Military Veterans Bill [B1-2011]: deliberations continued

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Defence and Military Veterans

31 May 2011
Chairperson: Mr A Maziya (ANC)(Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee discussed the Democratic Alliance’s proposed amendments to Clauses 1, 3, 5, 8 and 10 of the Bill.  The proposed amendments concerned the definitions of ‘military veteran’ and ‘dependent’; the principle of equal access to benefits; the provision regarding advice and facilitating access to business opportunities; access to the Minister by veterans’ organisations and the requirement that the Advisory Council advised the Minister on the membership verification process on an annual basis.

The clauses were flagged for further discussion.  The Department of Military Veterans was requested to consider the proposals and to provide feedback at the deliberations scheduled for 6 June 2011.

Members of the Committee were not invited to the parade and dinner to mark the departure of the outgoing Chief of Defence and to welcome the incoming Chief.  The Director-General of the Department of Military Veterans undertook to arrange for invitations to Members to the dinner with his counterpart in the Department of Defence.

Meeting report

Deliberations on the Military Veterans Bill
Mr Maziya recalled that the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) had submitted proposed amendments to three clauses in the Bill on 31 May 2011.

Mr J Masango (DA) felt that the deliberations should be based on a new version of the Bill.

Mr Maziya said that a new version was not available and that the Committee considered the amendments when deliberating on the relevant clauses.

Clause 1 - Definitions
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director-General, DMV explained the amendment to the definition of ‘military veteran’ in Clause 1.

Mr D Maynier (DA) tabled further proposed amendments to the Bill (see attached document).  The definitions of ‘military veteran’ and ‘dependent’ were too broad and the DA suggested more detailed definitions.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) suggested that dependents were defined as ‘any person who was legally dependent’ and that the Bill specified that dependents would be subject to a means test in order to qualify for benefits.

Mr Masango understood that the means test would determine if an individual qualified for the benefits.

Mr Manier enquired if the term ‘legally dependent’ would include the spouse, widow, widower, life partner or child of the veteran, as suggested by the DA.

Mr Herman Smuts, Principle State Law Adviser, Office of the State Law Adviser confirmed that the persons listed would be considered to be dependents.  However, the insertion of the term ‘legally dependent’ would exclude other dependents the veteran supported in fact even though he was not legally obliged to do so.  An example was a member of the extended family.

Ms Daniels withdrew the suggestion as it was not desirable to restrict bona fide dependents from benefiting under the Bill.  The amendment proposed by the DA covered all dependents.

Mr Maynier supported the insertion of the phrase ‘legally dependent’ as the definition should not be too broad.  The submissions heard during the public hearings on the Bill included several comments on the definition of ‘military veteran’.  The DA proposed that the definition included the list of military forces veterans belonged to.  The intention of the proposal was to cover as many veterans as possible, subject to the application of the means test.

Ms Daniels asked if persons who were forced to join military forces would be included.  The non-statutory forced had submitted lists of members during the process of integrating the liberation forces with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) but certain organisations had refused to participate in the process at the time.

Mr Maynier asked what was meant by ‘forced to join military organisations’.  Other individuals had been excluded from the registers of certified personnel but could submitted applications to be added.  Such applications would be subject to a verification process.

Mr Motumi said that it could be problematic if the definition was too detailed.  The DMV felt that the original definition was broad enough.  Subsequent to the agreement reached in 1993 on the integration of the forces, conscripts were excluded from the list of members of the SANDF.  The lists of members formed the basis for identifying veterans.  The liberation forces were integrated into the SANDF on 27 April 1994.  He suggested that the definition of ‘military veteran’ was left unchanged.

Mr E Mhlambo (ANC) enquired if veterans could still apply to be added to the lists.

Brig Gen Enoch Mashoala, Acting Deputy Director-General, DMV confirmed that systems and procedures were in place to process applications from veterans.

