Military Veterans Bill [B1-2011]: further deliberations

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Defence and Military Veterans

06 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee resumed deliberations on the Military Veterans Bill.  During the meeting on 1 June 2011, the Committee had requested the Department of Military Veterans to consider suggested amendments to clauses 1, 5 and 8.  The Department agreed to amend clauses 1 and 8 but wished to retain clause 5 unchanged.  The Department proposed inserting an additional benefit concerning burial support under clause 5.

The Committee suggested that the regulations contemplated under clause 25 were subjected to Parliamentary approval and that the phrase ‘legally and factually dependent’ be inserted in the definition of ‘dependant’ under clause 1.

The Committee requested the Department to submit an updated version of the Bill, incorporating the agreed amendments, for deliberations scheduled for the following week.

Meeting report

Mr D Maynier (DA) suggested that the Committee write a letter of condolence to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans on the death of her mother, Mrs Albertina Sisulu, on 2 June 2011.  Thereafter, he enquired if the Deputy Minister, Mr Thabang Makwetla would attend the proceedings.

The Chairperson agreed to Mr Maynier’s suggestion about the letter but had no knowledge of Mr Makwetla’s intention to attend the meeting.  During the previous meeting on 1 June 2011, the Committee had requested the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) to consider amendments to the Bill.

Proposed Amendments to Military Veterans Bill [B1-2011
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director-General, DMV, advised that the Department proposed additional amendments to Clauses 1, 5 and 8 of the Bill (see attached document).

Clause 1 - Definitions
The DMV proposed the insertion of the phrase “or would have been legally” in the definition of ‘dependant’.  Sub-clause (2) would be deleted.

Clause 5 – Benefits
The DMV wished to retain the word ‘facilitate’ in sub-clause (1) (f).  The Department proposed the insertion of ‘burial support’ as sub-clause (1) (k).

Clause 8 – Establishment of a national military veterans’ association
The DMV proposed amending the heading of the clause and sub-clause (1) to give effect to the establishment of a national military veterans’ association to serve as an umbrella body for all veterans’ associations.

Mr Maynier pointed out that the Committee did not agree to the clauses in the Bill.  The proposed amendments by the DMV had to be considered as proposals.  He did not recall that the Committee had suggested that sub-clause 1 (2) be deleted.  He wanted the opportunity to consider the Department’s proposed amendments.

Mr J Masango (DA) requested that the Department provide a new version of the Bill, which included the amendments discussed during earlier deliberations.  Members were not clear on which changes had been agreed or were not agreed.  The definition of ‘dependant’ should be clear on the legal dependants or other dependants of veterans.

Mr Motumi replied that a new version could be provided by the Department.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) enquired if the DMV’s legal team involved in the drafting of the Bill was present.

Mr P Daniels (ANC) understood that the previous meeting of the Committee was adjourned before the amendments proposed by the DA were completed.

The Chairperson advised that the Department was requested to reconsider certain clauses.  The deliberations would be less confusing if amendments were considered when each clause was discussed.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) pointed out that amendments could only be made once the changes were agreed by the Committee.  He had reserved agreeing to any clauses during earlier deliberations on the Bill.

Mr Maynier understood that the DMV would reconsider the definition of ‘military veteran’.  The Deputy Minister had stated that conscripts and members of the Reserve Force were excluded from the definition.  Clarity on Government policy concerning previous conscripts in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who satisfied the means test criteria was required.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was still discussing proposed amendments.  He suggested that all changes to the published Bill were recorded and that the Department prepared a new version of the Bill.

Mr Groenewald said that the Bill should not be changed during every meeting.  Any proposed amendments should be listed and agreed during the clause-by-clause deliberations on the Bill.

Mr Maziya considered the proposals of the DMV to be responses to the issues raised by the Members of the Committee during previous deliberations.

Clause 12 – Composition of Advisory Council
The Chairperson resumed deliberations from Clause 12.  Members made no further comment on the clause.

