The Committee proceeded with deliberations on the Military Veterans Bill. The Committee agreed to Clauses 26, 27, 28 and 29, without amendment. The Committee agreed to omit the sub-clauses dealing with purely administrative functions of the Department of Military Veterans from Clause 7 but rejected the proposal that the clause made provision for “institutions of similar status” to be supported by the Department. The Committee rejected the proposal to amend Clause 3 as sub-clause (1) and (2) already separated the fundamental principles and policy objectives of the State. The Committee agreed to omit Clause 6.
Input had been received from Dr TE Rangaka, a Specialist Psychiatrist on the benefits provided in terms of Clause 5 (1). The Committee accepted the amendment to Clause 5 (1) (a) and (b) as suggested by Dr Rangaka. The Committee had agreed that the benefits available to veterans and to their dependants were separated and would consider the amendment when the final version of the Bill was considered. The Committee agreed to accept the alternative amendment to Clause 8 (1), which compelled the Director-General to establish an association representing military veterans’ organisations.
The Member from the Democratic Alliance requested the assurance of the State Law Adviser that the definition of ‘military veteran’ included SANDF conscripts and that conscripts would qualify for benefits if the criteria of the means test were satisfied. Other members felt that the issue had been extensively debated during earlier deliberations on the Bill, that the definition was clear and included conscripts and that the opinion of the State Law Adviser was not required.
The Bill would be finalised on 29 June 2011.
Formal Deliberations on the Military Veterans Bill
The Chairperson referred Members to the proposed amendments dated 27 June 2011, which excluded changes made to the Memorandum (see attached document). He anticipated that the clause-by-clause deliberations on the Bill would be concluded and that the Committee would be in a position to finalise the Bill.
Mr D Maynier (DA) queried the process followed by the Committee on the Bill. During the deliberations on 15 June 2011, the Committee had requested the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) to separate the benefits applicable to veterans and to their dependants. The Committee had requested input from a psychologist on the benefits concerning psychological disorders. It would be premature to vote on the Bill as these issues required further discussion by the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had agreed that the DMV would split the benefits and that the amendment to Clause 5 would be included in the final version of the Bill. Input had been received from Dr TE Rangaka, a Specialist Psychiatrist (see attached document). Copies of the document were circulated to Members and would be considered by the Committee during the proceedings.
Clauses 26, 27, 28 and 29
The Committee agreed to the clauses, without amendment.
Clause 7: Certain powers and duties of Department
Ms P Daniels (ANC) said that certain sub-clauses dealt with administrative functions of the DMV and should not be included in the legislation. She proposed that sub-clauses (b), (c), (d), (e), (i), (j), (l) and (m) be omitted. Sub-clause (a) to be amended to include the provision of services and infrastructure to “any other institution of similar status which function primarily is to attend to the affairs of military veterans”.
Mr Maynier asked what was meant by the phrase “institution of similar status”. He presumed that the amendments were introduced by the DMV. He asked for the written amendments proposed by the ANC.
Mr A Maziya (ANC) said that the amendments proposed by Ms Daniels represented the position of the ANC. It was not necessary for the proposed amendments to be submitted in writing.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) understood that the amendments had been agreed by the Committee and by the DMV. The proposals made by Members were presumed to represent the position of their respective political parties and it was generally assumed that the proposals were approved by the party. The deliberation process would benefit if the proposals were submitted in writing.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) agreed with Mr Groenewald. He said that it was not helpful if the issues were politicised.
Mr Maziya pointed out that the proposed amendments merely removed the provisions that dealt with administrative functions of the Department and amended sub-clause (a) to make provision for other similar institutions to be supported.
Mr Maynier said that it would have been helpful if the ANC had submitted proposed amendments in writing, as was done by the DA and the DMV. He asked why the document with the proposed amendments was drafted by the Department rather than the State Law Adviser.
Mr Groenewald asked for clarity on the phrase “institution of similar status”.