Mr Maynier said that the definition and the opt-in mechanism were two different issues.  Veterans with a legitimate claim were covered by the provisions in Clause 1 (2).  The definition was not clear on the exclusion of conscripts.

Mr Maziya pointed out that the Bill applied to individuals, rather than forces.  A veteran either qualified or didn’t qualify in his/her own right.

Mr Maynier asked what the Government policy was on SANDF conscripts who had served in the military for two years and who passed the means test.  He wanted clarity on whether conscripts qualified for benefits.

Mr Motumi stated that if a person was proven to be a military veteran and passed the means test, that person qualified for the benefits under the Bill.

Ms Daniels queried the cost of providing the benefits if all military personnel were included.  She questioned the need to expand the definition if a means test was applicable.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) said that it was crucial that there was clarity on exactly who was a military veteran.  It was essential that the definition left no room for misunderstanding.

Mr Maziya suggested that the DMV were afforded the opportunity to consider the issue further.  The suggestion was supported by Mr Mlambo.

Mr Maynier agreed with Mr Groenewald’s comment.  He supported the suggestion to flag the matter for further discussion at a later date.  The DA proposed amending Clause 1 (2) to compel the Minister to prescribe to a membership verification process.

Brig Gen Mashoala advised that the DMV accepted that persons were omitted from the original membership lists.  A process to deal with applications to be added to the lists was in place.  The process included the verification of the applicant’s bona fides.

Mr Groenewald supported the proposal of the DA concerning Clause 1 (2).  The proposed amendment clarified the powers of the Minister and enhanced the provision.  It had to be clear that applications were subject to verification.

Ms Daniels felt that the existing clause was adequate.

Mr Maziya said that sub-clause (2) should be read in conjunction with sub-clause (1).  Mr Maynier agreed that both sub-clauses were flagged.

Clause 3 – Fundamental principles
The DA proposed the insertion of a paragraph under Clause 3 (1) to the effect that all military veterans and their dependents were entitled to equal access to benefits and services.  Mr Maynier explained that the intention was to include the equality principle in the legislation.

Ms Daniels said that the benefits applicable to disabled veterans should only be available if disability was proven and did not imply entitlement.

Mr Groenewald requested clarity as benefits were dealt with under Clause 5.

Mr Maynier explained that the intention was to include the equality principle under the clause dealing with fundamental principle.

Brig Gen Mashoala thought that the inclusion of ‘equal benefit’ would unnecessarily raise hopes of entitlement.  The granting of benefits would be subject to passing the means test.

Mr Motumi pointed out that Clause 2 (Interpretation of the Act) specified that veterans were not automatically entitled to benefits.

Ms Mabel Rantla, Acting Deputy Director-General, DMV said that certain benefits were available to all veterans.  However, not all veterans needed assistance and the means test was introduced to determine which veterans qualified for the benefits.

Mr Groenewald did not consider the proposed amendment to be material to the Bill.  Mr Maynier disagreed and reiterated the DA’s position that all veterans should be treated equally.

Clause 5 - Benefits
The DA proposed that sub-clause 5 (1) (f) (facilitation of or advice on business opportunities) was deleted.  Mr Maynier explained that the motivation for the proposal was that the DMV should not be involved in matters of business.

Mr Motumi replied that the DMV did not intend to be in business and would merely facilitate and direct veterans to the relevant public or private sector entities that provided business opportunities.  The Department’s involvement would be limited to determining that the individual was a bona fide veteran.

Mr Mlambo did not consider the inclusion of the provision as problematic as the DMV would not be involved in issuing tenders.  He pointed out that other countries (for example Namibia) allowed for veterans to enjoy preferential treatment when State tenders were issued.

Mr Groenewald said that the term ‘advice’ implied that the DMV had expertise in business matters, which was not necessarily the case.  The term ‘facilitate’ meant that two parties were brought together and the DMV would play a role in the process.  The Department could refer to appropriate professionals or experts to provide advice.  He felt that the provision should make it clear that the DMV would not be involved in any business transaction.

