A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
DEFENCE JOINT COMMITTEE
10 May 2007
IMPROVEMENT OF SERVICE TO MILITARY VETERANS: PUBLIC HEARINGS
Chairperson: Mr S Montsitsi (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Didiza Productions submission
World Veterans Foundation powerpoint presentation
World Veterans Foundation submission
MKMVA Gauteng Written Submission
APLA Military Veterans Submission
GetMed PowerPoint presentation
Council of Military Veterans Organisations written submission
Council of Military Veterans Organisations of South Africa PowerPoint presentation
Military Veterans Affairs Act
Audio Recording of the Meeting: Morning Session (Part1), Afternoon Session (Part1 & Part2)
The Committee received a number of submissions from a range of stakeholders including military veterans associations. Members interacted with the submissions and the representatives from the Department of Defence were given opportunity to react to them too.
Didiza Productions was a film unit set up specifically to assist veterans in finding work in the film industry. It had undertaken extensive publicity and encouraged veterans, particularly those with experience in explosives, which was required for special effects, to register and re-train in the industry. Thus far it had not achieved substantial success. Members queried whether the company had aligned itself with other veterans’ organisations, and whether it could prove substantial benefits to veterans.
The World Veteran Foundation explained the purpose and scope of the Foundation and stated that it would encourage full representation by all the veterans' organisations. The Advisory Board set up in South Africa had not achieved as much as possible and urged that one of the most important aspects was well managed health care.
The National office and provincial offices of Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), the APLA Military Veterans Association gave different presentations, but common themes were the concerns at the addition of salaries and pensions, with harsh tax consequences, the age limit of 35 years for qualifying for a Special Pension, which automatically disqualified a number of young soldiers who were now suffering undue hardship, the fact that medical aid benefits and entitlement to pension amounts were discriminatory, the slow progress on matters of concern raised some time ago, the distinction in pensions between former SA Defence Force and Non Statutory Force veterans and questions of rank. It was clear that there was lack of unity and accord between the numerous representative bodies of military veterans. Concern was expressed about the non-functioning of the Special Corps, the lack of service - and, more worryingly - interference by the Safety and Security Sector Training Authority (SASSETA), and the inadequate opportunities for re-skilling.
The SA National Defence Force and Department of Defence, in answering some of the questions and concerns, stressed that it too had recently informed the Committee that there was a need to address the pension matters urgently. The Department could only apply the legislation and it was clear that there were difficulties. The calls made required a political decision and amendment of the legislation. Clarity was given on the position in regard to special pensions, the Non Statutory Force Pensions, and the war grants paid by Department of Social Development to veterans from World War I and II and Korea.
Members noted that there was lack of unity between the bodies and queried the steps in establishing the South African National Veterans Association. They noted the call from the Department for political intervention and commented that the veterans' efforts had laid the cornerstones for this democratic institution.
GetMed made a submission in which it outlined the proposals for a tailored medical aid scheme for veterans. Members queried whether the scheme would be truly representative, whether it would benefit all veterans, to whom it had been presented, and whether it was sustainable. The Department did not know enough about the scheme to comment as there had not been a full presentation to the Advisory Board, and certain documents had been missing from the letters. The Scheme was urged to have further meetings and consultation.
The Council for Military Veterans Organisations spoke of the transformation process, the need to identify vulnerable veterans and the need to run developmental programmes. It argued also for improved medical support and pensions. Members challenged some of the perceptions, and the role of the former commandos was discussed. Again it was stressed that it was important for the term ‘veteran’ to be defined. Members felt that it was important for there to be unity among all veterans so that some of them would not be excluded from decisions that would affect them and so that all benefited from transformation.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson appreciated that most of the stakeholders who had seen the Committee’s call for submissions had taken it upon themselves to respond so that they could be part of the process and to share opinions and ideas on how the quality of life of veterans could be improved.
Didiza Productions Submission
Mr Ntandazo Gcingca, Didiza Productions, stated that this production company, through making films and through other entrepreneurial activities, aimed to train military veterans as well as use their expertise in film productions. Although the venture had been publicised often, the company had so far had very little success in realising its vision.
Ms M Matsemela (ANC) asked whether the production company operated independently, whether it worked together with the Military Affairs Advisory body, and whether the national Veterans Organisation was aware of the production company.
Mr Gcingca said that everything he was implementing emanated from a speech which the former Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Brigitte Mabandla, had made in 1996 in which she had emphasised the need for the transformation of the industry. That had led to the setting up of the National Video and Film Foundation in 1997. The black film makers, in order to “grow the cake”, set up the Cape Film Commission. He emphasised that when any structures set up must be controlled and managed, else they would not deliver and would fail.
Ms Matsemela was curious as to whether the production company had international partners and if so what kind of benefits they received. She also wanted to know how veterans benefited from such.
Mr J Schippers (ANC) thought the venture to capacitate veterans was a good one but wanted more specifics as far as the financial benefits the veterans would enjoy. Many of the veterans received very small pensions and thus he asked how the production house would ensure that veterans would indeed benefit from the process.
Mr Gcingca responded that the company was hoping that military veterans would be the ones to explore the opportunities it provided. Once within the industry veterans would benefit as workers. He was always concerned about how “he could improve the market shares so everyone could benefit. Control and management was very important.
Mr L Diale (ANC) asked how many veterans the company had already attracted.
