Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla says when the Military Veterans Bill approved by Cabinet becomes law next week it will provide comprehensive benefits and services for veterans.
“This represents a new epoch for military veterans in the history of our country,” Makwetla told journalists in Cape Town yesterday. The Bill will honour veterans and ensure a “seamless” transition from active military service to civilian life, he added. “This is a welcome development in our march to profile and restore the dignity of men and women who, at some stage of their lives, sacrificed their very being for the greater good of all, for future generations and prosperity in our country.
“It is in line with other nations of the world on how they value and treat those who are and were prepared to serve and at times pay the supreme sacrifice in pursuit of a better future for all.” Makwetla said that the bill had not yet been “costed” and that the department was still calculating this.
He said that the proposed law would benefit around 57 000 former soldiers who rendered military service to any of the military organisations involved on all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994, in addition to those who served in the Union Defence before 1961 and those who became members of the South African National Defence Force after 1994.
“The SADF (South African Defence Force) are very much part of the defence force we have today,” Makwetla said. “All are part of the military veterans community this bill is targeting.”
The benefits and support to the veterans will include health care support, housing, business opportunities, military pensions, access to public transport, job placement and counselling. Some of these are currently available but fragmented between state departments. The Bill makes provision for a national umbrella body for veterans, the South African National Military Veterans Association and the formation of an appeals board to serve as a recourse on declined membership or eligibility to a specific benefit, Makwetla said.
Makwetla added the Bill was a culmination of an intensive process of research, consultations and international benchmarking “that was led by the ministry through a task team of eminent persons with varied areas of expertise and experience.”
President Jacob Zuma added the military veterans portfolio to defence in May last year when naming his Cabinet. Minister Lindiwe Sisulu subsequently appointed a Ministerial Task Team, led by Makwetla to develop recommendations on the governance of the military veterans portfolio. “The Task Team concluded its assignment in six months and the report was subsequently processed through Cabinet Cluster Committees and eventually served in full cabinet wherein the recommended policy options were endorsed in June this year,” Makwetla told reporters. “As matters stand, the Department of Military Veterans was proclaimed by the President as a separate and stand alone department, within the ministry, in December 2009. This was done in order to create a department within government, whose sole responsibility is to govern and cater for the affairs of all former members of military organisations before dawn of democracy and those who served in the current South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after 1994.
“The Ministry then appointed a Director-General for the Department of Military Veterans, Mr. Tsepe Motumi, in February 2010. In April this year, we unveiled a new logo for the department and temporarily acquired office space at Denel in Centurion, Pretoria.”
A submission for the organisational structure of the new department was presented to the Minister of Public Service and Administration and approval was granted in June. “A total staff compliment of 141 posts was approved. We have advertised and are currently in the process of filling 28 (top level) management posts. The second batch of posts will be advertised early next year.”
Makwtla added he was therefore pleased that Cabinet, “during its meeting last week, approved the 2010 Military Veterans Bill, which in the main ushers in a new dispensation for Military Veterans Affairs in our country. The Bill repeals the Military Veterans Act of 1999 and attempts to streamline all other veterans’ related legislation into one comprehensive set of legislation.”
The Bill clarifies a military veterans as ; “a South African citizen who rendered military service to any of the military organizations, which were involved on all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994; those who served in the then 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 dishonorably discharged from that military organization”.