Progress on military veterans’ issues disputed


The official line that government “continues to make significant advances against a huge backlog” in dealing with military veterans’ affairs doesn’t ring true to an opposition parliamentarian who maintains the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) still hasn’t finalised policies to implement its mandate.

Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla devoted his part of this week’s defence budget vote to South Africa’s old soldiers, explaining to the National Assembly (NA) among others, the automation of DMV business processes, implementation of corporate services and financial administration services and “re-establishing the verification process for military veterans”.

Calling this “pleasing,” Minister Thandi Modise’s deputy added: “It will relieve the frustration of many, due to an inability to access DMV support because they are not on the database”.

There are more than 80 000 veterans on the military veterans database and this is expected to increase by 1 000 a year over the next three years.

“In light of teething problems encountered, the verification team made tremendous progress. In the interest of advancing administrative justice the PTT (Presidential Task Team on military veterans headed by Deputy President David Mabuza) elected to establish an appeals committee of the verification panel to provide recourse for applicants who may not be satisfied with panel rulings,” Makwetla said.

The relook of veteran verification, according to him, “has thrown up an urgent need to attend to the call by former self defence unit members to be verified and a credible database of their members created”.

Responding to the Deputy Minister and the allocation of R666.4 million to the DMV, Maliyakhe Shelembe, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy defence and military veterans minister, pointed out policies on transport compensation and pensions – among others – are still not finalised.

This, he said, was an indictment of the DMV “given the [Military Veterans] Act has been in place for over 10 years”.

“This alone means the ANC is guilty of gross negligence.”

Going to Mabuza’s recent visit to North West on military veterans’ business, Shelembe said the Deputy President mislead old soldiers there. He quoted Mabuza as saying “we are excited that finally the obstacles that were preventing us from dispensing the necessary services to military veterans have been overcome”. Not so, the DA parliamentarian avers because the military veterans pension policy still needs to be formally adopted, publication and amendment of military veterans benefits regulations to make provision for regulations on pension is still not done and allocation of funds for military veterans pension payments was not on the 2022/23 Department of Defence (DoD) Annual Performance Plan.

Earlier this month, the DMV told Parliament it underachieved for the last three quarters of 2021 and managed to achieve less than half of its objectives, including verifying veterans and building houses.

For the period it aimed to add 2 250 approved non-statutory forces members to the military veterans database but only 789 were included.

A total of 355 veterans houses were to be built, but only 28 were provided. From this year, 20 veterans are due to be approved for a mortgage bond subsidy, rising to 25 in 2023/24 and 30 in 2024/25.

Two hundred military veterans were supposed to participate in a pension benefit pilot project, with the cumulative target for quarter three of 2021 being 150, but “no achievement has been reported as at the end of the quarter.”

The DMV admitted the subsidised public transport and pension initiatives did not proceed as planned last year and “this will have a negative impact on the delivery of services to military veterans.”