Defence Minister taken to task for non-attendance at oversight meetings


Parliament’s Select Committee on Security and Justice (SCSJ) used a briefing by retired general Derrick Mgwebi, acting Director General of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) to rap Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula over the knuckles.

On Friday, Mgwebi gave the oversight committee insight to the state of veterans’ affairs as regards benefits, compensation and access to healthcare, housing and education.

In a statement released after the briefing, the SCSJ, under the leadership of chair Shahidabibi Shaikh, took Minister Mapisa-Nqakula, her deputy Thabang Makwetla and the DMV to task.

“The committee expressed its dissatisfaction with non-attendance of its meetings by the Minister and Deputy Minister and, according to the committee the Minister never attended its meetings during the fifth Parliament either. The committee went on to say a meeting with the Minister was crucial to inform the Minister the department (DMV) is not making the expected meaningful impact on the military veterans,” according to the statement.

It continues in similar vein calling distribution of benefits to military veterans “discouraging and disgraceful, given it has been 10 years since the DMV was established to look after the welfare of military veterans”.

The JSJC told the DMV “it is doing very little and not making an impact on people who sacrificed their lives for the attainment of the democratic dispensation enjoyed by all”.

“Even the little the DMV is doing is done unequally”, the statement said explaining “there are military veterans who are not recognised by the DMV because of their locations, accreditation and some because they are not included on the database of military veterans”.

In response to questions, the DMV (presumably in the form of its acting director general) informed the JSJC its 2020/21 budget was “limited” with R683 million reduced to R480 million. The reduction in funding affected all DMV programmes.

As examples of what the DMV has done, the JSJC was told 127 new houses were built for military veterans across all nine provinces with 252 veterans assisted in settling mortgage loans. Educationally, more than 3 000 veterans and/or their families received education support. This was shared among tertiary, both public (2306) and private (330), with 2 586 pupils helped at basic education level.

Empowering military veterans is done via training and skills development, assistance with “employment placement” and either facilitating or advising on business opportunities.

Three hundred and sixty-nine veterans availed themselves of skills and training assistance with a further 129 finding work after using the “employment placement” service and another 121 using the business service.

The committee chair requested written response “within 14 days” on issues it questioned but did not receive answers.

“We need further details and plans. We need to monitor co-operation between the DMV and other government departments on benefits,” the statement has Shaikh saying.