In the presence of the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DMV) and the Department of Human Settlements briefed the Committee on issue of providing housing support to Military Veterans. In her opening remarks, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans said that she was present to listen and to engage with the Committee on issues and concerns that they might have. Members heard that there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DMV and the Department of Human Settlement (DHS regarding the provision of housing. he DMV submitted a list of military veterans to be provided with houses. Members were disappointed to hear that the DHS had been facing challenges regarding delivering actual houses in accordance with the money transferred to it by the DMV.
There was general agreement among Members and the Ministers that the houses had not been delivered. The Deputy Minister noted that there was a problem of coordination regarding the project. The Minister asked what number of houses was being spoken about. And who should be prioritised. Members expressed disappointment in the DHS presentation, which they found confusing and lacking in information. Members found that the DMV had failed to monitor the project to see whether the DHS was delivering. Of concern to Members was that the houses were built without knowing who would be the occupants. A list could have been provided for Gauteng Province to know how many military veterans were based in Gauteng and where they stayed. Members sought clarity on whether the flat of 200 apartments met the DMV specification. Members reminded the Minister that a house had to come with a piece of land. ‘How was a piece of land provided if they were housed in a flat’?
The Committee stressed the need to think about other social and economic problems that Military Veterans were faced with. The Ministers suggested a meeting which the Chief Whip and Chairpersons of the Committee the Ministers of Defence, Human Settlement and Sanitation. The DHS was not getting it right simply because they did not get a list from the DVM. Integral to the problem of housing Military Veterans was the lack of proper coordination. The DHS expressed its readiness to correct its mistakes for it to deliver. Members expressed the need for an up-to-date database with the names and addresses of all Military Veterans in need of housing.
Members expressed their unhappiness about the delay in housing military veterans and felt that it was embarrassing to fail in looking after the very people who fought for justice, democracy and freedom everyone was enjoying. They requested the Departments to work together and establish a well-coordinated strategy towards housing military veterans. Houses should meet the DMV specifications and should be built in areas where military veterans lived.
Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson stated that the Committee would be engaging about the provision of houses to the military veterans and the challenges faced regarding this endeavour. Members could seek to understand what the challenges and problems were so that they could be addressed. The Committee was advised that the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) was provided with the budget to build the targeted houses, but the delivery – which could have been done by the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) - was problematic because the targets were not met in the last two consecutive financial years. The DHS had the audited information that was presented to the Committee. For the last two years, the DHS had underperformed in the areas of building and delivering houses to Military Veterans.
The Chairperson stated that the DMV provided healthcare services to the military veterans. Given that the DMV did not have its own health establishment, healthcare services were provided through clinics and hospitals falling within the control of the Department of Health. The Department of Health was not present. These issues would be discussed further when the Department of Health was present.
The Chairperson asked Members and the delegation to introduce themselves.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans to pronounce opening remarks with regard to housing military veterans.
The Minister’s opening remarks
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosive Mapisa-Nqakula, said that it was the first time she was invited to a meeting attended where both the DMV and the DHS would be making presentations. It was first time to interact with the Chairperson on this matter. She was present to listen and to engage with the Committee on issues and concerns that they might have. There was an MOU between the two departments. The DMV had submitted a list of Military Veterans who had to be provided with houses. The DMV worked with the DHS to deliver houses, but the DHS was ultimately responsible for delivering houses. The DHS had been facing challenges regarding delivering actual houses in accordance with the money transferred to it. Other matters rest on the DHS’s interactions with the provinces. The DMV had engaged with provinces to ascertain what the problems were.
Briefing on Military Veterans Housing Support
Lt Gen (Rtd) DM Mgwebi, Acting Director General: DMV took the Committee through the presentation, focussing on purpose; constitutional and legal contents; vision, mission and values; background; journey at a glance; achievements to date; challenges and intervention, the way forward and recommendations. The purpose of the report was to brief and update the Committee on the progress made; the challenges faced, and planned action to ensure the effective, efficient and sustainable provision of quality housing for Military Veterans.
