Military veterans’ pensions being rolled out

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According to Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla, the roll-out of pension benefits for South African military veterans is “commencing”.

A statement, issued to coincide with a 25 April Government Gazette on “proposed regulations regarding the military veterans pension benefit 2023” signed off by Minister Thandi Modise, notes budget constraints put a hold on the benefit. It adds “through the intervention of the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) this can now be rolled out”.

Dubbed “special pensions” with a first payment date of January this year, the move was roundly publicly castigated by two political parties for excluding veterans from the former TBVC (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei) defence forces.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said the pension regulations, as originally set out, created an “us vs them” situation. Democratic Alliance (DA) public representatives Kobus Marais and Maliyakhe Shelembe, tasked with defence and military veterans oversight, both had reservations. Marais said they would not stand up to legal scrutiny with Shelembe laying the blame at the door of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV). He said the veterans’ pension policy and failure to implement it is ongoing “since 2022”.

Shelembe added government appears to be in “total disregard for the lives and livelihood of military veterans” saying it is “inexcusable”.

In a seeming reference to the exclusion of TBVC military pensioners and even former SA Defence Force (SADF) personnel, Makwetla’s statement mentions “the challenge” with pre-1994 statutory forces “mainly in the TBVC states”. “This realization,” it reads, saw Finance Minister Godongwana “tasked to look into this matter so as to address the challenges that all other civil servants experienced with regards to their payouts”.

Machinery is in place, the Deputy Minister’s statement has it, at the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) for veterans to be paid their pensions. “Applications will be smooth” with capacity to process them and recourse for those “not happy with decisions” regarding their applications.

“The community of military veterans,” Makwetla said in the statement, “can start the application process” as from Freedom Day (yesterday – Thursday, 27 April).

Reacting to the Gazette and Makwetla, Shelembe said the DA “fought tooth and nail” and “called out the Minister (Modise) for undermining and failing to uphold the Military Veterans Act”. He attributes the “new all-inclusive military veteran pension regulations” to the “relentless efforts” of DA parliamentarians on defence oversight committees.

Government Gazette, number 48469, has it comments on the pension regulations it contains can be submitted up to 21 days post its 25 April date.