Ms Daniels explained that the Bill made provision for the establishment of an umbrella body to represent military veterans’ organisations, the Advisory Council and the Appeal Board. Veterans were not compelled to join the South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA). It was necessary to make provision for other veterans’ organisations in good standing as well as veterans who did not belong to any organisation. The Bill applied to all military veterans and the amendment to sub-clause (a) was intended to be as inclusive as possible.
Mr Maynier considered the provision to be too broad and would place an untenable burden on the DMV to provide infrastructure and support to an unlimited number of veterans’ organisations. Financial support for the umbrella association was acceptable but it had to be clear which other bodies would receive support as well.
Mr Groenewald agreed with Mr Maynier. Anyone could form a veterans’ association and expect support from the DMV. The provision should be limited to support for the Advisory Council, the Appeal Board and the umbrella association.
Mr Maziya agreed that the provision was restricted to the association.
Mr Maynier requested the motivation for the omission of the sub-clauses and comment from the DMV.
The Chairperson reiterated that the sub-clauses referred to administrative functions of the Department, which did not require legislative provision in the Bill.
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director-General, DMV referred Members to earlier discussions on the phrase “certain powers and duties of the Department”. The Bill should include provisions for those functions of the Department specifically related to military veterans.
Mr Maynier advised that he would reserve judgment and requested an opportunity to consider the implications of omitting the provisions. For example, the omission of sub-clause (b) was a matter for concern as there would be no legal provision to compel the Department to investigate complaints. The Department of Defence was notorious for failing to respond to complaints. The DMV was a new Department and should be given every chance to succeed.
Mr Groenewald agreed that sub-clause (b) should be retained as the DMV was responsible for dealing with complaints from veterans. He questioned the omission of sub-clauses (l) and (m) as provision should be made for the Department to make proposals and recommendations on matters concerning veterans and their dependants.
Ms Daniels said that the Advisory Council, Appeal Board and veterans’ organisations could provide input when required. The Minister had recourse. The Bill was intended to provide benefits to veterans and their dependants and provisions concerning departmental administration should not be included.
Mr Maynier pointed out that the Appeal Board adjudicated appeals against decisions made by the Department.
Mr Groenewald wanted to know what was meant by the phrase “administrative services and infrastructure” in sub-clause (a). He understood that administrative services would include the investigation of complaints.
Mr Maynier noted that the Military Ombudsman Bill had been introduced in Parliament but had not yet been considered. He asked if there would be any overlap in the functions of the Ombudsman and the other entities concerned with veterans’ affairs.
Mr Motumi said that the sub-clauses omitted from Clause 7 concerned matters that were already covered by other legislation. The DMV already dealt with enquiries and complaints from veterans. The members of the Advisory Council and Appeal Board would not be public servants and the intention was for the Department to provide administrative support services. The services provided would be similar to that provided for the National Defence Force Service Commission (NDFSC).
Mr Groenewald was satisfied with the explanation provided. He felt strongly that the Military Ombudsman should be enacted separately and should not be subject to any other legislation.
Major General Enoch Mashoala, Acting Deputy Director-General, DMV asked if the Committee agreed to the proposal to omit the relevant sub-clauses from Clause 7.
Mr Maynier did not support the omission of sub-clause (b) and reiterated his request to be allowed time to consider the implications of removing the other sub-clauses.
The Chairperson noted Mr Maynier’s position.
Clause 3: Fundamental principles recognised by State and policy objectives
Mr Wiseman Mashego, SO1 Legislation and MOU Drafting, Department of Defence suggested that the clause was divided into two sub-sections. The division would make the clause more user-friendly.
Mr Groenewald pointed out that sub-clause (1) covered the fundamental principles and sub-clause (2) dealt with policy objectives.
The Chairperson agreed that no further amendment was required.
Clause 6: Hierarchy of needs
Mr Maziya said that the Committee had not yet agreed to the proposal to omit Clause 6.
Mr Maynier had no objection to the omission of the clause.
The Chairperson confirmed that the clause would be omitted.
