Hundreds of military veterans led by the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) marched to the Department of Military Veterans earlier this week to protest benefits not being delivered to them and their dependents.
The veterans comprising former African National Congress‚ Pan Africanist Congress and Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) veterans, alongside former SA Defence Force and non-statutory forces‚ first gathered at Pretoria station on Wednesday before heading to the department head offices in Hatfield.
Manase Sifahle, commander of the Johannesburg region of the MK Military Veterans Association, said there were inconsistencies in the allocation of housing and problems with the payment of bursaries and medical benefits to veterans, reports Times Live.
“We cannot allow a situation where those who fought for this freedom are still homeless, are sleeping in shacks. We cannot allow a situation where military veterans are no longer treated by doctors or hospitals simply because this department can no longer pay bills,” Sifahle said.
He gave Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula 14 days to sort out their grievances, which revolve around waiting years for promised military pensions and housing and medical benefits.
In a memorandum addressed to the department, the veterans demanded free access to public transport, immediate payment of military pensions and payment of medical bills within 30 days of the memorandum.
“We are already rolling out houses across the provinces however we acknowledge that the pace must be upped and we believe that with the turnaround, we are going to up the pace faster,” the Department of Military Veterans’ Mbulelo Mmusi was quoted by SABC as saying.
The Department of Military Veterans plans to greatly roll out benefits to military veterans over the next couple of years, with a focus on health care, housing and skills development. The Department has been allocate R597.6 million in the 2016/17 budget period, R634.7 million for 2017/18 and R673.4 million for 2018/19, according to the latest government budget document.
In 2012/13 there were just 200 “deserving military veterans with access to health care services” but this had grown to 13 923 in 2015/16, with plans to increase to 16 000 in 2018/19.
“The department will also provide ongoing health care support to 16 000 veterans and their dependants by referring them to the appropriate health institutions, reflected in the 28.3 per cent increase in spending in the Health and Wellbeing Support subprogramme over the medium term [by 2018/19]. The subprogramme has a budget of R218.2 million over the medium term,” the veterans budget document reads.
There were only two “deserving military veterans with military housing” in 2013/14, but in the next three budget terms the Department plans to build 1 000 houses a year for military veterans, at a cost of R436.7 million.
Providing training and skills development to military veterans is an important part of the Department’s mandate of providing socioeconomic support to military veterans and their dependents. 1 270 veterans were given access to skills and training in 2013/14, rising to 2 450 the following year. The Department plans to increase this to 5 000 in 2018/19.
R83.6 million has been allocated for bursaries over the medium term. “A memorandum of understanding with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and the Department of Basic Education will assist the department to provide access to education opportunities, such as the schooling of children up to grade 12, and tertiary education,” according to the military veterans budget.
It is the department’s goal that 5 000 eligible military veterans and their dependants across the country are provided with ongoing education support by 2018/19.