Officials from the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) made a presentation in a virtual meeting to the Select Committee on Security and Justice (SCSJ), focusing on the 2020/21 financial year. They outlined the benefits to which the country’s military veterans were entitled, according to the South African Military Veterans Act, indicating the disbursement of benefits per province, and within provinces according to different military formations, and described the challenges the DMV had experienced in providing the legislated benefits to military veterans.
The Minister, the Deputy Minister and the Acting Director-General of the Department were unable to be present at the meeting, leading Members of the Committee to question the seriousness with which the office holders regarded matters relating to military veterans.
Following the DMV presentation, several Members commented on the lack of information and the failure of the Department to include in its presentation reference to issues and/or challenges that the Committee was expecting to learn about. They listed a number of issues that they wanted to know more about, such as the structure and budget of the DMV; its milestones and key performance indicators; allegations of corruption within the Department; it efforts to provide social relief of distress assistance; the filling of vacant posts; its level of engagement with local government; and its partnership with the Department of Human Settlements.
Members shared insights gained from their contact with military veterans, reinforcing recognition of the challenges cited in the presentation and adding to the scope of the challenges. They were critical of a number of things, such as the preferential treatment given to some provinces with regard to the disbursement of benefits; the coordination of its activities at the national level, and the absence of DMV representation in some provinces; the decline in the value of benefits; the illegal occupation of houses built for military veterans, the unemployment of many military veterans; and the credibility and security of the military veterans’ database. Generally, the Members expressed their disappointment at the failure of the DMV to respond to the needs of military veterans, stressing the sacrifices made by military veterans for the freedom of South Africa.
The main reasons the DMV cited for the failure of the Department to provide the benefits to which military veterans were legally entitled more adequately, included a shortage of personnel and an insufficient budget. However, the Committee felt that not all of its questions and concerns had been fully addressed. The DMV was asked to provide written responses to address these issues within the next 14 days.
Ms Nontobeko Mafu, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Empowerment and Stakeholder Management, Department of Military Veterans (DMV), introduced herself and said she would represent the Department on behalf of the Acting Director-General (DG), Lt Gen (Ret) Derrick Mgwebi, who was attending a presidential task team meeting.
The Chairperson asked whether Lt Gen Mgwebi would be joining the meeting at a later stage.
Ms Mafu replied he may not be able to join the meeting, because the presidential task team meetings normally run until late.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Mafu, and introduced Committee Members who were present.
Apologies were noted from the Minister, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who had indicated that she was part of the presidential task team meeting that was taking place at the same time as the Select Committee on Security and Justice (SCSJ) meeting.
Chairperson’s introductory remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the officials from the DMV. This was the Committee’s first engagement with the DMV in the current parliamentary term. She gave some background to the meeting. At the strategic planning session of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for the 2020/2021 financial year, the NCOP had agreed that the SCSJ, together with the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements, would embark on a joint oversight programme with respect to military veterans. This decision was reaffirmed two days prior to the meeting, during the SCSJ planning session. There were two committees present during the meeting -- Members who served on the Select Committee on CoGTA Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements, and also served on the SCSJ.
During the fifth Parliament, there were activities that the SCSJ had embarked on in relation to military veterans. It had visited Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, and conducted oversight over the activities of the DMV. In 2016, it had also conducted oversight in Mpumalanga, where it had visited sites where houses had been built for military veterans. In 2017, during its visit to the Northern Cape, the Committee met with the DMV and the South African Military Health Services (SAMHS) regarding the roll-out of health benefits to military veterans. During these oversight visits, it became apparent to the Committee that the DMV was experiencing various challenges with regard to the roll out of benefits to military veterans. The present meeting served as a follow up and engagement with the DMV to gain understanding of the progress made.
The Committee was interested in the distribution of houses, the illegal occupation of houses built for military veterans, and how this had been addressed. The meeting also sought to consider more broadly the distribution of all benefits to military veterans in all provinces of the country. The primary objective of the meeting was for the Committee to gain a better understanding of the provincial challenges encountered by the DMV in the distribution of benefits to military veterans. It was the Committee’s hope to address these challenges and develop a way forward. The expectation the Committee had of the DMV during the meeting was:
- to get an overview of the benefits available to military veterans;
- to get a brief on the service delivery per province, since the Committee represents different provinces in the NCOP;
- to have a presentation on the challenges facing the delivery of benefits; and
- an update on the maintenance of the Department’s database of military veterans.
Benefits for military veterans
Mr Sandisa Siyengo, Acting Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services, made the Department’s presentation on behalf of Lt Gen Mgwebi.
The presentation identified the 11 benefits afforded to South Africa’s military veterans, as cited in the Military Veterans Act, 18 of 2011, and outlined the provision of the active benefits according to province and according to the military formations that constitute the entire military veterans’ group.
The 11 benefits were divided into two programmes: “Programme 2: Socio-economic Support (SES)” and “Programme 3: Empowerment and Stakeholder Management (ESM)”. Of the seven benefits included under SES, the DMV had not started with the dispensing of two of them – pensions and the subsidisation, or provision, of public transport.