Clause 5: Benefits relating to military veterans
The Chairperson quoted the suggested amendment to Clause 5 (1) (a) and (b) from Dr Rangaka.
Mr Maynier remarked that the input from Dr Rangaka was limited to veterans from the non-statutory forces. He queried Dr Rangaka’s credentials.
Mr Groenewald said that there was a difference between psychological trauma and post traumatic stress disorder. The input provided by Dr Rangaka did not explain the scientific difference.
Mr Motumi explained that Dr Rangaka provided specialist psychiatric services to the South African National Defence Force Medical Services division and had many military veterans as patients. He had made a submission during the public hearings on the Bill. The benefits provided should be considered in the context of the benefits provided in terms of the Military Pensions Act as well.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) proposed that the Committee accepted Dr Rangaka’s suggestion to rephrase Clause 5 (1) (a) and (b).
Adv Micro Moabelo, Deputy Director: Legislation, Department of Defence pointed out that Dr Rangaka had suggested that the benefits only applied to “severe psychological and neuro-psychiatric trauma” and “serious mental illness”. Benefits would not be available for cases considered to be mild.
Mr Maynier supported the amendment as suggested by Dr Rangaka.
Ms Daniels proposed that the word “severe” was omitted. She asked who would be qualified to determine whether or not the condition was severe.
Maj Gen Mashoala said that the benefit allowed for compensation. The resources of the Department would be strained unless the benefit was restricted to severe cases.
Mr Groenewald supported Dr Rangaka’s suggestion. He felt that compensation for less severe cases was not justified.
Mr Maynier supported Dr Rangaka’s suggestion. He pointed out that Dr Rangaka had also stated in his submission that “4. If the House accepts these changes, only Military Veterans with serious, deserving conditions will receive support, care, treatment and rehabilitation”.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee agreed to the amendment to Clause 5 as suggested by Dr Rangaka.
Clause 8: National military veterans association
The Chairperson noted that two alternative amendments to Clause 8 (1) were proposed. He asked for the comment of the State Law Adviser.
Mr Herman Smuts, Principal State Law Adviser, Office of the State Law Adviser explained that the original Bill had referred to SANMVA. The Committee had requested that the Bill was amended to provide for a generic association to represent military veterans’ organisations. Two alternative proposals were presented for the Committee’s consideration. The second alternative compelled the Director-General to establish an association.
Mr Groenewald preferred the second option as the obligation to establish the association was clearly placed on the Director-General and there was no confusion about who was responsible.
Mr Maziya and Mr Maynier agreed to the second alternative proposed amendment to Clause 8 (1).
Clause 5: Benefits relating to military veterans
Mr Maynier said that the Committee had requested that the benefits available to veterans and to their dependants were separated. The Committee had not yet had the opportunity to consider the amendment to the clause.
The Chairperson advised that the final version of the Bill would include the amendment.
Clause 1: Definitions
Mr Maynier asked for the assurance of the State Law Adviser that the definition on ‘military veteran’ included SANDF conscripts and that the Bill allowed conscripts who satisfied the criteria of the means test to qualify for benefits.
Mr Maziya said that the Committee had considered the definitions. The Bill made it clear that the means test would determine who qualified for benefits. Not all military veterans were included in the register of members of the military forces and conscripts were omitted from the membership lists of the SANDF. Veterans could apply to be added to the register of military veterans. Applications would be subject to a verification process and applicants would need to satisfy the means test.
Mr Groenewald agreed that the definition of ‘military veteran’ was clear and included conscripts. Benefits were only available to veterans who satisfied the means test criteria.
Mr Maynier persisted with his request for the opinion of the State Law Adviser. Messrs Mlambo, Groenewald, Mlangeni and the Chairperson felt that the definition was clear, that the matter had been extensively discussed during earlier deliberations on the Bill and that the opinion of the State Law Adviser was not required.
The Chairperson advised that the Bill would be finalised the following day.
The meeting was adjourned.
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