DMV has its fourth acting DG as legal action looms

2833

The perennially under-performing Department of Military Veterans (DMV) has another acting Director-General at the helm – the fourth interim appointment since 2017 – with the most recent permanent appointment suspended for over a year.

There has been no official announcement as regards the departure of former SA Navy (SAN) Chief, Mosiwa Hlongwane, as Acting Director-General since mid-2021, or who replaced him.

defenceWeb became aware of the new Acting Director-General – Nontobeko Mafu – by way of her signature on a document tabled at a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) meeting earlier this year. Initial contact with DMV media liaison in the form of Lebogang Mothapa brought to light Mafu has been Acting Director-General “since about December”. Further contact with the DMV as regards Mafu’s CV and the duration of her temporary appointment were referred to Semakaleng Moatlhodi with the abbreviated designation of “Dir ODG DMV”. The request was given short shrift and told “the office cannot forward personal information not having formal request to comply with POPIA (Protection of Personal Information Act)”.

Cyril Xaba, co-chair of the PCDMV, told defenceWeb the committee had not met since Hlongwane left, adding the committee knew he was on “a brief call-up” due to permanent Director-General Irene Mpolweni’s suspension and the subsequent disciplinary process which “is taking longer than anticipated”. She was, according to him, released “about two months ago”. He indicated to defenceWeb the process to fill the vacancy will happen in the seventh administration.

Mafu follows Hlongwane and before him retired lieutenant general Derrick Mgwebi as acting Directors-General with Max Ozinksy the first acting/interim Director-General in 2017. Mpolweni was named Director-General in April 2021, replacing Mgwebi until her suspension in March 2023 when the former SAN chief moved into the Director-General office suite in Pretoria’s Hatfield.

The number and length of time people have been appointed as interim post holders of the senior DMV office has not gone unnoticed with three public representatives taking Minister Thandi Modise and her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, to task for tardiness.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader, retired two-star General Bantu Holomisa, called the situation at the DMV “dire” saying “acting incumbents are filling most senior positions”.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald – no stranger to the military as a former Commando officer – said the appointment of acting senior personnel, along with other poor management decisions as regards finance, gave the impression Modise and her team have lost control and “almost surrendered”.

Just as critical is Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Defence and Military Veterans Minister Kobus Marais who – tongue not entirely in cheek – said the DMV has had more acting directors-general than years in existence.

On a serious note he questioned government’s commitment to the national military veteran community. “They are treated with disrespect given the sacrifices made for South Africa, with many destitute. This is a serious indictment against government, its political leaders and the public servants who are supposed to serve the best interests of all military veterans,” he told defenceWeb.

The lack of permanent leadership at the government department tasked with military veterans’ welfare has seen at least one representative old soldiers’ body, the SA Military Veterans Organisation (SAMVO), looking to go the legal route to obtain benefits due as per the Military Veterans Act and subsequent regulations published last October.

SAMVO vice chair Godfrey Giles is reported by Daily Maverick as saying there is frustration among old soldiers about the DMV structure and its database as well as the slow roll-out of pension benefits. A letter to the PCDMV this February has not yet been responded to prompting him to tell the digital publication “very little has happened”.

He notes it’s over a decade that issues have been pointed out to the DMV, going as far as holding Minister Modise, her deputy Makwetla and others hostage in efforts to spur action. This has also seen political parties approached and informed of the sorry situation but “very little has happened”.

“I’ve had enough, and that’s why we are now going to launch a court action. We believe that the only way of getting government to do anything is if you get the courts to actually push that,” he is reported as saying.

“With thousands of veterans that are really starving, dying, or ill, it is not fair that they cannot get assistance because there’s a lack of political will. There’s funding, there are regulations, there’s legislation, yet it’s just not been done. And it’s not just for one year this goes back a decade”.