Speech by Deputy Minister of Defence & Military Veterans: Hon. Thabang Makwetla


15 Aug 2011







16 AUGUST 2011



Unintentionally, the time allocated for the discussion of this Bill belies the importance of its object, because the Military Veterans Bill we are discussing this afternoon reminds us that there are among us in our communities, South Africans who during the dark days of conflict in this country, were steadfast in the believe that the penultimate honour under those circumstances was to serve their country. As the former member of parliament, Hon. James Ngculu eloquently described them in his newly published book  “The Honour To Serve”, they are individuals who believe that “Honour is stronger than death” and also that, when cornered always remember “to keep the last bullet for yourself.” On all sides, all of them as soldiers, subscribed to the dictum that absolute submission to the will of the commander was an honourable thing to do.


Today, all these patriots, in particular those from yesterdays liberation Armies because of the way they were moulded, have been shunted to the margins of our society by those they fought to free. Because, as Oliver Reginald Tambo, the leader of The largest guerrilla organization in the resistance to apartheid said, “In building up our own popular army, we aim therefore not only at the overthrow of the fascist regime, we aim also at building up a politically conscious and revolutionary army, conscious of its popular origin, unwavering in its democratic functions and guided by our revolutionary orientation.” – OR Tambo.


Conscious of the importance of the change they fought for and the sacrifice involved, many Military Veterans from the liberations armies have with humility resigned to living wretched lives to give freedom a chance.


Again as James Ngculu explains, “These were not soldiers of fortune. None were paid a salary at the end of the month because they were all volunteer fighters committed to the struggle for justice and freedom. They were guerrillas or what Che Guevara defined as social reformers who take up arms in response to the wishes of the masses.” Unquote.


Honourable members, the purpose of the Military Veteran’s Bill is to recognize and honour Military Veterans in life and memorialize them in death for their sacrifices on behalf of the Nation.


It seeks to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for Military Veterans from active military service to civilian life, it aims to restore the capability of Military Veterans with disabilities to the greatest extent possible, and to improve their quality of life and those of their dependants. The Bill envisages a system of benefits and services to Military Veterans whose cumulative effect will ensure that Military Veterans augment our national work force broadly, and contributes to the prosperity and development of the country.


Lastly, the policy espoused by the Bill recognizes that Military Veterans are a unique resource for nation–building and reconciliation which has been under–utilised.


Speaker, this intervention by government is so vital to the future and stability of this country that we must be forgiven if our frankness takes precedence over etiquette. This issue need not be surrounded by a host of technicalities and complicated reasoning, the way some career analysts and obstructionist politicians are tempted to view it.


As we speak there are destitute former freedom fighters who sleep in public places such as the Johannesburg Park Station, we are told, without comfort of a place they can call their home, hungry and cold.


This Bill is not the first legislation to deal with Military Veterans in government, nor is it the first time government acknowledges the need to support Military Veterans. The need to consider supporting the social reintegration of demobilized soldiers back into communities was raised as early as November 1993 (even before the integration process  commenced), by former Chief of the South African Defence Force (SADF), General Meiring at the Insitute for Defence Policy (IDP) Conference when he said, “There are a large number of individuals who have received military training of some sort and who will not be accommodated in the South African Army. To leave these individuals jobless in the streets is to invite trouble. An idea is to establish a service Brigade to accommodate and train them.” Indeed a Service Corps was established in January 1995 following the establishment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in 1994. In 1999 the Department of Defence introduced a legislation, viz the 1999 Military Veterans Affairs Act to cater for Military Veterans.


Honourable members, the reason we are today piloting a new legislation through parliament, is because courageous as the intervention referred to above were, they all failed because they were inadequate, piece-meal and not holistically conceived. As a result support for Military Veterans remained adhoc, discretionary and uneven across all three spheres of government.


The Bill before the house seeks to improve the definition of beneficiaries to make it inclusive and in-line with the Constitution. Secondly, it comprehensively spells out the support and benefits which government commits itself to provide to Military Veterans and care due to their dependants. Lastly it stipulates the institutions to be established in order to realize this policy.


