The Director-General of the Department of Military Veterans briefed the Committee on the proposed amendments to the Military Veterans Bill that had arisen during previous deliberations.
The Committee accepted the proposed amendments to Clauses 1, 4, 14 and 23, without further discussion. The proposed amendments to Clauses 5, 8, 9, 13 and 25 were discussed and further amendments were suggested. The Committee discussed additional amendments to Clauses 6 and 7, the Preamble and provision for the tabling of the annual reports of the Advisory Council and Appeal Board in Parliament.
Formal deliberations on the Bill would commence during the following week
Deliberations on the Military Veterans Bill [B1-2011]
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director-General, Department of Military Veterans (DMV) briefed the Committee on the amendments made to the published Bill that had arisen during previous deliberations on the Bill. A draft of the amended Bill was circulated to Members of the Committee.
The following amendments were proposed:
Clause 1: Definitions
Amendments were made to the definitions of ‘association’, ‘dependant’ and ‘military veteran’. Subsection (2) was deleted.
The Committee accepted the amendments, without further discussion.
Clause 4: Patron-in-Chief
The heading of the clause was changed from ‘Authority of President’ to ‘Patron-in-Chief’.
The Committee accepted the amendment, without further discussion.
Clause 5: Benefits relating to military veterans
‘Burial support’ was added to the benefits (Clause 5 (1) (k)).
Mr J Maake (ANC), Chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence disagreed that dependants should receive the burial support benefit and suggested that the Bill separated the benefits available to veterans and to dependants.
Mr D Maynier (DA) supported Mr Maake’s suggestion. He disagreed that the DMV should be obliged to assist the dependants of veterans to find work and opposed the inclusion of subsection (1) (f). He suggested that the clause was debated further during the formal deliberations on the Bill.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) agreed with the suggestions of Mr Maynier and Mr Maake.
The Chairperson said that any ambiguity concerning benefits should be removed from the Bill. Formal clause-by-clause deliberations would commence the following week.
Brigadier-General Enoch Mashoala, Deputy Director-General, DMV agreed that the separation of benefits applicable to veterans and to dependants would enhance the clarity of the Bill.
Ms N Mabedla (ANC) suggested that ‘psychological trauma’ was deleted from subsection (1) (a) as provision was made under subsection (1) (b).
Mr Maynier said that ‘psychological trauma’ could include trauma other than post-traumatic stress. Subsection (a) made provision for compensation and subsection (b) made provision for counselling and treatment. Care needed to be taken that the two subsections were not mutually exclusive. He suggested that the Department reconsidered Clause 5 and consulted expert opinion in the drafting of the provisions concerning psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Maake suggested that the provisions remained unchanged as the definition was sufficiently broad. Persons suffering from psychological illness were still subject to prejudice in certain cultures.
Mr Groenewald observed that the trauma had to have resulted from participation in military activities.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked if all the different types of traumas should be listed. She suggested that the submission of the group of doctors heard during the public hearings on the Bill was taken into consideration.
Ms Mabedla suggested that veterans should receive compensation as well as counselling and treatment.
The Chairperson conceded that the Committee lacked the necessary expert knowledge to make an informed decision.
Mr Motumi agreed to review the public hearing submissions. It would be difficult to find a recognised expert in the field of military-related psychological disorders and there were differing opinions on the subject in other countries.
Mr Maake suggested that counseling benefits were made available to the dependants of veterans. His suggestion was supported by Mr Groenewald.
Ms Daniels suggested that Clause 5 (2) (b) (ii) was amended as the Minister was not the accounting officer and was not responsible for transferring funds to other organs of state that provided benefits to veterans. The responsibility for transferring funds rested with the Director-General.
Mr Maynier added that it would violate protocol if the Director-General was required to consult with the Minister of Finance. He suggested that the reference was deleted from the subsection and that care was taken to ensure that the Bill conformed to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Mr A Maziya (ANC) observed that subsection (2) (a) made provision for the responsibility of the Minister concerning the utilisation of resources.
Clause 8: National military veterans’ association
The heading of the clause was changed from ‘Director-General’s function in respect of South African National Military Veterans’ Association’ to ‘National military veterans’ association’. The clause was amended to give effect to the establishment of a generic military veterans’ association and to remove reference to the South African National Military Veterans’ Association (SANMVA).
Mr Herman Smuts, Principal State Law Adviser, Office of the State Law Adviser suggested that the words ‘and other’ were omitted from Clause 8 (2).
Adv Micro Moabelo, Deputy Director: Legislation, Department of Defence cautioned that the rephrasing of the clause could have unintended consequences later on.
Mr Maynier tabled an objection to the retention of Clause 8 (4) (b).
Clause 9: Functions of association
Subsection (2) was deleted to remove the provision that SANMVA performed the functions described in subsection (1) until section 8 (Clause 8) was given effect to. This amendment was consequential to the amendment to Clause 8.
Ms Daniels suggested that Clause 9 (1) (a) and (b) were deleted as the functions referred to were carried out by the Advisory Council. The association would only support the DMV in providing benefits to veterans.
