President Jacob Zuma yesterday promised a happy new year to military veterans.
He reminded that government earlier this year appointed a task team under deputy defence and military veterans minister Thabang Makwetla “to develop policy recommendations on the management of the affairs of veterans.
“Some of the services that are being looked into for veterans include education and training opportunities, social services, health, and economic empowerment,” he said at a ceremony at the Freedom Park memorial at Salvokop in Pretoria to mark National Reconciliation Day, which this year was “dedicated to the forgotten heroes of this country’s liberation, our military veterans,”
Zuma says task team’s report will be presented to Cabinet in the New Year.
“We also know that the biggest complaint of our military veterans, especially the former liberation fighters, is the inability to access special pensions, or the slowness of the process.
“Former freedom fighters do not qualify for the War Veterans Grant, which is provided to former SADF veterans who served in the two World Wars and Korea.
“We expect that the Special Pensions Amendment Bill which was passed last year, will assist in some way to resolve problems around special pensions.
Zuma said the measures were necessary because the Constitution of the Republic “calls upon the people of South Africa to recognise the injustices of our past and to honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land.
“In this regard, today we recognize our former freedom fighters who left their homes and went to exile in foreign lands. They were well-received and were treated with dignity, solidarity and friendship in countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Uganda and even as far afield as Ethiopia and Algeria.
“When they left the comfort of home and family, venturing into the unknown, the only reward they sought was merely that they may contribute to the dawn of a new South Africa. We must acknowledge the fact that the situation became difficult for many former freedom fighters, after the initial homecoming celebrations.
“They soon became the forgotten heroes of the struggle. Many are known to live in abject poverty in a country they sacrificed so much for. Today, as we mark 15 years of a democracy that shines ever brighter with each passing year, we bid well-deserved recognition to our veterans,” he said.