Ms Daniels said that the action of referring a veteran implied facilitation.  The Department had to assist veterans and assist in opening doors to them.

Brig Gen Mashoala said that the DMV would be creating a ‘special purpose vehicle’ to provide assistance to veterans to access business opportunities.

Mr M Nhanha (COPE) warned that the Department would have to ensure that the enterprises of veterans were successful.

Mr Maynier urged the DMV to consider the matter carefully as the Department would lay itself open to accusations of corruption or of favouring one faction above another.  He was of the opinion that it would be in the best interest of the DMV if the sub-clause was omitted.

Mr Groenewald had no objection to the Department offering advice.  However, the term ‘facilitate’ implied that the DMV was a partner in the transaction.  He suggested the Department considered using another term.

Ms Rantla said that the DMV was established to assist veterans to access benefits.  Veterans must be encouraged to become involved in the mainstream economy by benefiting from business opportunities.  A legislative framework was necessary.  The challenges were noted and the necessary system checks and balances had to be in place.

Mr Motumi referred Members to Clause 3 (1) (f), which required all organs of State and Government entities to cooperate with the DMV in achieving the objects of the Act.  The DMV intended to become involved in financial or business matters affecting veterans, for example by intervening when a veteran risked having his home repossessed because of the failure to make loan repayments.  The Department intended to engage with Government and non-Governmental entities on an official basis on matters affecting veterans.

Mr Maynier would prefer it if the sub-clause was deleted but the removal of the term ‘facilitate’ would be an improvement.  He agreed to the flagging of the clause for later discussion.

Clause 8 – Functions of Director-General
The DA proposed that the provision requiring the recognition of military veteran organisations by the Minister was deleted from Clause 8 (3) (b).  Mr Maynier explained that the provision prevented organisations that were not officially recognised or did not belong to the South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) from approaching the Minister.

Ms Daniels suggested that the reference to SANMVA was omitted from the heading of Clause 8.  Veterans were members of veteran organisations, which were members of SANMVA.  She thought it impractical to allow all and sundry access to the Minister.

Mr Nhanha warned that veterans would be ‘hotly contested territory’ and the Minister could expect many requests for access.  He anticipated that many splinter groups of veteran organisations would be formed in future.

Mr Maynier pointed out that the Minister reserved the right to only meet with certain persons or organisations.  He felt that the Committee should avoid legislating the Minister’s diary.

Mr Maziya suggested that the Department reconsidered the phrasing of the sub-clause.  He explained the different functions of the office of the Minister, the Ministry and the Department.  He assumed that the Bill referred to veteran organisations that existed at the time of enactment.

Mr Mlambo suggested that the clause was accepted without amendment.

Mr Motumi agreed to consider revising the clause to acknowledge the existence of SANMVA and to change the heading.

Clause 11 – Powers and duties of the Advisory Council
The DA proposed including an additional requirement to Clause 11 (1) to compel the Advisory Council to advise the Minister on membership verification on an annual basis.

The suggestion was supported by Mr Mlambo and Mr Groenewald.

The proposed amendments to Clauses 13 and 26 were not discussed before the meeting was adjourned.

Other matters
Mr Maziya noted that Members of the Committee were not invited to attend the parade and dinner arranged to mark the departure of the outgoing Chief of the Defence Force and to welcome the incoming Chief.

Mr Maynier suggested that the Committee wrote a letter of complaint to the Minister.  He pointed out that the Committee had never been invited to any SANDF functions.

Mr Motumi undertook to arrange for invitations to the dinner to be extended to Members.

Mr Mlambo suggested that five Members of the Committee attend the dinner.

Mr Maziya advised that application needed to be made to the Chief Whip and the House Chairperson for permission to allow Members to be absent from their duties at Parliament.  Mr Mlambo and Ms Daniels indicated that they were available to attend the dinner.

The meeting was adjourned.


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