Providing a background on Military Veterans Housing Support, Lt Gen Mgwebi said that the provision of housing as a benefit by the DMV, working in concert with the Department of Human Settlement (DHS), was initiated through the signing of the MOU in 2012 by the Deputy Ministers. The associated Service Level Agreements were signed with all the Heads of the Provincial Department of Human Settlements during 2014.
Between 2013 and 2015, the Military Veterans Benefits Regulations was proclaimed, which (among other things) stipulated the qualifying criteria for housing. The DMV transferred R46 456 000 to the Eastern Cape, the Free State, KwaZulu Natal, the North West and Mpumalanga in anticipation of 693 houses. Two houses were built in Kraaipan and were handed over to elderly WW2 veterans. Between 2015 and 2016, DMV submitted a list of 4 990 potential beneficiaries (33% Statutory Force and 67% NSF) to NDHS for the housing subsidy process to commence. 162 units were delivered in the Eastern Cape, the Free State, Mpumalanga and the North West, out of a target of 1 514. Between 2016 and 2017, the DMV and the NDHS developed a joint strategy aimed at upscaling delivery. The strategy (amongst others) created opportunities to allocate BNG (Breaking New Ground) houses to destitute veterans. The DMV transferred R5 304 000 to the ECDHS (Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements). 191 houses were built in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, the Western Cape, Limpopo, the Free State, Mpumalanga, the North West and the Northern Cape, out of a total of 1 514. During the 2017/18 financial year, the Minister of Human Settlements held a national dialogue with Military Veterans. The DMV and the NDHS issued a circular to all the PDHS (Provincial Departments of Human Settlements) to militate against high rejections of beneficiaries on the HSS (Housing Subsidy System). The NDHS-DG issued a directive to all the PDHS to deliver 1 421 houses to the most destitute veterans.
Lt Gen Mgwebi reported on challenges. They included uncoordinated and misaligned planning between the DMV and the DHS; a lack of synergy between the DMV’s regulations and the policy instruments of the DHS, a lack of DMV policy and strategy on housing and fragile governance mechanisms.
Briefing by the Department of Human Settlements (DHS)
Ms Pamela Tshwete, Deputy Minister of the Department of Human Settlements remarked that there was a problem of coordination. Both the departments should agree on this instead of defending their side. She said that when the DHS asked for a list of military veterans for housing, the DMV responded that the list was non-exhaustive. However, in its Annual Performance Report, the DVM indicated that it was targeting 1 421 houses. She cautioned that the issue of housing Military Veterans was a very sensitive issue. In order to respond to this sensitive issue efficiently, there was a need to change their strategy to housing military veterans. Some of them were unemployed, destitute or elderly. There was a need to think about other social and economic problems they faced because giving them houses could not put food on their table. In order to arrive at a coordinated strategy, she suggested a meeting which the Chief Whip and the Chairpersons of the Committee of and the Ministers of Defence, Human Settlements and Sanitation would be present. She stressed that the DHS was not getting it right simply because they did not get a list from the DVM. Integral to the problem of housing Military Veterans was a lack of proper coordination. The DHS was ready to correct its mistakes for it to deliver.
The Chairperson expressed agreement with the DHS briefing. He said that, for example, the Department of Basic Education had provided a list of schools needed and the budget to the Department of Public Works (DPW), which the DPW built and handed back to the DBE. This approach should be applied. In this case, the Minister of Defence should be updated on the progress of building of the houses, because the target and budget was provided by her. She could not be left in the dark.
The Minister of Defence said that the presentation was not come clear on the number of houses needed. What number of houses was being spoken about? Who should be prioritised? Destitute military veterans should be prioritised. There was an effort from the DHS to find spaces regarding where to build houses for Military Veterans. There was a specification requirement that could be met. Last year, the DMV was given a flat of 200 apartments, and veterans were saying that the flat was not built in accordance with the specification of the DVM. The DMV had to beg them to move into these houses. The social issues should be taken into account prior to asking veterans to move to another area where houses were built. She appreciated what had been done in Gauteng where military veterans had been contacted. In Gauteng, houses were built beyond the annual target. Any approach used by the DHS should apply uniformly in all provinces. When a person is moved into a house, he or she will need basic necessities. They also needed social support.
