Cabinet has approved a two new but long-anticipated defence-related Bills for introduction to Parliament. They are the Military Veterans Bill and the South African Military Ombudsman Bill.
Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko says the Military Veterans Bill will seek to establish, develop, promote and implement national policy and standards regarding military veterans and their dependants “to enhance the well-being and quality of life through progressive realisation of their socio-economic rights.”
The draft law will further seek to establish an advisory council for military veterans’ affairs, a military veterans’ appeal board and to provide for benefits and entitlements relating to military veterans.
Cabinet also approved the extension of a revised pension dispensation to cover all members of the former Non Statutory Forces (NSF) who are employed in government departments and other institutions that contribute to the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF). The current NSF pension dispensation was limited to members of the South African National Defence Force. “This decision will create parity in the pensions dispensation for all former NSF members,” Maseko says. The NSF refers to the former military wings of the now-ruling African National Congress as well as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and the Azanian People’s Organisation
The Bill follows the establishment of a Department of Military Veterans last December.
In June, Cabinet has approved R80 million in benefits for veterans. A Cabinet statement at the time added the executive also approved a policy on the benefits, services, eligibility and institutional structures to support military veterans as contained in the report of the Ministerial Task Team on Military Veterans.
“The objective of the policy include to: recognise and honour the veterans; ensure a smooth and seamless transition from active service to civilian life; improve the quality of life of veterans and their dependents; contribute towards reconciliation and nation building; and enable government to address the plight of military veterans who were members of the liberation armies who are largely destitute,” the statement read.
“The new benefits will include: pension benefits for the destitute; housing for those who cannot house themselves; access to counselling services; compensation for the loss of life or limb; access to training and development; facilitation of access to employment; access to public transport. An amount of R80 million has been budgeted to cater for the new benefits.”
The funding is in addition to the R20 million allocated to the Department of Military Veteran (DMV) in the national budget in February. The DMV was created over the Christmas holiday and launched in April.
South African Military Ombudsman Bill
The second Bill will establish an office of the Military Ombudsman to attend to complaints emanating from members of the Defence Force as well as members of the public “and to ensure speedy resolution of complaints within and against the Defence Force.”
Currently complaints arising from the Defence Force are dealt with in terms of the Individual Grievance Regulation and by a military investigator embedded in the office of the Public Protector. “The department contends that this arrangement is insufficient and inefficient as a complaints mechanism due to the uniqueness of the defence environment,” Maseko says.
A further amendment to the Defence Act is also on the cards, a separate statement from the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans says. “In the next financial year [starting April 1 next year] our priority would be to finalise the legislative process to remove unions in the SANDF,” the ministry says. “We are more than convinced that all the unions in the SANDF have no respect for national security their interest is collecting monthly affiliation funds from the poor soldiers who now face loosing their place in the SANDF [sic].