Defence and Military Veterans Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla says the department has undertaken measures to verify the status of 57 individuals who were involved in an incident where he, along with Minister Thandi Modise and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, were held hostage last month.
Makwetla said this when Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster responded to oral questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“The Department of Military Veterans has undertaken to verify the 57 military veterans who appeared in the case that is before the courts as a result of the hostage drama that occurred at St George’s.
“The glitch that was encountered is that the investigating team was not forthcoming with the details of the defendants and as a result we had to approach the prosecution in order to get those details of the defendants involved. It is an undertaking [that] the department is very much aware of its importance for us to deal with the matter in a procedural way,” he said.
On the evening of 18 October during a meeting at the St George’s Hotel in Irene, Pretoria, a group of military veterans held the two Ministers and the Deputy Minister hostage when they demanded an audience with the President and the Deputy President to address their concerns. Their concerns included millions of rands in reparations for their role in the liberation struggle, pension payouts for military veterans and economic opportunities.
Responding to oral questions on Wednesday, Makwetla said interventions were underway to address the concerns.
Presidential Task Team
He said a Presidential Task Team, which was established at the beginning of November last year, was assigned a responsibility to address the grievances that were presented by the same military veterans, who marched to the Union Buildings on the 10 November last year.
“The interventions made to respond to the demands of the marchers of the 10th of November last year involves the engagement primarily with National Treasury to make available financial resources to implement some of the benefits that are in the Military Veterans Act,” he said. He added that the department has not been able to rollout the benefits over the past ten years due to a limited budget.
“Specifically, the focus has been on implementing the payout of the military veterans. Work is at an advanced stage. The last update on the work stream responsible for pension was that there was a possibility that pension could be paid even before this financial year [on 31 March 2022] is out.
“If this does not happen, it is almost certain that at the beginning of the next financial year in April, that Military Veterans pension will be paid out.”
Makwetla said the Presidential Task Team, under the leadership of Deputy President David Mabuza, decided to establish work streams in order to deal with all the grievances that were contained in the submission of the marchers.
In addition to the Task Team, it was also decided that the Premiers of the provinces should be part of the intervention. Eight work streams were established to deal with the different areas. These are: the legislative review work that is need around the Military Veterans Work of 2011; the organisational redesign of the Department of Defence; a workstream that was to look at the Military Veterans Pension that is in the Act, which, of course, to this point, has not been implemented; a workstream to look into heritage and memorialisation matters; to look into communication challenges of the Department of Military Veterans; to look into the database verification and the cleansing of the database of the Department of Military Veterans; to look into socio economic support of these military veterans; and a workstream to look into the economic opportunities in other departments, especially of the economic cluster, that can be ringfenced for military veterans.