Honourable members, the Bill before the house has benefitted from extensive case-study work done of countries where there is support for Military Veterans in government. In this regard, work was done on both developing and developed countries, including familiarization visits to those countries which evince best practice.


Still-and-all, the final product was crafted as a home-grown instrument to deal with concrete conditions confronting us here at home, with our specific historical background and national imperatives.


In this respect, we wish to point-out that the policy contained in this Bill seeks to address the challenge of Military veterans within the national framework of care for the indigent within the broad anti- poverty strategy socially and economically. The policy enunciated in the Bill seeks to deal with the needs of Military Veterans as an investment towards the broader human resource needs of the country rather than a pure welfare programme.


The policy seeks to protect government policy on Military Veterans from being donor driven while allowing for partnerships. The Bill provides approaches to the Affairs of Military Veterans today, with the future challenges of Military Veterans in mind.


Honourable Speaker it behoves me to express on behalf of the Minister sincere appreciation for the sterling work done by members of the Portfolio Committee for the diligence and sensitivity with which they have gone about their deliberation of this Bill. We have noted some of the important views shared with the committee including the fairly popular sentiment that other veterans and stalwarts of the struggle against apartheid, besides those who were in military organizations be considered for similar support.


Honourable Members, I cannot conclude my remarks in this debate without once again conveying from the Ministry a word of appreciation to the architects of this policy, the Ministerial Task Team on Military Veterans for a job well done.


I thank you.










Department of Military Veterans

·         In 2009 President Zuma announced that the Ministry of Defence will include the portfolio of Military Veterans.

·         Minister Sisulu, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans subsequently appointed a Ministerial task team led by Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Mr Thabang Makwetla.

The Ministerial task team was mandated to do the following:

·         Develop recommendations on governance of Military Veterans’ affairs in South Africa

·         Develop an organisational machinery required to meet the policy imperatives in order to address the plight of military veterans


How long did it take for the Ministerial task team to complete its task?

·         The Task Team concluded its assignment in six months.

·         The report was processed through Cabinet Cluster Committees and was endorsed by full Cabinet in June 2010.


Difference between Department of Defence and Department of Military Veterans

·         The Department of Military Veterans was proclaimed by the President as a separate and stand alone institution within the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans.


The main responsibility of the Department of Military Veterans

·         The sole responsibility of the Department is to govern and cater for the affairs of former members of military organisations.


Who are the Military Veterans?

·         According to the bill, there are three categories of the Military Veterans:

(a)      any South African citizen who rendered military service to any of the military organizations, statutory and non-statutory, which were involved on all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994;

(b)     Those who served in the then Union Defence Force before 1961,

(c)     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 organization.


Status of the Department of Military Veterans Personnel

·         The Director General Mr Tsepe Motumi was appointed February 2010,

·         Public Service and Administration Minister in June 2010 approved an organisational structure with a staff complement of 141 posts.

·         The Department has filled a number of posts.



·         The New Department of Military Veterans is funded and received necessary budget from the National Treasury in this financial year, 2011/12.

·         The budget will enable the department to deliver comprehensive benefits and support for military veterans.


Military Veterans Bill

·         The Bill has recently been approved by the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans. It has since been enacted by Parliament/National Assembly and will soon be signed into law by the President.


Objectives of the 2011 Military Veterans Bill

·         Recognize and honour military veterans

·         Ensure a seamless transition from active military service to civilian life,

·         Restore the capability of military veterans with disabilities,

·         Provide a comprehensive delivery machinery and system of benefits and services for military veterans,

·         Position military veterans as part of the overall workforce of the country in order to enhance its prosperity and development,

·         Ensure that military veterans contribute meaningfully towards reconciliation and nation building


Government’s obligation towards military veterans

  • Health Care Support
  • Housing
  • Business opportunities
  • Educational opportunities
  • Military Pensions
  • Access to Public Transport
  • Facilitation of empowerment
  • Burial and Honour
  • Job placement
  • Counselling


All the above benefits will be accessed on the basis of each individual’s eligibility and qualification through a means test.


Policy implementation cost

  • The Cabinet approved R1.6 billion over the next three years in order to the address the plight of military veterans. This amount will cover among other things military pension, free health care, access to public transport, business support, education and re-skilling, memorialisation, housing and burial support.



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