Yet another example of the glacial speed at which provision of housing for military veterans is proceeding comes from an oversight visit to Free State this week by the Democratic Alliance (DA).
A team of three DA public representatives visited Riebeeckstad in the province’s former gold mining capital Welkom and found nothing but foundations cast with no apparent intention of any further construction work.
The party’s Free State provincial leader, Patricia Kopane, said after the visit R48 million was apparently budgeted for 62 military veterans to have houses built for them.
“In 2008 the veterans were each promised a house costing R280 000. To date those houses have not been built,” she said.
The DA visit to the building site revealed only 10 foundations and nothing else prompting Kopane to say “there is no hope of these houses being built anytime soon”.
The DA delegation was told there was no money to pursue the project which was allegedly awarded to a Party-based consultancy that apparently failed to pay rental for hostel accommodation rented from the Free State Development Corporation (FSDC).
Samuel Bani, identified as a beneficiary of the project, told the delegation he felt betrayed by a government he fought and made sacrifices for.
As part of its follow-up on this particular issue the DA will write to the Department of Human Settlements. The party wants both the local mayor and municipal manager to appear and account for the apparently missing R48 million budgeted for military veterans’ housing.
The ongoing military veterans’ housing issue can briefly be traced back to 2015 when the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) set up a needs database. Among others it identified more than 21 000 potential beneficiaries with a pre-screening disqualifying more than 70%.
A presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in 2017 by then acting DMV director general Max Ozinsky showed by far the majority of names on the database were those of former non-statutory force (NSF ) members at 16 800. The remaining 4 611 were all former SA Defence Force (SADF) members.
Disqualifications were due to death, with 5 722 identified as dead, 844 with invalid identification documents, 6 336 were in possession of title deeds, 2 931 received RDP housing subsidies and 538 were earning more than the R125 000 a year threshold.
That meeting also heard of plans to map beneficiaries and locate them near housing projects as well as a national circular to guide provinces with application of regulations for military veterans housing. The PCDMV also indicated an oversight visit would enable it “to get first-hand experience of challenges faced”. As far as can be ascertained, this week’s visit to Free State was the first since the 2017 meeting.
The DMV was previously roasted by another Parliamentary committee – Security and Justice – over the lack of housing for military veterans.
In September 2016, following an oversight visit to the country’s northern provinces, including a stop at Hoedspruit in Limpopo, the committee was scathing in its criticism of the DMV.
“The DMV’s inability to provide adequate services and the support it has been established to offer to military veterans cannot be tolerated – and as legislators we need responses from the executive authority in this regard,” said committee chair, Kgoshi Setlamorago Thobejane.
The committee also expressed “discontent” with the DMV after learning it “only managed to build a disappointing 41 houses against a target of three thousand it intended to build in the 2015/16 financial year” according to a statement issued by Parliament.