopefully to be cleared up by a special workshop attended by DMV and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS).

“Education support has scored significant improvements, however there are still structural deficiencies such as the absence of collaboration protocols with basic education in the provinces. The DMV education support programme has produced over 50 graduates in the last financial year alone, including two medical doctors and five law graduates. R126 million was spent in the previous year, 2022/2023, in support of the education of children of military veterans,” Makwetla stated.

Makwetla used his time at the NA podium to inform parliamentarians 883 houses were built for veterans in Gauteng since initiation of the housing programme in 2014. Next best in housing delivery is Eastern Cape on 358, well under half the Gauteng number.

He added “the many glitches” around housing delivery will be overcome by, among others, the Ministry of Human Settlements MINMEC (Members of [Provincial] Executive Councils) meeting where “interventions were explored”.

DMV records show 4 253 housing applicants approved by the DMV. Of this, 2 083 (49%) received houses. “It is my considered view with the available capacity of government in the provinces to deliver houses the remaining applicants can be housed in a relatively short period of time, if we can eliminate a number of subjective weaknesses around housing”.

This will see a housing indaba with military veterans’ associations to address challenges, including revision of regulations governing housing to ensure housing for military veterans “can and should be brought to an end”. The current housing target in the APP is 480 units.

Makwetla admitted in the 12 years since government adopted its policy to house military veterans, “many have perished waiting in the queues.”

On the thorny issue of veterans’ pensions, Makwetla called it “an endeavour by government to restore veterans’ dignity” adding it was to be rolled out on 24 April. Last month Makwetla said “We wish to clarify the roll-out of the military veterans’ pension is being implemented through the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) and thus far over 600 applications have been received since commencement of this pension roll-out”.

In his NA speech, Makwetla said the pension is a “huge” achievement, especially as “the desire to place military veterans in jobs has not been successfully co-ordinated; this is further compounded by the constrained state of our national economy and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“Military veterans who are without pensions for services rendered to the country will be a thing of the past. They will now be modestly cushioned by this pension. In this regard, it has come to light through the intervention by Bantu Holomisa (UDM leader), that pensions of civil servants  employed by the TBVC states, soldiers included, are mired in administrative complexities which left some without any pension. The matter stands referred by the President to the Minister of Finance for prompt attention. The ministry will monitor progress and ensure no military veteran is left without a pension. We intend to load 4 000 recipients of this pension by the end of this financial year. R330 million is set aside for this in this financial year,” Makwetla said.