Mr T Mmutle (ANC) expressed his disappointment in the DHS presentation, which he found confusing, instead of being informative; and in the failure of the DMV to monitor the project to see whether the DHS was delivering. He agreed with the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements that the ‘same size fit all’ approach was not correct. Military Veterans should be treated differently: Some were elderly and others were destitute. However, they could not be moved from their villages to be housed somewhere else. In Gauteng, there were high demands of housing and houses were built. Of concern was that houses were built without knowing who would be the occupants. A list could have been provided for Gauteng Province to know how many military veterans were based in Gauteng and where they stayed. He sought clarity on whether the flat of 200 apartments met the DMV specification. He reminded the Minister that a house had to come with a piece of land. ‘How was a piece of land provided if they were housed in a flat’?
Mr J Maake (ANC) said that what he had observed was that the Acting Deputy Director of Human Settlements did not have an idea of who the military veterans were. They were people who suffered for justice and freedom in our land to be realised. They must be honoured. It was a huge disappointment that, after two decades, the Military Veterans were not catered for. He felt that the meeting was unnecessary because it looked like the two departments were discussing amongst themselves, instead of reporting to the Committee. He sought clarity on when the database would be clean. The establishment of criteria to prioritise certain categories of veterans was necessary. Some were dying without houses and this was an embarrassment.
Mr T Munyai (ANC) stated that the two departments should go back and work on a joint report and state clearly what the issues were regarding the performance with relation to achievements and challenges. He disagreed with reports. They were ambiguous and confusing. Military Veterans should engage and participate in the construction of houses. The housing of veterans should be the project of the DMV and thus they should be able to take decisions about it, including monitoring and evaluation. Housing military veterans should not have been a major issue because they were not a big community. They should have been housed already. It should be reminded that they were not part a mega picture of housing the population, which was the main concern to the DHS.
Mr M Shelembe (DA) asked why the agreements and MOU between two departments were not submitted to the Committee for it to be able to see who was or was not complying with terms and conditions of these agreements or MOU. He sought clarity on how many houses should be built per province. He felt that SALGA was not accountable for delivering houses to Military Veterans and could not have invited to report to the Committee on these issues. Rather, the Committee should interrogate whether housing Military Meterans formed part of the municipal integrated plans. There was a need to carry out a deep analysis to determine where veterans were staying – which provinces and which municipalities. Spaces to build in houses should be identified where the military veterans lived.
The Chairperson remarked that he understood that both the departments signed the MOU with a view to give effect to the Service Delivery Agreement. He also understood that there was an additional list of military veterans because their list was an endless list. However, the list should be exhaustive. It should be clear in their physical addresses. In this way, one would be able to determine in which districts they lived. On top of this, one would be able to determine how many houses would be built per district and per province. He stressed that it would always be difficult to move people from one district to another because of the social hardships associated with it. If a number of houses were known per district and per province, this would help in the coordination of the project and it’s monitoring thereof. One could not built houses without knowing that veterans were to be found in that area.
Mr William Jiyama, Deputy Director General of Human Settlements, responded that there had been no intention to change the specification. The plan of a flat was a mere offer. He stated that 490 houses were built and delivered. The distribution of houses to military veterans was made per province, but not in accordance with where the Military Veterans lived. The work of the DHS included the Housing of Military Veterans programme. He agreed that there were challenges in delivering houses, that veterans should not continue to suffer and that a clear coordinated plan would be put in place to build houses that met the DMV’s specifications.
Mr N Mathiase (EFF) remarked that what was presented to the Committee was half the work because someone was sleeping on duty and there should be consequences for sleeping on duty or laziness.
Mr Maake remarked that the timeframe of cleaning the database should be provided and that the DMV would share the specification requirements with the Committee. The military veterans were not increasing.
In his closing remarks, the Chairperson stated that a list of beneficiaries, who were verified or who met the criteria should be established. After establishing this list, the number of houses to be built would be clear and this would inform the target. The target would be broken down per province and per district or municipality. This would help to have a clean data set that would assist the DHS to know how many houses were needed and where they should be built. At this stage, the DMV did not know how many military veterans were eligible for housing.
The meeting was adjourned.
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