The Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans presented the report of the Ministerial Task Team on Military Veterans to the Committee. The detailed presentation reflected Government policy on military veterans and the recommendations of the task team approved by Cabinet. The Minister might decide to engage the broader public by introducing a White Paper for military veterans. The Department of Military Veterans would apply the recommendations of the task team to formulate a policy framework until such time that the White Paper was issued. A budget to implement the recommendations of the task team had not yet been approved. New legislation to replace the Military Veterans Affairs Act, No. 17 of 1999 was in the process of being drafted and would be tabled in Parliament in the near future.
The presentation covered the background to the establishment of the task team; a problem statement; a situational analysis; the factors impacting on policy; the policy objectives; the definitions of beneficiaries; the eligibility of veterans to receive benefits; the recommended benefits and services to be provided by Government; the required institutional structure and the conclusions reached. Particular attention had to be paid to prevent fraudulent claims for benefits.
Members of the Committee welcomed the report of the task team and requested that the report was made available to the Committee. The Member representing the PAC took umbrage with a recent conference held in
Members asked questions about groups of military veterans who were currently excluded from recognition as veterans; the unsatisfactory response of the Minister to the question asked by the DA on the cost of the Eastern Cape launch of SANMVA; the ability of the Department of Military Veterans to provide adequate support and benefits to veterans; the status of the members of the previous Ciskei Defence Force, the SANDF unit based at Platfontein and the Cape Coloured Corps; the engagement with military veterans by ANC councilors in the Upington municipality; the need to prevent fraudulent claims for benefits and reports in the media that certain Government tenders would be reserved for military veterans.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr Thabang Makwetla, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, who would present the report of the task team to the Committee. The report had been submitted to Cabinet and had been approved for release.
Mr D Maynier (DA) noted that the report was submitted to the Minister in January 2010 and was tabled in Cabinet. He asked if the report was available.
The Chairperson suggested that Mr Makwetla was given the opportunity to present the report to the Committee before further discussion was held.
Report of the Ministerial Task Team on Military Veterans
Mr Makwetla introduced Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director-General of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans and the delegates from the Ministry and the Department.
The ministerial task team was established by the Honourable Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, to investigate and report on matters pertaining to military veterans and to make recommendations on the policy concerning benefits and support services to military veterans. The presentation to the Committee reflected the recommendations concerning Government policy on military veterans. The Minister might decide to engage the broader public by introducing a White Paper. The Department of Military Veterans would apply the recommendations to formulate a policy framework until a White Paper was issued.
The presentation on the report of the task team included an introduction; a problem statement; a situational analysis; the factors impacting on policy; the policy objectives; the definitions of beneficiaries; the eligibility of veterans to receive benefits; the recommended benefits and services to be provided by Government; the required institutional structure and the conclusions reached (see attached document).
Mr Makwetla advised that a budget to implement the recommendations of the task team had not yet been approved. New legislation to replace the Military Veterans Affairs Act, No. 17 of 1999 was currently being drafted and would be submitted to Parliament in the near future. Particular attention had to be paid to prevent fraudulent claims for benefits.
Mr L Diale (ANC) welcomed the report from the task team. He supported the recommendations of the task team. He said that many veterans were currently excluded from receiving benefits such as pensions, housing and counselling services and were extremely frustrated. That transformation was a lengthy process and the Committee had a responsibility to speak out and to make every attempt to address the plight of disadvantaged veterans.
Mr L Mphahlele (PAC) accused the ANC, the Department of Defence and Military Veterans and the South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) of attempting to “undermine, destabilise and destroy the PAC”. SANMVA was invited to attend a conference in
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) interrupted and called a point of order. He said that the matter raised by Mr Mphahlele was irrelevant to the proceedings and that the ANC had never had any intention to destroy any organisation.
The Chairperson requested Mr Mphahlele to focus his remarks on the presentation and to avoid raising other issues.