Mr Maynier pointed out that the association could advise the Minister on matters concerning veterans from time to time. The role played by the association differed from the Advisory Council. Only three Advisory Council members were nominated by the association. The roles played by the association, the Advisory Council and the DMV were not clear.
Brigadier-General Mashoala agreed that Clause 9 (1) could be omitted provided that military veterans were members of the Advisory Council.
Ms Mabel Rantla, Deputy Director-General, DMV explained that the association represented military veterans’ organisations and supported the DMV in ensuring that all veterans were reached.
Clause 13: Appointment of members of the Advisory Council
Subsection (2) (a) was deleted to remove the requirement that members of the Advisory Council must be military veterans.
Mr Maake asked why provision was made for only ten members of the Advisory Council and what the reasoning was behind the provision that three members were nominated by the association. He suggested that the number of members should be increased to fifteen, of which seven members should be military veterans. He suggested that the provision for members to be nominated by the association was deleted as membership of the association was not obligatory.
Mr Motumi said that the number of members were in accordance with standard practice. The number of veterans’ organisations was taken into consideration as was the diverse nature of the functions the Council would carry out. The DMV was amenable to reconsider the number of members.
Mr Groenewald pointed out that the number of members was comparable to similar organisations.
Mr Maynier cautioned that the distinction between military veterans and their representative organisations had to be taken into account. It was necessary to make allowance for the need to have persons with the necessary expertise to serve on the Council.
Ms Daniels suggested that provision was made for a certain number of members of the Advisory Council to be military veterans.
Clause 14: Nomination procedure for Advisory Council members
Subsection (1) (a) was changed by replacing ‘Director-General’ with ‘Minister’.
The Committee accepted the amendment, without further discussion.
Clause 23: Disqualification from membership of Appeal Board
Subsection (1) (a) was deleted to remove the requirement that members of the Appeal Board must be military veterans.
The Committee accepted the amendment, without further discussion.
Clause 25: Regulations
The words ‘different persons or bodies or’ were deleted from subsection (2). Subsection (3) was added to make provision for the Minister to table regulations relating to criteria that must be met in order to qualify for benefits in Parliament.
Mr Groenewald suggested that the words ‘for approval’ by Parliament were inserted in order for the Committee to approve the regulations before implementation.
Ms Daniels said that it was not the prerogative of the Committee to deal with regulations, which was the responsibility of the Department.
The Chairperson queried the legal status of the tabling and the approval of regulations.
Adv Moabelo replied that the amended provision was inserted on the request of the Committee. The Department was of the opinion that the responsibility to approve regulations should not be removed from the Minister.
Mr Motumi added that Defence regulations had never been approved by Parliament in the past.
Mr Groenewald said that the definition of ‘military veteran’ and the benefit qualification criteria were the critical aspects of the Bill. He agreed that not all the regulations had to be approved by the Committee but the regulations concerning the qualification criteria should be approved. ‘Tabled in Parliament’ did not necessarily mean that the regulations should be approved.
Ms Daniels suggested that Clause 25 was considered when the Committee deliberated on the definition of ‘military veteran’ included in Clause 1. She disagreed that the Bill should include provisions that prescribed to the Minister.
Mr Groenewald said that the issue concerned the means test criteria in the regulations rather than the definition of military veteran.
Mr Maynier said that regulations were required for (a) including previously omitted veterans on the register of veterans, (b) who would be regarded as the dependents of veterans and (c) the qualifying criteria for access to benefits. He suggested that Clause 25 was divided into two sections. The first section should compel the Minister to make regulations and prescribe the procedures and verification process that had to be followed for (a) and (b). The second section would cover the regulations in terms of (c). The Minister should be obliged to prescribe regulations and submit these to Parliament.
Mr Groenewald said that regulations were not usually submitted to Parliament for approval but such provision was not prohibited. For example, the regulations under the Firearms Control Act was tabled and approved by Parliament.
Mr Maake pointed out that the regulations could not be in conflict with the provisions in the Act.
Mr Maynier said that there were two different issues, i.e. whether there should be regulations and whether the regulations should be approved by Parliament. The Minister should be required to prescribe the procedures and verification processes concerning the inclusion of veterans in the register and the determination of dependants in regulations to prevent the procedures from being established in an arbitrary manner.
Mr Maziya pointed out that the Bill replaced the existing 1999 Military Veterans Act. The existing legislation made provision for regulations, which had to be amended when the Bill came into effect. He considered the debate on whether or not the Minister should be prescribed to as misplaced and the discussion implied that the Committee did not trust the Minister.
Mr Groenewald felt that the discussion was relevant. He reiterated that not all the regulations needed to be approved. The Committee could assist the Minister in devising regulations that were fair. An example was the criteria applicable to the means test. The Committee could decide that less stringent criteria applied to military veterans than the criteria applicable to other social security benefits. He was of the opinion that military veterans should be subject to a special dispensation and be treated differently than other citizens. The Committee should approve the qualifying criteria for the benefits provided to veterans.