The challenges that the DMV faced in the delivery of benefits constituted a key focus of the presentation. Among the key challenges were:
- the negative impact that Covid-19 had had on the DMVs’ operations and performance;
- the time, funding, and human resources that high-impact projects demand;
- the fact that implementation of high impact projects were awaiting approval;
- the delay in the planning for funding of University of SA (UNISA) programmes; and
- the management of the DMVs’ database.
The last of these challenges had received special attention because the just and fair delivery of benefits to military veterans depended on accurate and secure records.
Ms Mafu introduced Mr Sibongiseni Ndlovu, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Mr Mbulelo Musi, Chief Director: Socio Economic Services, DMV. She then handed over to the Chairperson.
The Chairperson said it was important for the Committee to see the speakers on video so that it could see who was briefing its Members. She suggested the two members of the Department who had already spoken turn their cameras on and greet the Committee. Ms Mafu and Mr Siyengo complied, following which the Chairperson opened for discussion.
Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) indicated his awareness of the limitations and shortcomings in the presentation. 2021 marked the 27th year since the advent of South Africa’s democracy. The Military Veterans Act was promulgated in 2011. It is clear purpose was to protect, support, and promote the welfare of those who paid the price to bring about freedom in South Africa. They owed a debt to those people who fought for freedom in our land, but based on the presentation and the information he had, South Africa’s military veterans were not taken care of. Ten years after the promulgation of the Act, the DMV had no impact whatsoever in supporting military veterans. There was an awareness of the names and faces of these military veterans. Most of them died as paupers. Most of them live in despicable conditions and yet, there was a DMV that was supposed to take care of them, and this was disgraceful.
The presentation had not informed Members about the structure of the DMV. The Committee could see there was a DG, there was a DDG, there was a CFO, and there were Chief Directors. He asked how much all of these people were being paid, what the structure of the DMV was, and what its budget was for the 11 benefits cited in the presentation. According to the presentation, about five projects had been initiated. Whether the project was for health, for education, or pensions -- the most important for the military veterans – it was clear the veterans were not being taken care of, and this was a very serious problem.
Mr Dodovu asked what the budget of the DMV was, indicating that this was the second essential point missing from the presentation. The third essential point missing from the presentation was a plan reflecting important milestones and key performance indicators for the DMV. He said it was a pity the Minister was not present to answer the Committee’s questions. A situation whereby military veterans were nor supported could not be allowed.
The presentation revealed a problem of coordination. A military veteran could not be expected to have to travel to Pretoria if he wanted to meet with the DMV. There were military veterans who died every day. He was referring to those that he knew in uMkhonto we Sizwe. They were buried regularly. Those who fought in the self-defence units, for the freedom of South Africa, were not taken care of. They were frustrated, they were unemployed, and yet there was a DMV that was supposed to help them. It was not helping them as it should.
The promulgation of the Act in 2011 had formally and legally put the necessary systems in place. Ten years later, some of the military veterans did not even have houses. The programme of the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) had not been properly explained. This was unacceptable. These were the things the Committee needed to address. The Committee needed to interrogate everything about the DMV, especially its structure, its budget, and its strategic plans in terms of what it was doing to support military veterans.
The presentation showed that support for military veterans was skewed in terms of the provinces. Some provinces were advantaged in terms of support. If the DMV was going to start somewhere, it must start in Zeerust. Ninety percent of the people there had been part of what was called the Luthuli detachment, and these were the people who were suffering, who were not being taken care of. A serious and urgent intervention was needed for the DMV. The Committee could not allow this situation to go unattended.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) acknowledged that the presentation responded to some of the Committee’s questions. On a number of slides relating to Programme 3, the DMV had indicated “unknown” -- did this refer to military veterans who were still struggling to get on to the DMVs’ database due to a lack of information, or other reasons? What exactly did “unknown” refer to? He was happy the DMV was creating a database that would be understood by everybody. He wanted to know how many military veterans still had to be captured on the database and whether it was possible for the DMV to give the Committee a number so that it could intervene. This was in line with a question that Mr Dodovu had asked.
Mr Mthethwa said that the Committee knew many of the military veterans. They were still struggling and they were telling the Committee they were being pushed from pillar to post. What were the challenges around getting military veterans on to the database? He wanted to know what the claim was of those who were on the database, but who were identified as “unknown.”
Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) reminded those present the discussion was about the people who had fought for the freedom of the land – the military veterans. The military veterans were suffering. The only head office of the DMV was in Hatfield, Pretoria. Military veterans, some of whom travel from as far away as KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Mpumalanga and Limpopo – all nine provinces – were being turned away from this office. There were no satellite offices across the country so that military veterans could be assisted in their own provinces. Military veterans who had travelled from the Eastern Cape (EC) to the DMV’s offices in Cape Town, had been told by DMV officials that the veterans and their dependents could not be helped because they were going to a funeral.
