Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla will have a spring in his stride when he walks up to the podium to address the APLA Military Veterans’ Association national congress in Umtata tomorrow.
He is scheduled to outline progress made in addressing the situation of former soldiers as well as give some insight into future plans on mainstream issues relating to military veterans.
Making his task easier is this week’s allocation of more than R340 million for veterans’ benefits by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for the current financial year.
This includes 11 500 housing units, skills and training development for 7 500 veterans, dedicated health counselling and treatment for 6 000 and access to healthcare for 39 000 “deserving military veterans”.
These benefits are part and parcel of the Military Veterans Act, championed by former Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Early last year she personally presented the first batch of military healthcare cards to MK veterans during a conference in Centurion.
The benefits are in line with the Military Veterans Act which stipulates socio-economic support to veterans and their dependents, including benefits and entitlements to help realise “a dignified, unified, empowered and self-sufficient military veterans’ community”.
Makwetla is expected to speak about veterans’ compensation, progress on plans for them to use public transport at reduced prices as well as assistance with job placements, burial support and business advice.
According to the Military Veterans Act of 2011, a military veteran is “a South African citizen who rendered military service to any of the military organisations, which were involved on all the sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994, those who served in the Union Defence Force before 1961, and those who became members of the South African National Defence Force after 1994, and has completed his/her military training and no longer performs military duties, and has not been dishonourably discharged from that military organisation.”