The opposition Democratic Alliance party is calling on Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to extend the deadline for the registration of military veterans currently underway.
The party says the registration process that started May 28 and ends Friday, has been chaotic and confusing. DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Shahid Esau says the departments of Defence and Military Veterans at the end of May called on all those listed on the military veterans’ database to re-register. “This includes all those who served in the statutory and liberation forces as well as their dependents. Those who had not registered during the previous integration process in 1994 were also asked to register,” Esau said.
“Poor advertising on behalf of government and a lack of clear explanations as to the purpose of this registration process have led to confusion and frustration for many military veterans. Many veterans are under the impression that they will be receiving benefits after they have completed this registration, but this is not the case. The department [of Military Veterans] has yet to clarify how benefits will be rolled out and the means test which will be used to determine who will qualify for benefits.
“The department was supposed to establish provincial offices by the end of June. This process has not been completed and would have gone a long way toward assisting the military veterans with the correct information,” Esau said.
“Although the Military Ombudsman has been created, it is not at full capacity and will not be able to deal with the many complaints which will arise from the lack of clarity on this process.
“The poor management of this process by the Department has incubated serious misinformation and a number of scams in which vulnerable individuals are being exploited. Consequently, many veterans have either failed to register or have the false expectation that registration will necessarily result in benefits being received.
“The department should analyse the flaws in the current process, extend the deadline by at least a month and do a proper nationwide advertising campaign stating who must register and where they must register. This will assist in clarifying the situation and provide more time for those who need to register to do so.”
Defence department (DoD) spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini last week said veterans wishing to register should report to their nearest military base where they will be assisted. He cautioned against fraudsters trying to sell veterans registration forms, saying the process involved no cost. At least two people have been arrested for trying to sell the form, the paper Afrikaans daily, Beeld, said, one in George and one in Gugulethu, Cape Town.
Veterans of all colours and backgrounds can eventually qualify for the benefits. This includes former members of uMkhonto we Sizwe, the Azanian People’s Liberation Army as well as the South African Defence Force. The benefits are to include health care, housing, a pension and education, according to the Military Veterans Bill passed by Parliament last year.
The aim of the law and benefits is to assist destitute veterans, Beeld warned, adding that registration did not imply veterans necessarily qualified for any benefits. A means test will be used to determine whether the veteran applying is working or has an income. His or her assets will also be considered.
Dlamini further told the paper the precise nature and scope of the benefits veterans will receive, as well as the regulations in terms of which payments will be made has not yet been promulgated. Veterans can phone 012 671 1015 for help. The registration form is also on the DoD website, www.dod.mil.za, but this week the link to the document – and many others – was broken.
Clarity can also be obtained from the:
• Council of Military Veterans Associations
Tel: 012 651 5921
Fax: 086 684 8592
e-mail: [email protected]
• The SA Legion
• The Memorable Order of Tin Hats
• Department of Military Veterans
Director-General: Mr Tshepe Motumi
Denel Irene Campus, Nellmapius Drive, Centurion,
Tel: (012) 671 1212
Fax: (012) 671 1108
e-mail: [email protected]
The Bill passed through Parliament with some controversy. When finalised in July last year, there were significant questions around how much the benefits in the Bill will cost. The state law advisor’s office told the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCODMV) that it will cost an estimated R1.6 billion to implement the law in the current medium-term expenditure framework. The figure of R6.4 billion contained in the memorandum to the bill – already a vast reduction from earlier estimates running into tens of billions – was termed a “typing error”, the South African Press Association reported at the time. The correction prompted questions from the opposition as to how the fledgling department of military veterans arrived at the amount.
Department of Military Veterans Director General Tsepe Motumi said the figure was “what Cabinet approved” and conceded that the amount “may go up as we move into full-scale implementation”. There would be a gradual phasing in after the legislation was passed by Parliament and enacted, he said.
The DA’s David Maynier said the processing of the bill had been “shambolic from the start” and it was frustrating that the department had never been able to properly say how much it would cost to implement. The bill was initially sent back to the department because it had been tabled without costing and was then returned without the issue fully resolved, in apparent contradiction of the 1999 Public Finance Management Act that determines all Bills must be properly costed before enactment.
Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla, who is tasked with veterans matters, argued that an exception had been made because of the difficulty ascertaining the number of ex-soldiers that would be affected. Maynier asked that his objections on the issue be placed on the record. “I’m concerned that the department has never been able to properly brief us about the cost implications and the assumptions therein,” Maynier said at the time.
Alexander Forbes, the pension and employee benefits consultancy earlier last year told the PCODMV the Bill could cost up to R65.2 billion over the lifetime of an estimated 56 000 veterans and their dependents. This could be in excess of another 50 years as the figures show some 50% of the presumed cohort was 23 or younger in 1994. A more conservative estimate put the bill for the Bill at R19.623 billion, roughly the cost of the SAAB Gripen fighter programme. The defence budget, by contrast is some R37 billion. Some of the funds required are also already in the state budget, although under other departments, for example the War Veterans grant allocated in the coming year in the Department of Social Development’s budget “for the men and women who fought in World War II and the Korean War”.
SAPA said another controversy resolved was whether former apartheid-era white and Coloured national servicemen and women would qualify for recognition as military veterans under the Bill and following from this whether they would be entitled to health, housing and pension benefits under the Bill was resolved when Motumi indicated that they would. “The bill is very clear: if they are veterans and they pass the means test, they will,” he told reporters.