The DMV gave military veterans social relief of distress (SRD) grants amounting to R1 200. This had assisted military veterans with transport and other needs. This assistance no longer existed, however. In 2016/17, the DMV was paying R42 500 for the dependents of military veterans to attend school. Today, the DMV was paying an amount of R20 000. As a result, because military veterans were receiving reduced funding for education, they did not have enough to pay the schools, and schools were denying access to their dependents. The DMV expected the military veterans to provide the outstanding funds, but the military veterans in question were not working.
Many houses built for military veterans were being sold to those who were not military veterans, and the DMV was not taking action on this. He raised the issue of the information that had been leaked relating to corruption in the DMV. A security company called “Cybersecurity” had been paid over R22 million. The DMV was employing private security for its premises when it should be making use of military veterans who were not working. All the municipalities had offices for the work of the military veterans. The DMV must intervene so that military veterans could get employment at or through these offices.
Mr Motsamai said there were 62 000 military veterans, and he wanted to know why the DMV was failing to pay for their dependents. Children of military veterans had been removed from school because the DMV had not paid for their schooling. He had spoken to Mr Musi, the DMV’s Chief Director for Socio Economic Services, who had assisted, but he wanted to know how military veterans who were not working must pay outstanding school fees. The military veterans were experiencing very serious problems.
He described how a military veteran who lived near his location had been dying for five years. This veteran had been complaining about electricity. He was using an oxygen tank. At his house, there was no electricity. He did not have food. Most of the veterans did not have food because they were not working -- they only had houses. He had approached the Department -- even the Deputy Minister -- to report that military veterans did not have electricity, while houses occupied by non-military veterans did have electricity.
Mr Motsamai asked if the Committee could intervene on these matters. The Committee must do oversight at the DMV and ascertain what was happening in the Department. He said there were big problems in the DMV.
Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape) said that the speakers had covered most of the questions she wanted to ask. She agreed with the previous speakers on the treatment of the military veterans. The issue of housing was a concern. The figures for newly built houses in most of the provinces were zero. The DMV must have proper structures established in the provinces. When the veterans in their respective provinces had problems, they approached Members of the SCSJ to solve their problems. The Members of the Committee knew they had to assist the veterans. There was a need for clarity on the funeral benefits for military veterans.
Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) said the issue of the SRD grant had not featured in the presentation, and the Committee needed to know more about it. The other thing that was unfortunate was the directors in acting positions within the Department. How long had these officials been acting, and when were the posts going to be filled?
He shared an experience he had of the DMV when he was Chairperson of the Select Committee on CoGTA Water and Sanitation and Human Settlements in a municipality of the Western Cape (WC). The DMV did not go to municipalities and engage with them on issues of human settlements. It was the military veterans themselves, or people who claimed to represent them, who did so. Because the military veterans were made up of different forces, there were different organisations or structures representing each force and with whom each force would affiliate. The DMV had warned him not to pay attention to, or engage these other organisations, and that the DMV was the only structure that should be recognised. He asked whether the DMV had dealt with this issue so that when stakeholders engaged with the municipalities, it was only stakeholders who were known and recognised. If the issue of the accreditation of the military veterans was not resolved and the credibility and the integrity of the database was not given due attention, the challenges facing the military veterans would never be solved.
There were many military veterans who did not get their benefits. It was not their own doing -- the problem rested with the database. When military veterans phone the DMVs office in Pretoria, they do not get through. Municipalities across the country build houses on an annual basis, but if those who claim to be military veterans were not accredited and do not appear on the database, those military veterans would not have the opportunity to access housing benefits. Engagement was happening at the national and provincial level, but development happened on the ground.
The presentation did not inform the Committee about how many memorandums of understanding (MOUs) had been established between municipalities and the DMV when it came to the issue of human settlements. He asked the DMV to give the Committee a history of the municipalities it had engaged, specifically in the Western Cape, where there were 30 municipalities -- one metro, five district municipalities and 24 local municipalities. One provincial coordinator from the Department could not engage all 30 municipalities. How was the Department going to engage with these municipalities?
The lack of assistance that was given by the DMV to military veterans around job opportunities was also worrisome. The presentation had been lacking on information with regard to the different forces, often citing issues as “not applicable”. This was unacceptable when it came to job opportunities. The Department must be able to tell Members of Parliament how many military veterans had been assisted with establishing their own businesses, and to which forces the applicable military veterans belonged, so that the Committee could see which military veterans were given preference by government. When this information was lacking, particularly around business opportunities, it raised questions. The DMV should be able to tell the Committee how many of the military veterans were operating businesses and to which forces these military veterans belonged.
It was unfortunate that the Minister was not present during their fifth engagement in the sixth Parliament. The briefing from the previous fifth Parliament showed that the Minister did not once attend an SCSJ meeting. When the Committee dealt with the issues of military veterans during the fifth Parliament, the Minister was nowhere. The Deputy Minister was not with them today. This all raised the question of how seriously they took the military veterans. For five years they had not engaged with the Committee and now, with the start of the sixth Parliament, the Minister was again not in attendance.
