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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE
8 June 1998
MILITARY VETERAN'S AFFAIRS BILL: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Draft Military Veterans' Affairs Bill, 1998
Admiral Duckitt briefed the committee on the Bill. He indicated that a study group had been sent to Australia and Taiwan to see how they handle veteran issues. Due to changing circumstances such as rationalization, budget cuts and the National Social Security System, nothing concrete had come out of the discussions. Inputs from various State Departments, APLA, MK, South Africa National Defence Force, etc. were solicited, so that a consensus could be reached. The aim of the Bill is the establishment of a Military Veterans' Commission, appointed by the Minister of Defence, to cater for the interests of veterans.
The Bill has four main features:
PART I Interpretation, objects, and authority of President, Cabinet Committee and Minister of Defence as well as a Committee of Senior State Officials
PART II Commission on Military Veterans' Affairs
PART III Office for Military Veterans' Affairs
PART IV Miscellaneous provisions
There is still an expected report from a review commission defining who is a veteran.
Question raised by committee members:
Mr Mashimbe (ANC) said that as most white males had been conscripted into the former South African Defence Force, what should be the definition of a war/military veteran? He feared that this Bill could an expensive venture. In response to this question it was stated World War One and Two as well as Korean war soldiers were regarded as war veterans. There were 16000 of them. In 1980 there were 30 000 conscripts but only 5 to 10% are totally indigent. It is proposed that people reaching the age of 60 who have no other means of survival and are disabled should be effectively defined as military veterans.
Mr Yengeni, the Chairperson, asked if there was anything currently in the draft Bill making provision for this? The response was that there was not.
Mr. Gibson of the Democratic Party clarified that no new pension scheme was being proposed. The response was that this was the case and the Bill only formulated a Commission that will act as a nodal point to cater for the needs of the military war veterans.
An ANC committee member asked what would happen to the association which caters for MK and Azanian Peoples' Liberation cadres? A Pan African National Congress committee member asked about those people who had fought for liberation but had not been allowed to wear uniforms, have ranks nor were ever given recognition? How does one cater for them, some of whom were already dying of old age? He asked further what happens to someone who had served for eleven or so years but because he was not of a certain age, did not qualify for any form of benefits? In response to these questions, it was pointed out that there is no formal institution effectively dealing with these issues. This is the very reason why this proposed Commission and the Committees should exist.
Mr. Yengeni asked why not appoint a person in the President's Office who can cater for veterans, instead of having a Commission? It was said in response to this that the commission would be a part-time arrangement, where it would meet only once or twice a month and thus does not have to be of any cost to the State. This is the veterans' proposals for reasons of cost effectiveness, efficiency and legality.
Mr. Gibson (DP) asked who had drawn up the Bill because it did not reflect legal and Parliamentary language characteristic of other Bills. The response to this was the fact that it was written by legal people. Mr Gibson asked whether a two page document would adequately cater for his proposal rather than the present 40 page document. The spokesperson agreed and said that as soon as loose ends were sorted out, an appropriate format would be used to present this. The chairperson agreed and said that in future the Admiral should ensure that concise language should be used. It also should cater for some of the sentiments put forward by some of the members. He further stated that no disagreements had been put forward by any of the members of the Committee. An ANC committee member stated that she agreed with the Admiral and the proposed precedents, but, she also agreed that some recognition should be given to old members of Liberation Groups, as had been proposed by General Louw.
Mr. Yengeni stated that the best approach should be that all members should confer with their party members and come back to the Committee with their views.
The Admiral pointed out that too much delay may end up with the Bill being pushed into the next seating of Parliament.
Mr. Gibson pointed out that the current document lacks professional handling and cited some examples. Mr. Yengeni and Mr. Gibson advised the Admiral to redraft the document, because the language used will end up sinking the draft proposal.
Mr. Mashimbe suggested that perhaps the document should go into the Defence Act but if not then different options should be presented to the Standing Committee so that the political parties could reach a compromise.
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