Subsidised public transport for veterans under the microscope

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The Department of Military Veterans (DMV) seems to be failing on its subsidised public transport benefit for old soldiers.

Evidence of this, according to Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy defence and military veterans minister, Maliyakhe Shelembe, was confirmed at this week’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV meeting. “Veterans are yet to access their subsidised public transport benefits,” he said after being told by “DMV officials” this “is yet to be finalised”. His questions follow a May this year oversight visit to the Eastern Cape Province port city, Gqeberha, where unemployed veterans told him they could not use public transport obtain medical care.

The relevant DMV criterion has it “a military veteran qualifies for a public transport subsidy if he or she is not employed and receives a pension from the State”. Further on subsidised transport, the DMV states the subsidy is also available to employed veterans whose annual income is less than R12 000. Veterans meeting these criteria “qualify for a 100% subsidy when using public transport” in South Africa.

Shelembe used Wednesday’s PCDMV meeting to pose further questions on the old soldier transport benefit after unsatisfactory answers from Minister Thandi Modise in August.

Part of her response read: “The National Department of Transport (NDT) through the social protection and community development cluster is finalising the national public transport subsidy (NPTSP)”. This, according to Modise, is “a product of extensive engagement” that will “create a broad framework” to address “challenges” to “positively and proactively shape the future of transport in South Africa”.

A DMV “team” is “continuously in consultation” with NDT on strategy finalisation. Additionally, Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga’s department “engages” with “relevant stakeholders including military veterans”.

This is not good enough, according to Shelembe, who maintains the DMV, currently managed by an acting director general, former SA Navy (SAN) chief Mosiwa Hlongwane, should have co-ordinated with all stakeholders to ensure this benefit.

He has knowledge of Minister Modise “considering removing this benefit due to the absence of an adequate subsidised public transport strategy” which he sees as “adding insult to injury” in yet another example of shabby treatment for old soldiers.