There would have to be another engagement with the DMV so that it could provide the Committee with the information that was currently lacking, including the DMVs’ staff components in each of the provinces. It could not be right that one province was staffed to a greater degree than other provinces. This indicated preferential treatment. All military veterans should be treated the same.
Mr Sileku asked the Department for an indication of how many military veterans had died prior to being given the benefits that they deserved, due to challenges within the Department. He acknowledged the impact of Covid-19, but also recognised that the DMV had problems prior to Covid-19 – it had only magnified pre-existing problems within the DMV. It therefore could not use Covid-19 as a reason for some of its challenges. Covid-19 had merely exposed the non-performance of the DMV. The DMV had presented no clear plans as to how it was going to do what was expected of it going forward. The Department should share more of the success stories relating to education bursaries.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) expressed his agreement with all the points raised by the Committee Members, but particularly Mr Dodovu. He also recognised the issues raised by Mr Sileku as very important. The military veterans represented different formations. It was the responsibility of the committees of Parliament to ensure that those veterans who benefited were the rightful beneficiaries. The Committee must reinvestigate the Military Veterans Act and consider whether it needs tweaking. Those employed by the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the former TBVC (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei) forces were receiving their own pensions. The pensions provided for in the Act were going to be in addition to what the military veterans were already earning. People sometimes forgot that the self-defence units in the Gauteng region were part of the military attachments of uMkhonto we Sizwe.
Mr Nchabeleng wanted to know whether there was no capacity in the DMV for developing the military veterans’ database on its own, or whether there was another Department that could help with information communication technology (ICT). He questioned the idea that no one in the DMV could develop a database. There was no reason to purchase a system that the DMV already had. He wanted to know how much such a system would cost, if the DMV was going to use it.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Dodovu and other Committee Members about the unavailability of the Minister. She noted Mr Motsamai’s proposal that the Committee go further, and do oversight of the DMV. The interest of this meeting had been largely on the provinces. Clearly the existence of the Department -- its budget, its functions, the impact it had on military veterans and its actual outcomes – these were matters that the Minister had to elaborate on. Part of the Committee’s oversight work was holding the Executive accountable. When it came to officials, it was another ball game.
The Chairperson referred to the health benefits provided via the SAMHS facilities, and a number of challenges in this area, such as the lack of medical health resources, patient transport, especially where facilities were far from the communities in which military veterans lived and when the patient’s condition warranted the need to dispatch an ambulance. What was being done to address these challenges?
There was a lack of an integrated strategy to deal with the invasion of houses built for military veterans and a lack of involving military veterans in the construction of their houses. The issues of health and housing had been critical concerns of the Committee during the fifth Parliament. It was important that the Department explain what it was doing to address the challenges on a provincial basis. She wanted to know whether the DMV had service-level agreements (SLAs) with all the provincial human settlement departments, and whether it had regular engagements with the DHS at the national and provincial level to ensure the housing needs of military veterans were met. These issues were beside the issues relating to the DMVs’ database.
The Chairperson wanted to know what monitoring and evaluation the DMV did in order to ensure benefits were actually reaching the military veterans themselves. 252 mortgage loan settlements had been cited in the presentation, and it was indicated that this was demand driven. What were the challenges around this, especially as they related to the database, because the database was incomplete?
The DMV had mentioned it had good working relations in Mpumalanga, and that there were not that many challenges. She asked the DMV to explain what made its relations in Mpumalanga different from other provinces where the DMV had experienced more challenges.
Committee Members had covered the issues related to the database quite sufficiently. The DMV had indicated in its presentation that the solution related to the challenges of the database would be implemented by November 2021. The Chairperson wanted to know what measures the DMV would have in place until then to ensure the benefits reached the correct military veterans in respect of the provincial distribution of benefits. Were the DMVs’ provincial offices sufficiently capacitated to ensure benefits were being distributed effectively, and what challenges was it encountering at the provincial level with the distribution of benefits to military veterans?
Ms Mafu indicated the DMV was structured to disburse 11 benefits to more than 85 000 military veterans, excluding their dependents, with a budget of over R500 million. This was a challenge on its own. As a strategy to mitigate this challenge, the DMV had approached a number of provincial premiers’ offices. The DMV had started with Mpumalanga in an attempt at collaborative efforts at addressing the issues facing military veterans. She referred to health benefits as an example. There were three military hospitals in the country. It was almost impossible for these three military hospitals – one in the WC, one in the Free State, and one in Gauteng – to service all military veterans. The DMV had attempted to sign a protocol with the Premier’s office in Mpumalanga. Unfortunately, it did not see the light of day. The DMV had then approached the Premier in the North West, but again did not succeed. It had then approached the Gauteng government and signed an MOU with the Gauteng government and as a result, over 300 job opportunities were created, coordinated by the office of the Premier. The DMV also attempted to engage with the Northern Cape, but this had been unsuccessful. The DMV had signed a protocol agreement with the EC government, and the benefits were very clear in the presentation. The DMV was currently in discussion with the Free State province, as well as with KZN. The DMV had a footprint in all the provinces, excluding Gauteng, KZN and Limpopo. Here the Department was reliant on the Department of Public Works to have lease agreements signed. The DMV was not allowed to negotiate such agreements on its own.
