Opening remarks by Deputy President David Mabuza during the Gauteng Hybrid Provincial Engagement with Military Veterans, 9 April 2021.
Allow me to firstly extend my greetings and gratitude to all of you for attending this momentous meeting about matters that afflict our military veterans.
Your participation and engagement is a significant demonstration of your commitment to assist us in finding practical and lasting solutions to challenges faced by Military Veterans on a daily basis.
The role that has been played by the many Military Veterans shall remain deeply etched in the national memory and consciousness of our people, for it is they that have sacrificed everything about themselves in order to ensure that South Africa and indeed all our people are rescued from the relentless jaws of apartheid.
It is for this reason that government and the people shall remain committed to ensuring that Military Veterans are accorded the care and opportunities to lead a decent life.
We have called for this consultative engagement in order to share with you progress that the Presidential Task Team has made in articulating its mandate. More significantly, we have called this meeting to seek your guidance, your active support and patience while we endeavour to find sustainable ways to a feasible resolution to the grievances that have been raised. I am aware that some of you may have been able to join our engagements that took place during November and December of 2020, but for the benefit of those who may have been unable to, allow me to foremost address the genesis of the Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans.
As we do that, we will also provide an update in relation to the work that the Presidential Task Team has done thus far, in response to the grievances that a broad section of the Military Veterans community had brought to the attention of the President.
You may recall that during 2020, the Presidency became increasingly inundated with a number of complaints from the Military Veterans community. In essence, these complaints were about the perceived or actual failure of the Department of Military Veterans to dispense adequate services to Military Veterans.
Furthermore, a group of marchers under the banner of the Liberation Struggle War Veterans, marched to the Union Buildings on the 10th of November 2020 and presented a memorandum of grievances to the President.
As part of our response, the President called for a high-level briefing on the plight of Military Veterans where he was briefed on the existing support package that is offered to Military Veterans as well as areas where gaps had been identified.
Consequently, the President appointed the Presidential Task Team on the affairs of Military Veterans, chaired by the Deputy President and comprised of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa Ngqakula, and the Deputy Minister for Military Veterans Mr Thabang Makwetla.
We have since been joined by the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who has stepped into the role after the untimely demise of Minister Jackson Mthembu. We will forever be grateful for the contribution that he made to this Task Team and to the government as a whole. May his soul rest in peace!
Comrades and colleagues,
From the beginning, it was clear that the resolution of many of the grievances raised would require the participation of different line-function Ministries as well as different spheres of Government.
In order to synthesise our effort, we subsequently established a Technical Task Team, that we have tasked with the responsibility to render technical support as well as to facilitate the implementation and monitoring of the program-of-action of the Presidential Task Team.
In the main, the, the complaints by Military Veterans suggested that there was a need for the development of a comprehensive approach that is geared towards obliging the Department of Military Veterans to develop the requisite institutional capacity that will enable it to optimally deliver on its mandate, in a transparent and accountable manner.
We have further noted that although different Military Veterans groupings had complained about different things, in the end, the core of these complaints revolved around matters that are more or less related.
These include the social relief of distress, educational assistance, the provisioning of decent housing, job opportunities, land and housing allocation to mention but a few.
This Presidential Task Team is very alive to the interplay that is required between various stakeholders, including various government departments, State-Owned Enterprises, and the different spheres of government together with the private sector, which will contribute positively towards the sustained resolution of challenges faced by military veterans.
We shall therefore continue to focus on:
• The facilitation of an effective, coordinated and flexible government-wide response and a joint action plan aimed at finding solutions to specific issues of concern to the plight of military veterans, mainly through an issue management approach.
• The promotion of inter-linkages that encourages timely and relevant exchange of data and information on specific issues, as well as the fostering of compatibility of different approaches to finding solutions to common problems, that will contribute to the synergy and complementarity amongst and between the activities of different government departments as well as different spheres of government in relation to Military Veterans matters.
That is why here today we have the Premier’s office of Gauteng, and right from the beginning of our engagements, the office of the Premier has been represented. We are happy that the Office of the Premier is still represented by the MECs from the Gauteng Provincial Government. We must thank the Premier and the MECs for the support given to the Military Veterans and during the course of our programme today, MEC Jacob Mamabolo will have an opportunity to address the meeting on progress that they are making in addressing the issues that affect Military Veterans.
Comrades and colleagues,
Through these engagements, we have now been able to conceptualise and constitute seven workstreams that we have tasked to focus and to pursue specific thematic areas, that will bring us much closer to resolving most of the grievances that have been brought to our attention.
The 7 workstreams are as follows:
• The Legislative review Workstream, which has been tasked to initiate and fast tract the review of specific provisions in the current Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011 that inhibits the creation of the perquisite legal basis for the required reforms.
• The Organisational re-design Workstream, which will be looking at the Department of Military Veterans and whether it is fit for purpose.
• The Verification, Database Cleansing and Enhancement Workstream, tasked with ensuring that clear and comprehensive rules and policies are applied to ensure that bona fide Military Veterans are registered on the DMV database.
• The Socio-Economic Support Workstream, which has been tasked with facilitating the establishment of sustainable nodal points across government and industry, which can be leveraged to assist Military Veterans to penetrate certain barricaded markets and services.
• The Pensions and Benefits Workstream, which has been tasked with the consolidation of current Pension regime available to military veterans and to work with Treasury to find gaps and means of ensuring that such gaps are attended to.
• The Heritage, Memorialisation and the Burial Workstream, which will embark on measures that can assist in the possible repatriation of the remains of our fallen Military Veterans that may be lying in foreign land. They will also recommend any other dignified form of acknowledgement and memorialisation that can be agreed to between the families of the fallen, our government and the host governments.
• The Communications Workstream, which has been tasked to ensure that there is effective, timely and coordinated communication between Government and Military Veterans, amongst all Military Veterans stakeholders as well as with the society at large.
In conclusion, let me indicate that the challenges faced by our Military Veterans are myriad and complex. They require all of us, Provinces, Districts and indeed the Private Sector, to commit to a joint action approach to resolving these specific challenges.
A society that owes its very existence to the sacrifices made by its own gallant daughters and sons must endeavour to ensure that its military veterans and their families can also have the possibilities of enjoying the fruits of the freedom that they have helped to bring forth.