Mr Maziya said that the Committee could not prescribe how regulations should be formulated. The Committee could only ensure that the regulations were in accordance with the legislation. An alternative was to submit a formal request to the Minister to submit the regulations for the Committee’s perusal.
Brigadier-General Mashoala said that the cost of implementing the Bill, the provision of benefits to a considerable number of dependants and the benefits that were already available to veterans under existing social security programmes (e.g. health care and housing) needed to be taken into consideration as well. The regulations governing human settlements included criteria to determine the allocation of houses.
Ms Rantla added that it was common practice for Government Departments to develop regulations in consultation with the relevant sector. The procedures followed in developing regulations included the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the final product conformed to requirements.
Mr Motumi agreed that military veterans should be subject to a special dispensation. The DMV was in the process of establishing the applicable benchmark.
Mr Maake disagreed that the Committee should approve the regulations. He asked if the DMV had procedures in place to deal with applications from veterans to be added to the register.
Mr Maynier agreed that the regulations concerning the qualifying criteria should be tabled in Parliament. He supported the proposal that the regulations should be approved by Parliament as well. The verification processes to add veterans to the register and who were considered to be dependants should be included in the regulations. These processes were fundamental to the administration of the Bill and should not be arbitrary. Parliament had to be satisfied that the verification processes were sufficiently rigorous. He suggested that the Minister was obliged to formulate such regulations. The recommendations made by the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission included the addition of veterans who had been excluded from the register.
Mr Groenewald supported the addition of subsection (3) in Clause 25. He disagreed that Members did not have the authority to dictate to the Minister.
The Chairperson said that the inclusion of Clause 25 (3) was a solution to the debate.
Mr Maynier objected that his proposal to split clause 25 was not debated. The Committee agreed that the processes involved were of vital importance.
Mr Maake said that the need for a means test and verification processes were understood. The definitions of ‘military veteran’ and ‘dependant’ were broad and would require regulations to clarify exactly who qualified for benefits.
Mr L Diale (ANC) agreed that the Members of the Committee were the lawmakers and could dictate what should be included in legislation. He agreed to the inclusion of Clause 25 (3).
Mr Motumi confirmed that the DMV had procedures in place to assess and verify applications from veterans to be added to the register. A Verification Board was established to interview applicants and to verify the claims. The information provided was independently checked, for example the year of enlistment, duration of service, where training was undergone, etc.
Additional proposed amendments to the Military Veterans Bill
The Committee discussed the following additional amendments to the Bill:
Provision for annual reports
Mr Maynier pointed out that no provision was made to place an obligation on the Department, the Appeal Board, the association or the Advisory Board to table annual reports in Parliament.
Mr Motumi asked if the annual report of the DMV would be considered adequate. The Department’s report would include the application of the funding provided to the Appeal Board and the association. The Advisory Board reported to the Minister. The situation was similar to the reporting requirements for the Castle. The Castle was governed by a separate Act and its report was included in the annual report of the Department of Defence.
The Chairperson agreed to take the matter on review. A separate report from the Appeal Board might be necessary.
Ms Daniels suggested that the word ‘certain’ was removed from the Preamble where reference to the functions of the Department was made. The DMV was not responsible for functions other than those affecting military veterans. She felt that the Act should be published in Nguni and Sotho as well as in English.
Mr Groenewald pointed out that the Bill did not describe all the functions of the Department.
The Chairperson said that the Preamble was consistent with Clause 7.
Mr Herman Smuts, Principal State Law Adviser, Office of the State Law Adviser advised that the reference to ‘certain functions’ was correct as the DMV was also subject to other legislation, for example the Public Service Act.
The Chairperson ruled that the Preamble remained unchanged.
Clause 6: Hierarchy of needs
Mr Diale suggested that the clause was deleted as the needs of veterans had been addressed by the benefits provided in terms of Clause 5.
Mr Motumi agreed that the clause could be removed. The intention had been to make provision for the prioritisation of benefits but it was accepted that the needs of individual veterans would differ from person to person.
Clause 7: Certain powers and duties of Department
Mr Maynier noted that no provision was made for the tabling of the DMV’s annual report in Parliament. He was concerned that the provisions were too broad and could overburden the DMV.
Ms Daniels asked what the duties of the Department were in respect of the association.
Mr Motumi explained that the Department had a statutory reporting obligation in terms of the Public Service Act, the PFMA and regulations. Clause 7 applied to the administration of the Advisory Council and Appeal Board, which the Department was obliged to support.
Mr Maynier asked if the additional amendments proposed during the proceedings had emanated from the DMV or from the ANC. He requested that the additional amendments suggested by Ms Daniels were submitted in writing. He suggested that the Committee set aside at least two days during the following week for the formal deliberations.
The Chairperson anticipated that more changes would be made as the Committee continued deliberations on the Bill. He informed the Committee that the Department of Defence had introduced the Military Ombudsman Bill and the Implementation of the Geneva Convention Bill in Parliament. The Committee would process these two Bills after the Military Veterans Bill was finalised.
The meeting was adjourned.
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