The Committee was correct to raise the issue of capacity. The DMV was still challenged in terms of human capacity and in terms of the approved organogram. Only three members of the DMV were supposed to be located in the provinces. The DMV was hopeful that it would be able to address the issues of human capital through the redesign of the departmental organisational structure. The head office was busy with policies, with strategies, with monitoring and evaluation, and was giving support to provinces. Where provinces were more resourced in terms of human capital than the national office, this was a shortcoming of the current approved structure. The DMV was currently in the process of engaging and processing a new structure.
Ms Mafu said she would request Mr Ndlovu, to give the Committee a sense of the DMVs’ budget, and said that this would be followed by Mr Siyengo, who would explain how the DMV was structured.
The DMVs’ structure, the approved organogram, was not responsive to the work of the DMV. For example, no one was responsible for the administration of the pension benefits or for the administration of public transport benefits. This was why the DMV was busy reviewing its organogram so that it could resource the different benefits and be responsive to all benefits. She would also ask Mr Kobedi Matsafu, Chief Directorate: Socio Economic Support Services to address the issues relating to the database, and for Mr Musi to deal with issues relating to housing and any other matters related to his portfolio. Finally, she would ask her colleague responsible for health and welfare benefits to speak to issues relating to health care and wellness.
Ms Mafu noted the presence in the meeting of the Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) of the Minister, Mr Peter Nkabinde, who would have noted the issues raised and would communicate them to the Ministry. The DMV would also advise the ministry of the issues raised during the meeting.
Mr Ndlovu confirmed the Department had been allocated an appropriation of R683 million for the 2020/21 financial year, and R654 million for the 2021/2022 financial year. Due to the challenges related to Covid-19, however, and in line with the cuts that had occurred across government departments, the budget had been reduced from R583 million to about R480 million in the current financial year. Of the R680 million, R370 million was allocated for the benefits of military veterans. These benefits were what the DMV was able to disburse within the current financial year, as per the presentation. The benefits the DMV were unable to realise were largely transport and pensions. Of the R683 million, the allocation for the cost of employees was R140 million, which was subsequently reduced to R129 million in line with the financial constraints of the national government. If the Committee required any additional information, this would be provided in writing.
Mr Siyengo started by giving some background to the creation of the DMV. When the task team report was produced before the promulgation of the act, it was envisaged that the mandate of the DMV would be to facilitate and coordinate the delivery of the benefits identified in the Military Veterans Act. The structure of the DMV at the time, approved in 2010, was meant to assist with this mandate. In the Act, it was stated that the Department would be making use of other state organs to assist with the provision of benefits where possible.
The structure approved in 2010 had not been responsive, however, to what the DMV had actually been doing in terms of the provision of benefits. There were areas where officials were supposed to be interacting with the veterans (service centres), but the DMV was very poorly staffed in these areas. For example, there were no officials allocated to the provision of some benefits, like pensions and subsidised transport. This was because there were no personnel to allocate to these areas. The approved organogram of the DMV had 169 posts to serve all 11 benefits. Of these, 102 were administrative posts, mostly in the support environment, 21 posts were dedicated to socioeconomic support, and 46 posts were dedicated to the empowerment and stakeholder management branch. These 46 posts included the DMV officials based in the provinces.
To try and mitigate the shortage of personnel, the DMV had employed a number of contract workers. At the end of last year, it had 60 contract workers. National Treasury had flagged the number of contract workers in the DMV as a problem. Thirteen percent of the 169 posts identified in the approved organogram were posts for senior management officials, 11 % were dedicated to middle management, and 29 % were mostly specialised areas, where personnel mostly interacted with veterans. Half of the personnel in the DMV were appointed at levels 3 to 5. This was the status or profile of the organogram.
Mr Siyengo acknowledged the number of acting officials in the DMV, and informed the Committee that the DMV was addressing this issue. The accounting officer’s position had been advertised and short-listing was currently being undertaken. Senior management posts in the human resources, legal, and heritage and memorial spheres had been advertised in February. Over the coming weeks the DMV would be advertising the two DDG positions – Corporate Services and Socioeconomic Support -- to ensure that at a leadership level, the DMV was stable.
The Department had realised that the structure or the organogram was a problem. It was now in the process of reviewing its organogram, and was receiving assistance in this process from the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and National Treasury. The intention was to consider how the DMV could respond to the gaps and challenges that had been experienced in the past. The service-delivery model, which was a precursor to the functional structure, had been approved by the DPSA. The DMV was now working with the DPSA to design a functional structure that would accommodate and respond to the challenges cited during the meeting.
