An apparently arbitrary decision to remove former national servicemen’s names from the military veterans’ database has been met with demands for a meeting with the defence and military veterans minister as well as threats of legal action.
Earlier this week Department of Military Veterans (DMV) spokesman Mbulelo Musi reportedly said about 16 000 former national servicemen had “incorrectly” registered as military veterans. Their names and details would be removed and they would not qualify for any benefits as prescribed in the Military Veterans Act.
Freedom Front Plus party defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald has already contacted DMV director general, Tsepe Motumi, about the issue and has requested an urgent meeting with Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
He maintains it is illegal for any names to be removed from the national military veterans’ database.
“The law provides for an appeals board to hear any complaint or allegation of wrongdoing but it has not even been appointed. It is thus illegal to remove any data if the mechanisms for complaints to be heard are not in place,” he said.
Civil rights organisation AfriForum has demanded a written undertaking from Mapisa-Nqakula to be received no later than next Friday that no names are removed from the database.
AfriForum military veterans spokesman Nantes Kelder said this would ensure former national servicemen were not deprived of veterans’ benefits.
“If she does not provide this undertaking we will not hesitate to take the matter to court.”
Groenewald said the Military Veterans Act is clear and former national servicemen qualify as veterans in terms of its definition.
A former national serviceman from KwaZulu-Natal, speaking on condition of anonymity, told defenceWeb he was “never really optimistic about getting anything but I registered anyway”.
Groenewald said that Act was “clear and servicemen qualify. In Section 2 the Act stipulates that just because an individual is defined as a military veteran, that individual is not necessarily entitled to any benefits in terms of the Act. Section 3(c) stipulates an individual also has to pass a means test in order to receive benefits. The means test has now only been contained in regulations which still have to be tabled in Parliament. The Freedom Front Plus views this issue in a very serious light and will, if necessary, even consider legal steps”.