The Department of Military Veterans (DMV) will remove the names of about 16 000 former national servicemen from its database, disqualifying them from any benefits as defined in the Military Veterans Act.
The DMV said it has details of 57 000 veterans on its database.
DMV spokesman, Mbulelo Musi, is reported by Afrikaans daily Beeld as having said the national servicemen, all conscripted into the then SA Defence Force (SADF) by the pre-1994 government, were incorrectly registered as veterans. This apparently happened during the DMV’s national campaign to register military veterans and was, Musi said, because of differing interpretations of the Act.
“The Act is clear: only those who served as permanent and professional soldiers in the old defence force and those who served in MK and its associated organisations can be veterans.”
One who has a different view is Godfrey Giles of the SA Legion. He said the Veterans Act does not differentiate between permanent force members and national servicemen.
“It states ‘those who served the country’,” he said adding the DMV was currently acting in a manner contrary to the Military Veterans Act which could affect thousands of people in need.
The interpretation of this portion of the Act has been a point of contention between the DMV and veterans organisations since 2011 when the Act was signed into law during former Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu’s, tenure.
Musi said the DMV was helping the poorest of MK veterans and other non-statutory forces.
“In the past national serviceman had access to basic privileges which those who fled South Africa were denied. The DMV wants to assist all veterans but this is not possible.
“About 5 000 of the veterans most in need are receiving medical care and the families of 200 are being assisted with education at present,” he said.
The SA Legion, which opened its doors to former MK, Apla and other non-statutory force members soon after democracy in 1994, is at present providing limited assistance to about 200 deserving former national servicemen.
Marietta Viljoen of the Legion’s welfare department told the paper a lack was funds meant assistance was given purely on an ad-hoc basis.
In Benoni and East London food parcels are given to need ex-national servicemen and from time to time money is provided for electricity or school fees.
The only national servicemen who qualify for assistance from the state are those who were injured during the Bush War via disability pensions.
According to the DMV website, a military veteran is, according to the 2011 Military Veterans act, “any South African who rendered military service to any of the military organisations, former statutory and liberation armies, which were involved on all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1993; served in the then Union Defence Force before 1961 or became a member of the SANDF after 1994 and has completed his or military training and no longer performs military duties, and has not been dishonourably discharged from his or her respective military organisation.”
** Update: this article is incorrect as new information emerged after it was published. Please follow this link for updated information: National servicemen to stay on veteran’s database