Mr Siyengo then referred to planning instruments, and said the DMV did have a five-year strategy plan. This was tabled in Parliament and had been approved. The DMV was about to present its annual performance plan. When the DMV next engaged with the Committee, it could present this plan so that the Committee could see how it had planned for the delivery of benefits for the 2021/22 financial year. This plan would include all the indicators and mechanisms that the DMV had defined and how it was going to decentralise and give more responsibility to the provinces and municipalities.
Ms Mafu asked Mr Ndlovu to respond to the matter raised by Mr Motsamai – the R4 billion that the Department had paid out for cybersecurity.
Mr Ndlovu said that, officially speaking, he was not aware of such a payment. He had the ICT plan in front of him. The DMV did not have a R4 billion allocation for cybersecurity, as per the official end notes. He requested further information so that the DMV could provide clarity.
Mr Matsafu referred to the questions about how many military veterans remained outside of the database, and what steps the Department was taking while developing the database, in order to ensure that it was running correctly. The major challenge was with the data on the database. This challenge was leading to a number of questions being asked about the authenticity, credibility and security of the data – whether the database was secure. The DMV was aware of these challenges, and was trying to put measures in place. There were around 6 000 military veterans who were currently not on the database. This number would form part of the verification process.
The certification process had happened several times in the past, but there was also a pending verification process. The terms of reference for this verification process had been set. This process was being handled outside of the DMV, by the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans. There were instances of incomplete information in the database. One would find that in some instances, only an identity document (ID) number was provided, but one did not know which formation the applicant was from. Sometimes the ID was not provided, but only the information of the applicant, and the forms were also incomplete. These were gaps that needed to be rectified with regard to the database. The DMV was working on this.
The other major challenge that was impacting the disbursement of benefits was the manual processes characterising their disbursement. The DMV was trying to automate the processes as much as it could. It was also trying to invoke the advanced Excel features that would assist with the current situation. It hoped to address the current situation through the use of modern technology as the year progressed. The challenges around the database made reporting challenging. Because of the manual processes, there could be typo errors when people entered figures. Mostly, the automation of reporting had led to an improvement in terms of reporting.
The DMV was trying to put the separation of duties in place so that no one person was responsible for more than one duty. It was making use of advanced features on its software so that it could make sure that the security of the database was enhanced. It would provide an update as to how many people had been rejected or accepted when the verification process started.
Ms Mafu invited Mr Musi to speak to issues of housing, SRD, education, transport and pensions.
Mr Musi said that Mr Dodovu had raised some overarching issues, which the DMV had noted. While South Africa was in its 27th year of democracy, there had been no DMV until ten years ago. He would therefore focus on the ten-year existence of the DMV, and not on South Africa’s 27 years of democracy. His colleagues had already covered the issues relating to broader organisational challenges.
Specifically in his area of responsibility, he started with the military veterans’ education benefits. It was one of the most difficult benefits for the DMV to deliver. This was for the many reasons which had already been cited, such as the use of manual systems, the lack of automation and capacity challenges. The DMV was working with a permanent staff complement of four people at its national office. From time to time, it had contract workers who assist. This was beginning to have in impact on the extent to which the DMV could deliver on its mandate. This was not an excuse -- it was a fact, which was also informed by the structural deficiencies that had already been cited by Mr Siyengo.
The DMV had started disbursing the education benefit in 2012, two years following its establishment. In the 2012/13 financial year, it had supported 200 students and learners – 100 at the tertiary level and 100 at the basic education level. These numbers had increased exponentially, notwithstanding the challenges. Today, the DMV was supporting no less than 3 300 students and learners. It had therefore made significant strides. However, according to the issues raised by the Committee, it noted it could do more. When all the challenges were addressed, the DMV could and would do more.
In this context, the DMV had welcomed the presidential task team which would consider how best it could improve the capacity of the Department in order for it to provide improved delivery of all the benefits, including education. The presidential task team would make decisions that would take the DMV to another level in terms of how it delivered on its mandate.
The housing benefit had also started in 2012, and slowly at that. The first beneficiaries of this programme had been two veterans of the Second World War. Mr Musi wanted to explain some of the challenges that had been raised and which had also been elevated to the presidential task team. When the DMV started issuing this benefit, it had had a very limited budget. The fundamental duty of the DMV was to coordinate and facilitate. The DMV did not deliver houses. It was the Department of Human Settlements that delivered. The DMV supplemented the size of the housing in order to meet the specifications agreed upon in regulation 14 of the Act, in the policy, the MOU and the SLA that the DMV had with the DHS. The mandate was to deliver 50 square metres, which was distinct from a Reconstruction and Development Programme-Breaking New Ground (RDP-BNG) house of 40 square metres. The design of the delivery required that the DHS allocate houses, with the DMV supplementing the size of the houses in a quota allocated to it. If the DHS builds 1 000 houses and gives the DMV 100 of these houses, the DMV would then focus on increasing the size of those 100 houses to the value of R78 000, to make it a 50 square metre house. This was the DMVs’ delivery and design model for housing. The DMV was therefore highly reliant on the DHS to assist it with effective delivery. Since 2012, 1 873 houses had been delivered to military veterans.
