Government is working at and on benefits ranging from Presidential pardons through to pensions, education support and provision of land for farming and human settlement for military veterans, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungebele told a media briefing in the aftermath of last week’s ‘hostage’ incident.
He spoke on behalf of Deputy President David Mabuza, who heads up President Cyril Ramaphosa’s military veterans task team.
“Engagement between government and the military associations has thus far been productive and cordial, even though discussions have been difficult. Therefore, in our view, there was no reason for this group to act in an unlawful manner as it transpired last night,” he said of the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV) group that held Defence Minister Thandi Modise and her colleagues ‘hostage’ for three hours on Thursday night.
“The work of the PTT (Presidential task team) has proceeded well and delivered on its commitment to continuous engagements with military veterans in a bid to resolve issues. We are able to confirm that our understanding is that all the parties were appreciative of the work that has been done to date,” Gungubele is reported by the government news agency SAnews as saying.
He listed interventions including a draft bill to amend the Military Veterans Act dealing with discrepancies, including the definition of a military veteran; provisions of healthcare benefits to dependents of military veterans; means tests criteria; reviewing the Special Pension Act; developing a pension policy; work on Presidential pardons and expungement of criminal records; social relief of distress and housing; involvement in socio-economic activities; repatriation of remains and erection of monuments as well as memorialisation of “fallen heroes”; education support for “combatants’ children” and provision of land for farming and human settlement.
Other interventions reported by SAnews are verification of the military veterans’ database – without which no benefits can be allocated or paid – as well as “more socio-economic support and matters related to heritage”.
The government news agency further reports Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise – one of three ministers held against their will by former soldiers who belong to the Liberation Struggle War Veterans – dismissing suggestions of lives threatened while she and her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, and Gungubele were apparently locked in a room.
“It was uncomfortable being held against one’s will. We were unhappy about not being allowed to leave when the meeting was clearly aborted,” SAnews reported her saying, adding Modise issued departmental instructions to ascertain where resources meant for veterans ended up.
“I am upfront saying that with resources poured into the DMV, our military veterans should be better off than where they are now.”
Modise said government is still open to “hear every military vet” and engage their grievances.
“We are willing to hear concerns of any citizen. I am prepared to have a meeting with any military veterans…including this grouping. We should be proud as South Africans that we can sit amongst our veterans,” she said.