“Modest strides”, including a thousand new houses and three memorial sites, were highlighted by the deputy minister of defence and military veterans during his budget vote address.
Thabang Makwetla succeeded Kebby Maphatsoe following the May national elections and has taken up office as deputy to Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula for the second time.
Addressing the National Assembly earlier this month he said the “modest strides” also included bursaries for 10 700 military veterans and their dependents and 17 000 thousand who were assisted with health services.
Elaborating on “challenges” faced by the Department of Military Veterans (DMV), Makwetla said: “In its origins the DMV was intended to look after yesterday’s freedom fighters, those left destitute by participation in the People’s War of Liberation in South Africa. This confusion is laid bare by the mission statement of the department which talks about the ‘restoration of dignity and appreciation of the contribution of military veterans to our freedom and nation-building’. That notwithstanding, governments in many parts of the world do look after ex-soldiers. Practices differ. In dispensing these benefits, from experience, there is a need for regulations to be fine-tuned to improve equity, accountability, fairness, among others”.
These, the deputy minister said, were indicative of the need for a White Paper on military veterans in the absence of policies governing different benefits and the procedures and delivery methods around them.
“This is further work for the administration of the DMV in this financial year and we believe we can overcome. The DMV has a modest post establishment of 169 posts and 70 contract workers. This is another objective inhibiting factor to be addressed. R662.6 million has been allocated for the business of this department. A lot can be achieved with this allocation. At the beginning there was only R20 million for DMV for three consecutive years,” he said.
In response Maliyakhe Shelembe, Democratic Alliance MP and that party’s shadow deputy minister of defence and military veterans, said a DMV failing was verification and finalisation of the military veterans database, required in terms of the 2011 Military Veterans Act.
“The Act qualifies veterans for access to benefit and it is concerning the DMV reported there are people on the database who should not be there. Surprisingly, the DMV decreased the financial allocation to database and benefits allocation by R900 000.”
Shelembe went on to say the DMV 2019/20 annual performance plan showed more than 40 000 military veterans have not updated their locations since inclusion on the database. “This makes geo-location mapping difficult for planning benefits.”