The Department of Military Veterans (DMV) is losing what is probably the biggest battle in its history, the one for sound management and accountable leadership, Shahid Esau, opposition Democratic Alliance shadow deputy defence and military veterans minister, maintains.
“Since 1994,” he said during this week’s defence budget vote in the National Assembly, “the re-integration process has stalled and repeatedly led to the intentional marginalisation and exclusion of various veterans”.
As an example he gave the military veterans’ database which, according to him, is still incomplete and only expected to be fully operational by the 2019/20 financial year.
“To date only 22 800 out of 57 000 military veterans – a mere 40% – have been verified.
“The target for the current financial year is set at 80% which constitutes 45 600 military veterans. This 100% increase seems incredibly optimistic considering the DMV’s track record.
“The remaining 20% is planned to be achieved incrementally by five percent over the following four years.
“These targets are in stark contrast to the ones set in December 2014 which Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe once publicly committed himself to,” he said calling it “a shockingly poor effort, considering the estimated 57 000 is not the actual number of military veterans”.
Esau pointed out 6 539 military veterans accessed healthcare over the past two years and bursaries went to 645 veterans and their dependents.
“During the same period 1 794 military veterans received training and skills development. How objective and effective could the process to determine the ‘deserving’ military veterans and dependents have been when there are serious gaps in the legal instruments governing the processes?
“One can only imagine the kind of hoops people had to jump through to receive their healthcare benefits, considering the department had to rely on an outdated and, according to reports, faulty database.
“If this is the case, the DMV is certainly denying other deserving military veterans and their dependents their rightful benefits by delaying finalisation of the database and the incorporation of former statutory forces’ certified personnel registers.
“The Department still has not confirmed whether or not any of these benefits will be accessible retrospectively. At this stage the process can only be considered arbitrary, discretionary and unfortunately even discriminatory,” he said.
The official government news service reports Maphatsoe as saying the department has set a target to build 1 000 houses for military veterans this year. “We have already transferred R78 million to the Department of Human Settlements,” he said.
He called on military veterans who were having challenges to contact the department for assistance.
This year the department will roll out military veterans’ pensions with a budget to cater for 600 people. Former non-statutory force members who were injured in exile will also receive compensation, reports SANews.
The budget for the military veterans for the financial year 2015/2016 is R582 million and for the rollout of benefits is R424 million.