More could be done to ensure the DMV accelerated this delivery. The Acting DG had met the previous day with the DG of the DHS to consider how the delivery of houses could be accelerated in the 2021/22 financial year. The DMV had set some targets that it wanted to achieve in the next year. It was a work in progress. In the last three years there had been a significant acceleration in the delivery of houses. The DMV believed it was on the right track, notwithstanding the challenges that had been highlighted.
Mr Musi referred to the questions posed by the Chairperson as to whether the DMV had MOUs, SLAs and instruments that guided the DMV as to how it should deliver. The DMV had an MOU with the DHS. It had been signed a couple of years ago and was currently being reviewed and updated. This process would be complete by the end of March, so that the DMV and DHS could qualify their relationship and quantify what kind of delivery they wanted. The DMV also had SLAs with all nine provinces. It was reviewing them and updating them to address the current mode of delivery. This process was running simultaneously with the MOU reviews.
The DMV was also reviewing regulation 14 to accommodate lessons learnt from its past experience of delivery. These lessons had involved its approach to thresholds, the widows of military veterans, and orphans and dependents. It was reviewing the codified relationships in order to be more responsive to some of the challenges. The DMV acknowledged there were challenges and hoped it would be able to address these with the intervention of the President and other relevant departments. They had come to observe that the DMV alone could not be responsible for dealing with the multiple challenges facing military veterans, given its limited budget and capacities. The challenges required a government-wide intervention if they were to be resolved.
Mr Musi then turned his attention to pensions and public transport. Mr Siyengo had already indicated these were inactive benefits. They were inactive for several reasons, one of which was the fact that the DMV was mainly focusing on policy and on its service delivery model. The DMV was hopeful that it would pilot the implementation of policy and the service delivery model in the new financial year. Policy preparation was at an advanced stage, and the Department was finalising the service delivery model. It hoped to have completed the process by March/April to be ready to deliver within a particular policy framework and according to a specific service delivery model.
Regarding the SRD, he referred to the point on the threshold of education that Mr Motsamai had raised. Decisions on thresholds were made after the DMV had consulted with the formations of the military veterans themselves. The Minister had held meetings with the military veterans through the South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) and their associations to consider the thresholds, their appropriateness, and to align them to the general policies of the government. Initially, the threshold for the basic level education was R42 000, and for higher education, R72 000. These figures had been revised after consultation, and were currently at R20 000 for basic education and R88 500 for higher education. The DMV was also working with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Those in public schools were governed by the policy of NSFAS as it related to free education. The DMV was sticking to the thresholds as agreed upon with various stakeholders. The decision to reduce the education benefits had not been a unilateral decision of the DMV. It had been made in consultation with the relevant department and the military veterans’ formations. From time to time, the DMV engaged with military veterans to explain its actions and decisions to them.
The SRD grant was not a benefit cited in the Act. It was added following a ministerial directive, due to the dire situation that many military veterans faced – high levels of poverty, unemployment and socio-economic challenges. When it started with this benefit, the DMV was disbursing R1 200 to military veterans. The DMV had supported almost 3 000 military veterans with the SRD in the last year. However, the Department of Social Development (DSD), which was legally responsible for the management of social distress, had advised the DMV that its manner of delivering this benefit was not aligned with legislation. It had held meetings with the DSD and agreed it would hand over the SRD, to be administered under the DSD and in accordance with the requisite legislation, regulations and policies. The DMV had commenced with this process just prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 in South Africa, and was handing over of approximately 6 000 applicants to the DSD. As the DMV moved towards completing the migration of this portfolio which belonged, legally speaking, to the DSD, Covid-19 had intervened. Subsequently, the Council on Defence had met and decided that in light of the military veterans’ circumstances, the DMV should supplement the R350 that the President had committed to poor South Africans during Covid-19. Following the Council of Defence meeting in May 2020, the DMV was given a mandate to pay R850 in collaboration, with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), which would pay R350. The DMV had put systems in place and was able to commence with disbursement of the funds in July 2020. The DMV had supported no fewer than 450 military veterans. It had disbursed no less than R4.9 million.
It was felt that those who were rejected by SASSA, for whatever reason, should also be considered, due to their dire circumstances. In this context, the DMV had engaged with military veterans through the provincial task team to consider the approach towards those who were “falling through the cracks”. Six hundred military veterans had been identified and processed with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and other agencies so that the DMV could provide for them as well. Money had been set aside so that as soon as the Department had done due diligence, it would be able to pay the funds over to the relevant military veterans.
