Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Kebby Maphatsoe, told Parliament the military veterans part of the portfolio had not performed well in the area of providing housing for veterans, but there were some highlights in his budget address.
These include provision of healthcare and education support.
“We are proud to announce huge improvements made in some benefits and achieving an unqualified audit opinion. The departmental spend increased in 2017/18 and reached 97% as opposed to the previous financial years,” he told MPs during the defence budget vote.
In 2014 the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) was politically mandated to provide education support, among others, to registered military veterans. That year saw only 200 people benefit from the department’s spending. It has increased year-on-year and in the previous financial term more than seven thousand military veterans and dependents were assisted with education support.
Maphatsoe said education support has been allocated just over R145 million in the current financial year and indications are this amount will not meet demand.
There are currently more than 15 000 military veterans registered to receive healthcare from the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) SA Military Health Service (SAMHS). Plans are for the healthcare benefit to be extended to 17 000 veterans in the current financial year at a cost of R64,3 million.
He told the National Assembly military veterans were not exempt from the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality facing South Africa.
“They are also hard hit, to the point that some veterans die as paupers.”
This saw the establishment of a social relief distress (SRD) initiative by the DMV. In its first year this initiative spent over R25 million assisting more than 2 800 needy veterans. For the current financial year the SRD budget has been upped to R34 million.
On housing, Maphatsoe said progress had been slow with only 238 new houses built and 104 military veterans whose mortgages were in arrears to a total of R13 million assisted.
“We are engaged in talks with the Department of Human Settlements on how to accelerate the roll-out of houses to military veterans, as well as looking at other models of delivery,” the Deputy Minister said adding the housing benefit of the DMV has been allocated E35 million for the 2018/19 financial year.
Maphatsoe ended his address by saying “the fifth democratic government has ensured slow but vibrant growth and change in the lives of military veterans”.
“The DMV has, over time, matured and ensured it delivers within its capacity despite the administrative challenges it has had over time.”