Mr Mphahlele insisted that the issue was relevant. He noted that the Deputy Minister, the Director-General and other top officials had attended a SANMVA conference in
The Chairperson interrupted and again insisted that Mr Mphahlele limited his remarks to the report of the task team. He asked Mr Mphahlele to submit his concerns to the Committee in writing before raising the matter for debate as it was unfair if the Members did not have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the issue beforehand.
Mr D Smiles (DA) said that all South Africans had accepted the Truth and Reconciliation process. The contribution of military veterans to a peaceful and prosperous
Mr Smiles raised the matter concerning the members of the previous Ciskei Defence Force. The
Mr Mlangeni observed that the report from the task team indicated the direction that would be taken by the Department in order to address the problems of military veterans. He welcomed the new definitions of veterans and beneficiaries that recognised all the statutory as well as the non-statutory forces. He hoped that the new legislation would help to address the problems experienced by military veterans. He cautioned that it would take a long time to ensure that the data on the database of military veterans and beneficiaries was accurate and complete. Experience in applying the special pensions provided in 2006 had shown that many opportunists had succeeded in fraudulently claiming benefits as veterans.
Mr D Maynier (DA) asked that a copy of the task team report was made available to the Committee. He asked for clarification on the process that was followed. He understood that the task team had submitted recommendations on the policy and that the Minister would issue a White Paper. It would appear from the statement issued by Cabinet on 15 June 2010 that the policy and benefits had been approved and that a budget of R80 million would be made available. He asked for confirmation that the members of the Cape Coloured Corps would be included in the definition of military veterans. He referred to the recommendation that certain business opportunities and support vehicles were made available to military veterans. He asked if there was any truth in the media reports that the task team had recommended that certain tenders were reserved for military veterans. He asked how much was spent on the launch of the SANMVA in the
The Chairperson was unaware of any reports concerning the awarding of tenders and was reluctant to encourage discussion on the issue. The Committee would consider the complaint from Mr Mphahlele with regard to the
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) wished to hear the response of the Deputy Minister on the SANMVA launch.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee needed to ascertain that there was sufficient evidence to support the allegations that were made.
Mr Mlangeni said that the issues raised by Mr Mphahlele were outside the mandate of the Committee.
The Chairperson said that it was necessary for Members to have a clear understanding of the matter.
Mr C Kekana (ANC), Member of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, warned of potential dire consequences if the concerns of military veterans were not addressed. There were many examples on the African continent where disaffected veterans had succeeded in destabilising governments. He said that it was not tenable that veterans were impoverished and left homeless. Government kept making promises, which had not been kept. He welcomed the comprehensive report submitted by the task team. The recommendations made provision for a registration process and support structures and was a good starting point. He expected that there would be more changes in the policy over time. He asked how long it would take to process the new legislation.
Mr Mphahlele noted that the recommended benefits made no provision for the allocation of land to military veterans. The recommendations concerning education were not specific and could include provision for university entrance exemption, similar to the programme implemented after World War II. He suggested that other participants in the liberation struggle, such as the Park Station Bombers and non-South African citizens received benefits as well.
Mr Makwetla expressed appreciation for the remarks made by the Members and said that Government intervention in addressing the plight of military veterans was long overdue. He suggested that Mr Mphahlele made use of other structures and processes to address his concerns as the Committee could not resolve all the issues that were raised. It would appear that there was a misunderstanding but he was unable to comment as he represented the Department rather than the ANC. SANMVA was an organ of civil society rather than the Department or the SANDF and represented military veterans. It was in the interest of the Department to interact with a single representative body. SANMVA was represented on the task team and had insisted on their independence during the proceedings. The Department did not interfere with SANMVA in any way. He was aware that there was a concern within SANMVA that certain veteran organisations were not adequately managed, did not have sufficient resources, some had been disbanded and others had questionable legitimacy. The Department assisted SANMVA in efforts to become a consolidated organisation that could be considered to be fully representative. The term of office of the executive of MKMVA had expired. Two different bodies of leadership candidates had been put forward for election to the executive, which resulted in an undesirable situation. SANMVA had no control over MKMVA and had no say in who should lead the organisation. SANMVA was not a statutory organisation and did not have access to adequate resources. The larger budget allocation would be beneficial. He had held discussions with Mr Mphahlele and the first launch of SANMVA in the
Responding to the matters raised by Mr Smiles, Mr Makwetla explained that the report of the task team was submitted to the Minister and the Deputy Minister had no input in the process. The decisions in respect of the recommendations were made by the Minister. With regard to the unsatisfactory response to the question asked by Mr Smiles, he advised that he had requested that the response was re-drafted.
