Plans to utilise the expertise of military veterans in the development of rural economies across the country are expected to be finalised by month-end.
The Department of Military Veterans (DMV), headed by Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla, and Minister Gugile Nkwinti’s Department of Rural Development and Land Reform have undertaken to finalise a detailed programme to assist veterans with jobs and skills development aimed specifically at business opportunities in any number of rural development initiatives.
This follows a meeting in Pretoria between senior representatives of both departments.
“The agreement (to develop a military veterans programme for rural development) is an important one that will go a long way to ensuring the challenges of poverty and unemployment which have been afflicting military veterans for many years are tackled and dealt with decisively and systematically. This programme will ensure military veterans are empowered with the necessary skills and empowered so they can play a meaningful role in ensuring government priorities, including rural development, are realised sooner rather than later,” said DMV deputy director general responsible for empowerment and stakeholder management Nonkonzo Molai.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of the SA National Military Veterans Association. The Association will be represented on the programme steering committee, along with representatives from both departments.
Following a veterans’ verification programme in Johannesburg last month, the DMV was this week scheduled to present healthcare card to veterans in Dunnotar and Lenasia in Gauteng. This has been postponed due to administrative and logistic challenges, DMV spokesman Mbulelo Musi said.
“We remain committed to ensuring the process is fast tracked so all deserving veterans can easily access free healthcare services.”
With 1 100 healthcare cards issued to registered veterans to date, the DMV currently has a backlog of 5 400 to eliminate.
The new arrangements for military veterans are part of former Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s initiative that resulted in the Military Veterans Act of 2011 being put onto the Statute Book.
Veterans who have healthcare cards have access to military healthcare facilities nationally.
DMV director general Tsepe Motumi said the healthcare cards were a significant addition to veterans’ benefits “because they have to live with a myriad of illnesses borne of the conditions under which they operated over many years, including exile, skirmishes, imprisonment, detention and torture”.
Veterans who have registered and been verified on the DMV database are in line for assistance with funerals, bursaries as well as assistance with housing and education. They will have to undergo a means test to establish exactly what benefits they qualify for.
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.”