Military veterans across South Africa will be hoping the new top man at the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) can engineer a turnaround for the better at a government entity that has as its primary mission helping those who put their lives on the line in conflicts and wars.
Newly appointed acting director general of the DMV, Max Ozinsky, said in a statement the DMV will give “top priority attention to the speedy creation of a credible and reliable database of military veterans”.
This database and its structure has long been a concern of veterans and veterans’ organisations in South Africa because it is seen as the foundation from which benefits, including housing, healthcare and assistance with education, will spring.
Testimony to ongoing problems experienced in the DMV, headed by Kebby Maphatsoe, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, are it being named the worst performing government department by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration in 2014; late tabling of the departmental annual report in Parliament because the chief financial officer was on leave pending disciplinary action, and the suspension of two senior officials, including then director general Tsepe Motumi while an internal forensic investigation was underway.
These and other issues prompted Democratic Alliance shadow deputy defence and military veterans minister, Shahid Esau, to say the DMV was probably fighting the biggest battle in its history – the one for sound management and accountable leadership. Also in 2015 he pointed out the military veterans database had only 22 800 veterans out of 57 000 registered and verified.
In August 2015 Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced the appointment of what she called “a formidable team” to turn the DMV around over an 18 month period.
The new director general’s action of prioritising the veterans’ database comes just over a week after its reliability was again questioned, this time by the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV). According to chairman Malusi Motimele the PCDMV wants “a reliable and verifiable database and is concerned this still remains a challenge”.
Ozinsky, it appears, has risen to the challenge. In the DMV statement he is quoted as saying: “The database of military veterans is important in ensuring the DMV delivers the right benefit at the right time, the right place and to the right military veterans’ and/or their dependants. There has been a major challenge facing the DMV since its establishment five years ago. If this matter is not resolved as a matter of urgency it will inevitably lead to corruption and delay the speedy roll out of the much needed benefits to the military veterans’ community and their dependants.
“We have created a task team of senior managers in the DMV, which will drive the database process working closely with the military veterans’ umbrella association SANMVA and other military veterans associations. We will also investigate working closely with the relevant law enforcement agencies to advise where there are cases of fraud in our database.”
The DMV said it currently has approximately 71 000 military veterans in its database. These are from former statutory and non-statutory forces.