Clause 13 – Appointment of members of Advisory Council
The DA and the DMV proposed omitting sub-clause (2) (a), which required members of the Council to be military veterans.

Clauses 14 to 25
Members made no further comment on these clauses.

Clause 26 – Regulations made under any law
The DA proposed the insertion of the phrase “and Parliament”.  The intention of the proposed amendment was to ensure that all regulations concerning military veterans were approved by Parliament.

Ms Daniels disagreed with the proposed amendment as the Committee was responsible for conducting oversight but should not engage in the management of the DMV.

The Chairperson said that regulations were normally tabled in Parliament as a matter of course.

Mr Groenewald agreed that the regulations should be approved by Parliament but was uncertain where the most appropriate location of the provision was.  The approval of regulations was not part of Parliamentary standing orders.

Adv Micro Moabelo, Deputy Director: Legislation, Department of Defence pointed out that Clause 26 applied to regulations under any other pieces of legislation.

Mr Groenewald suggested that Clause 25 was amended to insert the provision that regulations under the Military Veterans Act were approved by Parliament.

Mr Maynier agreed to Mr Groenewald’s suggestion.

Adv Moabelo advised that not all regulations were approved by Parliament.  It would be necessary for the Committee to specify which regulations required approval.

Mr Motumi cited the example of the regulations under the Defence Act, which were gazetted by the Minister and which were not approved by Parliament.

Mr Groenewald pointed out that the qualifying criteria referred to in Clause 25 (1) (a) were the essence of the Bill.  He supported the suggestion that the Committee approved the regulations under the Bill.

Mr Motumi asked for clarity on whether the Committee would approve all the regulations under the Bill or only the regulations concerning the qualifying criteria.

Mr Groenewald said that the qualifying criteria and the definition of ‘military veteran’ were the most critical elements of the Bill.  He agreed that it would only be necessary for Parliament to approve the regulations concerning the qualifying criteria.

Clauses 27, 28 and 29
Members made no further comment on the clauses.

The Chairperson asked the Department to provide the Committee with an updated version of the Bill, incorporating the changes agreed during the deliberations.

Clause 1 - Definitions
Ms Daniels recalled the explanation of the Principal State Law Adviser that the insertion of the word ‘legal’ dependant in the definition of ‘dependant’ would exclude persons who were dependants of a veteran in fact.  She suggested that the term ‘factual’ was inserted in the definition of ‘dependant’ and that the term ‘legal’ was omitted.

The Chairperson remarked that any dependent would have to prove his/her dependency in order to qualify for benefits.

Mr Maynier enquired if ‘factual’ was a legal test.

Mr Herman Smuts, Principal State Law Adviser, Office of the State Law Adviser replied that the Court would give the ordinary meaning and would find a person to be a dependant according to the facts of the case.  Such a dependant would be afforded legal status.

Mr Groenewald suggested that the definition was not changed as the current wording provided for both factual and legal dependants.

Mr Maziya understood that the intention was to limit the number of potential claimants.

The Chairperson remarked that the status of dependants was already covered under common law.

Major Wiseman Mashego, SO1: Legal and MOU Drafting, Department of Defence, suggested that the definition remained unchanged.  The insertion of the phrase ‘legal dependent’ would limit beneficiaries to the spouse or child of a veteran and exclude other dependants (for example, siblings or parents) unless such persons were declared dependants by order of the Court.

Mr Maynier remarked that the original intention was to limit the number of dependents who would claim benefits under the Bill.  He quoted the provisions of the 1999 Act and suggested that provision was made for other factual dependants under the regulations.

Mr Groenewald reiterated that there had to be absolute clarity on who qualified for benefits under the Bill.  There had to be no misunderstanding.

The Chairperson said that the definition should either be left as is or the phrase ‘legally or factually dependent’ inserted.  Members agreed to insert the phrase in the definition of ‘dependant’.  He confirmed that the DMV would provide an updated version of the Bill for the formal deliberations scheduled for the following week.

The meeting was adjourned.


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