Regarding the invasion of military veterans’ houses, Mr Musi referred to the fact that the Chairperson had alluded to the challenge of invasions and the idea that there was no integrated strategy to deal with this challenge. He said that as part of the DMVs’ bilateral engagements with the DHS, it had developed a strategic framework to deal with invasions. It had tested it in other projects, and it was working. Invasions happened when there was a delay between the allocation of a house and its occupation. The DMV now allocated the erf to the relevant military veteran prior to building so that the recipient knew it would be his house. The DMV informed the associations, and these associations assisted the DMV with protecting the house until the recipient was able to occupy it. Through this strategy, the DMV had successfully prevented invasions in Palm Ridge and many other parts of the country. Where invasions had happened, the DMV was working to reverse this trend. It was currently working with the DHS to address the invasions in Aloe Ridge in KZN. The Department was dealing with the same issue in Lukhanji in the EC. The DMV therefore had a strategy and was working with the military veterans to prevent these invasions. The DMV would beef its plan up where necessary as things progressed.
On relations with local municipalities, Mr Musi said the DMV had itself observed that this was an area that it needed to improve on. It had scheduled a meeting between the Acting DG and the CEO of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to discuss methods for engaging all 278 municipalities in the country, using SALGA had a partner in this process. It was therefore working towards strengthening relations with local government. However, due to capacity challenges within the DMV, it may not be able to engage effectively with each municipality. It had therefore drawn on the district delivery model in order to work more effectively with municipalities. With the use of the district delivery model, it believed it would be able to access military veterans more effectively.
It had noted the challenges and observations the Chairperson had brought to its attention. Moving forward, the DMV would improve while considering the Chairperson’s recommendations.
Ms Mafu invited Ms Caroline Mongale to address issues relating to the health and wellness benefit and noted the presence in the meeting of Ms Xolisa Morolo, Director: Health and Wellness.
The Chairperson said the meeting was running out of time and proposed that the remaining speakers give a summary in their responses.
Mr Nchabeleng suggested that due to time constraints, some of the answers could be given in writing. He expressed his concern that detail would be lost in summary responses.
The Chairperson commented that the Committee would still request the responses in writing.
The Chairperson asked Ms Mongale to continue, indicating she had five minutes.
Ms Caroline Mongale, Chief Director: Health and Wellness, DMV, said her report was mainly for the current financial year. Of 85 000 military veterans, 18 348 had access to health care services. These services were provided through the SAMHS facilities. Of the 18 348, the DMV was aware of 7 009 who were accessing the services annually. In the last financial year, the Department had paid R107 million towards these services. In the current budget, it had spent R81 million on these services and was looking to spend a total of R90 million. On the issues of wellness, she said that the DMV may not be communicating all of its successes. She gave an example of a military veteran in the WC whom the DMV had visited the previous week. Therefore, the DMV did try with the limited capacity that it had.
Ms Mafu asked the Chairperson for the opportunity to submit a written response within 14 days, focusing on those questions to which officials had not responded during the meeting.
The Chairperson agreed to allow this, and thanked Ms Mafu and her team. She noted the time constraints and said that the Committee would not pose follow-up questions, but would allow the DMV to give its responses in writing. She had allowed the DMV officials a lot of time to speak because she thought it was important that the Committee get the necessary information.
When the Committee requested a presentation from the DMV, it had not been prescriptive. It had not requested the DMV’s 2020/21 figures, for example, which the DMV had chosen to share with the Committee. What had been revealed in the explanations given by the officials was the actual work done by the DMV in the last 10 years or so. The accumulative figures were important, and had given the Committee a better reflection of what the Department had been doing and what it had been achieving. The Committee had also noted that while the DMV was dealing with the legally prescribed benefits of military veterans, it did have its own challenges and was falling short or failing in the provision of some of these benefits. When the Committee received some of the explanations in writing, it should be able to make a better assessment of the progress that the DMV was making, especially in the areas of healthcare and education.
There was still a huge concern around some of the challenges, such as housing and employment. The information that the DMV would provide the Committee in totality, would allow it to have an idea of what was going on. Central to many of the problems experienced by the DMV in terms of its delivery of benefits to military veterans, were the challenges relating to the database. This was an important area that the DMV had to focus on.
For the Committee, it was important that military veterans who had been through a lot in their lifetimes actually benefited in their lifetimes. It was therefore important that the challenges experienced by the DMV be resolved. There were unanswered questions in areas where the Committee would need further information and written detail on some of the plans developed by the Department, which it had also committed to providing to the Committee. The Committee would follow-up with the DMV in this regard.
The Committee would continue its oversight of the DMV. It was important for the Committee to monitor those areas where there was a need for cooperation between the DMV and other government departments. At the end of the day, the Committee wanted to see improved coordination, but more importantly, it wanted to see service delivery. The NCOP intended doing more intense oversight of the delivery of benefits to military veterans in the provinces. From the presentation and the following engagement, the Committee had a better understanding of what some of the challenges were at the provincial level. The Committee would engage the Minister to ensure that there was executive accountability. The Constitution of the land required this.
The Chairperson thanked the DMV for providing the Committee with the information and for the additional information which it committed to providing by 15 March.
The meeting was adjourned.
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