The country’s military veteran corps can offer a salute of gratitude to the compilers of this year’s budget as commitments made by former Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu start to filter through.
In the defence sector of the national budget, provision has been made for, among others, 11 500 housing units as well as skills and training development for 7 500 former soldiers. They will also be on the receiving end of largesse in the form of dedicated health counselling and treatment (for 6 000) and access to healthcare for 39 000 “deserving military veterans”.
These benefits are in line with the Military Veterans Act of 2011, which stipulates socio-economic support to military veterans and their dependents, including benefits and entitlements, to help realise “a dignified, unified, empowered and self-sufficient military veterans’ community”.
Execution of this mandate has seen Finance Minister Pravin Gordham make available over R341 million rising to R504 million in the 2014/15 financial year and up further to R606 million in the following financial year for veterans’ benefits.
Veterans will also be remembered over the medium term expenditure period of three financial years with three “honouring functions” and the erection of seven memorial sites.
Gordham also authorised funding for development and implementation of information technology and security services, legal services, policies and procedures and communication and marketing of military veterans’ programmes. These are all aimed at smooth implementation of benefits which are set to increase once the veterans’ means test has been finalised.
As of last September the needs of registered military veterans were in the hands of 27 people at the Department of Military Veterans headquarters on Denel’s Irene, Centurion, campus. With more emphasis now being placed on veterans, this number is expected to grow more than six fold in the medium term expenditure framework period.
The military veterans side of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans is headed by Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla and it ran a nationwide registration drive in the middle of last year. This is part on an ongoing process to update the national veterans’ register and is expected to be repeated during the course of this year.
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.”