Portfolio committee hears Presidential pardons are a military veterans issue


South Africa’s military veterans have an “own” government department to see to their specific needs and, since last year, a Presidential task team to speed up veterans’ issues.

The task team headed by Deputy President David Mabuza today (Wednesday, 1 September) presented a progress report to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) listing, among others, veterans’ involvement in the ongoing national COVID-19 intervention programme as well as Presidential pardons for liberation struggle war veterans (LSWV).

The presentation has it the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (now the Department of Justice and Correctional Services) provided President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office with files of military veterans applying for pardons “dating back to the era of the second President of the Republic”. LSWVs will be requested to “solicit their list of individuals eligible for Presidential pardon and reasons why” as well as supplying names of veterans not suitable for pardon by South Africa’s first citizen.

Employment opportunities remain a thorny issue for veterans with at least one opportunity created and exploited by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Veterans are at present, according to the presentation, assisting with “COVID-19 pandemic intervention in Gauteng schools” and planning is underway to implement the Gauteng model in the remaining eight provinces. No numbers are given of veterans “deployed” at schools in South Africa’s economic hub or what they are doing.

Updating and “cleaning” of the military veterans’ database, without which benefits cannot be paid or services provided to people who qualify, continues with Department of Military Veterans (DMV) personnel assisted by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Parliamentarians heard verification of 5 419 former non-statutory force (NSF) soldiers started in May. To date, checking revealed 385 of those listed are dead. In Gauteng 1 980 “cases” were identified of which 377 could not be found with 411 people invited to supply details during interviews. A hundred and eight-two of the 411 did not arrive for scheduled interviews and on conclusion on these just 36 applicants were deemed to qualify for military veteran status.

Mabuza’s task team named eight work streams it sees as essential to the betterment of the lot of military veterans to the PCDMV.

They are a legislative revue to implement policy of veterans’ issues; a redesign of the DMV; provision of socio-economic support; database verification; heritage and memorialisation; pension and benefits; communication and agriculture and land. This will see interaction with the departments responsible for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, rural development and land reform to provide “interventions” to assist military veterans.

Delivery of  housing and rescuing distressed mortgages for military veterans is ongoing with the DMV, in collaboration with stakeholders, delivering over 1 700 houses nationally and settled more than 200 distressed mortgages.

On military pensions, it has been decided the R350 unemployment grant for citizens will be boosted by R850 for military veterans, bringing the total receivable by military veterans to R1 200. Nine hundred and eight-two military veterans are receiving payment. To date, R5.6 million has been spent on the top up with more than a thousand applications under consideration.