Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’ closing remarks at the Military Veterans Indaba 2015, 16th July, Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg.
Representatives of SANMVA
Representatives of various military Veterans Formations
The military Veterans Community
Members of the Media
I am aware that we are exhausted and that we should close. I will also not keep us any longer than it is necessary.
When we convened this military veterans indaba, we had been very conscious of the fact that, given the number of challenges we are confronted with, the discussions here would be highly charged. We nevertheless accepted that, such discussion was necessary if we are to get to the bottom of these challenges, and to formulate a common understanding on how to address them.
As we come to the end of this important engagement, I am confidently asserted that we have fulfilled the objective for which we had gathered here. Over the course of this indaba, we managed to consult each other on whole range of issues, including suggestions on solutions to address some of the limitations affecting our ability to deliver efficient and responsive service to our veterans.
Amongst other issues, we have highlighted the need for a comprehensive strategy and capacity to deal with the following issues:
A review of our institutional arrangements including the restructuring of the department to align with its legal mandate
Put in place proper guideline for cooperative relations and role clarification between the DMV and the SANMVA
Develop a policy and investigate resource requirements for provision of a comprehensive provision of benefits to both military veterans and their dependent, especially in healthcare and burial assistance. Alternative funding model for the provision of these services will be investigated to ensure that the budget can provide a bigger safety net and increased benefit payments. I’ve already directed that the current processes of a privatizing tender be suspended and allow a discussion of a sustainable model that will resolve all of our problems. This is because we don’t want to simply privatize the current problems and remain with the same challenges
Increased focus and emphasis on empowerment programs, including employment, training and enterprise support to ensure sustainable improvement in the lives of veterans, and reduce dependence on the state
The model for provision of housing to military veterans should be completely reviewed to ensure direct ownership of delivery targets by the DMV. Temporary housing relief for those veterans who are currently destitute should be considered, including the provision of readily available state accommodation, while still awaiting the building of houses
Capacity of the Ministry to exercise direct political and performance oversight of the department
Gender mainstreaming and the addressing of women issues within the program structure of the DMV
An immediate intervention to address and fast track the payment of outstanding bursaries for current beneficiaries
Communication between the department and military veterans, both on the issues of access to services and benefits as well as on challenges experienced, should be improved.
The integrity of the CPR should be ensured and that the process of verification and registering outstanding veterans should be finalized and the process should be closed. A clear communication should be made to all affected veterans and a precise deadline pronounced
The capacity and footprint of the department in regions should be discussed, especially in those provinces that have high numbers of veterans.
This list is not exhaustive also deal with only a high level articulation of some of the issues, the Indaba Secretariat has captured the detail of the various proposals that emerged here and these will have to be refined for presentation at the Department’s retreat scheduled before the end of this month. The Indaba Declaration that we’ve just adopted already provides a guideline on the agreed way forward.
As I have already indicated, the Turnaround team and a supporting Program Management Office will start its work at the department of military veterans from the 1st of August 2015.
The Turnaround team will investigate scope and address the current weaknesses of the department in its vision and design, delivery model, systems and operational procedure and propose those areas that need to be addressed as quick-win interventions within the next 3 to six months.
The Turnaround will be in place for 12 to 18 months and during the first six months they report on a bi-weekly basis to a program steering committee chaired by myself personally.
We have also committed to bring in additional managers form both the public and private sector on a short term basis to anchor the current management and provide scaffolding support and skills and knowledge transfer.
Members of the current management at SMS Level 12 – 16 will undergo a competency assessment to identify development gaps and to ensure that we utilize all of our skills and competencies in appropriate positions. Where restructuring redeployment is necessary, this will be done in line with legal provisions within the Public Service. There will be no guarantee of management positions during the restructuring. All managers will also conclude the necessary performance agreements in line with the new Implementation Plan emerging from the Strategic retreat and the Turnaround program as informed by this Indaba.
Comrades, let me once again clarify the issue that has been raised and reported once again in the media today. I saw a headline that says Minister defends DG. I have no responsibility to defend any official in the department. I had indicated yesterday that I am not going to address concerns that are raised through the media from our statutory structures, when such issues were never raised with me. I also indicated that I will protect the Indaba from being overshadowed by those issues and lose focus and opportunity to deal with real problems facing our veterans.
As matters stand now, the contract of the DG has expired. I have held discussions with the DG already since early this year, towards the time of the expiry of his contract, that given the need to give the Turnaround team a clean chance to lead the restructuring, we both agreed that we will not request an extension of his contract from Cabinet. It is for this reason that I felt that the public call for the DG’s removal last week, was unnecessary and not informed of the process we are engaged in within the Ministry. Should the matter have been raised with us first, we would have discussed it, and avoided the creation of perceptions of tensions and animosity.
The DG’s contract has expired and as in similar cases with other senior managers, his redeployment was discussed with him. Given his previous experience as a former Secretary of Defence and Chief of the Defence International Affairs, the DG will now join the Ministry as a Special Advisor within my office.
In fact, as you may be aware, the process of recruiting a new DG has started and the advert in this regard is out in the papers. We hope that, considering the process of securing Cabinet approval, we will have appointed a new DG by the end of September. Of course our preference is that we find a DG who comes from the background of military veterans, but this will not be the only consideration as we want to find a suitable candidate who meets a mix balance of competencies for a Manager and a competent Accounting Officer for the department.
Lastly, I need to indicate that the robust nature of the discussions here over the past 2 days is an indication that we need to meet more often. As I have indicated that the department will have to enhance its interaction with the veterans and not wait for matter to reach boiling point before we can address them.
The outcome of the strategic retreat and the implementation plan from the Turnaround team will be communicated during the Ministry road shows to provinces once finalized.
I want to thank you all for participating here and for the constructive contributions you have made here. I also want to extend a special thank you to mostly those veterans from the statutory forces, including the CMVO, for having shared your experiences on how we can uplift the conditions of the veterans from the NSFs and create parity. I am inviting you to continue engaging us and share some of the best practices that have worked right here at home.
I wish you all the best as we travel back home and that God protects all of you and ensure everybody’s safety back home.