Mr Smiles advised that he did not receive the re-drafted response.
Mr Makwetla undertook to follow up the matter. With regard to the comment that the Department had provided insufficient support to military veterans in the past, he conceded that the Directorate of Military Veterans established by the Department of Defence had received insufficient financial support to date. Measures were however being taken to provide adequate resources for the Department of Military Veterans. He undertook to investigate the matter concerning the members of the Ciskei Defence Force as he did not have sufficient information at hand to respond on the concerns raised by Mr Smiles.
Mr Smiles advised that there had been correspondence on the matter with the Minister since 2002. He had again written to the Department of Military Veterans during the previous week.
Mr Motumi advised that he did not receive the information, which should have been sent to the Department of Defence.
Mr Smiles responded that the correspondence sent to be Minister should have been re-directed to the appropriate Department by her.
The Chairperson offered to assist Mr Smiles with dealing with the matter.
Mr Makwetla said that the veterans based at Platfontein were previously members of the SANDF and should be on the database of military veterans. With regard to the concerns raised that the Department would have adequate resources to administer the benefits for military veterans, he advised that the Director-General was in a position to provide a detailed report to the Committee if required. The purpose of the briefing to the Committee was to obtain the response of the Members on the policy on military veterans. He noted that there were many other issues that had to be addressed as well. The policy would be set out in the White Paper and the process would provide a further opportunity for the Committee to engage with the Department of Military Veterans on the issues concerning military veterans.
Mr Makwetla agreed that it was a challenge to ensure that benefits were not claimed by persons who were not entitled to receive it. The report of the task team had been approved by Cabinet and he thought that there would be no objection to making the report available to the Committee. With regard to the status of the recommendations made by the task team, he said that the recommendations were used to develop an interim framework, which could be changed once the public discussion on the White Paper had taken place. He confirmed that the members of the previous Cape Coloured Corps were regarded as military veterans. He was not aware of any proposal that reserved tenders for military veterans. In general, all Government policies that targeted vulnerable groups would include military veterans. He undertook to provide details of the cost of the Eastern Cape Launch and a list of the delegates and invitees to Mr Maynier.
Mr Makwetla advised that the draft legislation was ready for tabling in Parliament. The draft Bill had been presented to the Directors-General of the social cluster. The Bill would be presented to the Committee after it was discussed by Cabinet. He hoped to present the Bill to the Committee before the end of the current session of Parliament.
Responding to Mr Mphalele’s questions, Mr Makwetla explained that the recommendations listed the ten benefits that were considered to be most reasonable and do-able. Any other suggestions, such as the allocation of land and university exemption could be included in the discussions on the White Paper. With regard to the Park Station bombers, he explained the new definition of military veterans. He expected that there would be further debate on who should be considered to qualify as veterans. He cited the example of AZANLA, who had originally refused to recognise the structures for military veterans and excluded themselves from the process, but had subsequently seeked recognition. With regard to non-South African citizens, he confirmed that the benefits would only be available to South African citizens.
Mr Mlangeni recalled that Joe Slovo was an example of a person who had benefited from the exemption programme after World War II.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for the briefing. He said that there would be other opportunities for further discussions on matters concerning military veterans.
The meeting was adjourned.
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