Mr Gcingca had presented the idea to many stakeholders, including 90% of the veterans and traveled to Johannesburg at his own expense to pitch the idea there too. He emphasised that the idea was still a work in progress. The filming season in Cape Town would start in the next five months but preparations had to start now. The Cannes and Sithengi film festivals would also be held in a few months time and most of the well-known and influential names within the industry would be there.
Mr Gcingca informed the Committee that all military veteran structures had over the last four years been informed of his plans. The consultation process was on track. The proposal had been pitched to them on more than three occasions and they were familiar with it. He believed that the project could take off and create opportunities. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) were calling for submissions for potential stations and this was an avenue he was eager to pursue.
The Chairperson wondered whether the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) delegation would be able to clarify whether the production house would in fact be allowed to use military equipment and bases as indicated in the presentation.
The Chairperson commented that this idea, if explored further, might be successful for job creation provided the veterans were able to establish themselves as an entity that would be able to enter into a joint venture with the production company. In the absence of such an arrangement it would be difficult to establish and monitor whether veterans were in fact benefiting. He suggested that once they were better organised, veterans might be able to provide the personnel, as active military personnel would not be able to be used in productions.
Mr Gcingca was aware that the use of military bases and equipment would have to be negotiated and felt that all stakeholders would have to engage to bring the project off the ground. All the military veterans had specific skills that were recorded on the military database. In his opinion most of the people involved in special effects were former military officers who had knowledge of explosives and were certified to work with them.
General Rinus van Rensburg, Chief of Corporate Staff, SANDF, confirmed that the SANDF was not very eager to allow their facilities to be used for filming. Military equipment could however be used once proper authorisation had been received.
World Veteran Foundation (WVF) Submission
Lt-Gen Niel Knobel, Chairperson, World Veteran Foundation, stated that the WVF encouraged establishment of associations of federations for all veterans and would encourage full representation from South Africa. Although the advisory aboard had done a lot of work it did not achieve all the objectives, and from a South African perspective, Lt-Gen Knobel would be keen to see momentum given to some of the thoughts expressed in his presentation, which reflected what veterans were saying. It was noted that at the General Assembly in 2003 the State President had given encouragement, and it was clear that the conference was taken seriously. Any resolution of the general assembly would be sent through to the United Nations. The declaration had outlined the physical, psychological and social needs of veterans. He urged that these must be taken seriously. Well-managed health care was one of the most urgent needs of the military veterans in South Africa and the Continent. It was the first item put on the agenda when the Advisory Board was established and therefore it was to be expected that it should have been dealt with by now. He suggested that the GetMed Managed Health Care programme must be supported by the Committee.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked whether Lt-Gen Knobel was suggesting that veterans join in their own right, or whether bodies of veterans should join WVF.
Lt-Gen Knobel said that the world body was adamant that if possible there should be unity amongst veterans, so this was desirable also in South Africa. However, many countries had different associations that joined the world body in their own right, and perhaps later began to unite with other bodies. However, this had been an area of challenge, despite the full support of the Minister and department. He was disappointed that unity had not yet been fully achieved. Be that as it may, there were veterans who needed a place where they could voice their concerns, and had raised them with the Advisory Board.
Ms Daniels asked if the thirty or so associations were from the Region, or from South Africa.
Lt-Gen Knobel said that all the 30 associations called themselves "national" associations. They also had regional representatives within the national structures. There were other smaller groups, which may not be national.
Ms Daniels asked who the Medical Scheme was, who ran it and what benefits it could offer.
LT-Gen Knobel said that the Scheme would be making a presentation later and he suggested this question stand over.
Ms W Matsemela (ANC) said that many international associations seemed to be representing veterans. She wondered which "veterans" were included. She noted that the veterans were faced with a number of difficulties in the country.
Lt-Gen Knobel said that he did not represent or was affiliated to any specific organisation in the Country, because of his position in the world bodies. He noted that the WVF would encourage veterans as broadly defined to go the route of formal registration so that there could be clarity on who and how many veterans there were. An estimate had been made of around 600 000, but the Advisory Board was trying to get a reliable number. It was a long and slow process, made more difficult because of regional lack of contact with veterans. He agreed that the problem was compounded when the organisations were disorganised. Many were operating as small splinter groups yet were voicing the same concerns. It was necessary for various groupings to sort themselves out and make sure that their leadership was visible to go ahead with the new Advisory Board. He noted that the WVF was not concerned at all with political issues. It aimed to look after the physical, psychological and social needs of veterans and their dependents, and victims.
Ms Matsemela asked if there had ever been advice given on setting up an independent Ministry for Veterans.
Lt-Gen Knobel said that when the Military Veterans Affairs Act (MVA) was first passed, there were some negotiations around the possibility of establishing an independent Department, but this was not possible for logistical reasons at the time. It was decided that the Act would be the responsibility of the Minister of Defence, and a directorate would be established within the Department of Defence (DoD) to deal with it. This was a costly and slow exercise. There was now a new initiative looking at restructuring. WVF was in favour of this.
Ms Matsemela said that the Committee had recently discussed the budget vote for the Department and she asked where specific budgetary allocation had been made for this.
The Chairperson noted that officials from DoD would be commenting later on these issues.
Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) Submission
Mr Kebby Maphatsoe, Provincial Chairperson, MKMVA, stated that MKMVA represented the ex combatants of Umkhonto We Sizwe. The submission he would be making was essentially a shared submission representing the views of provincial offices as well.
The thrust of the submission was that ex-combatants needed assistance as they were socially and economically excluded from receiving full benefits and thus remained vulnerable. Almost 50% were jobless, with no source of income, and were exposed to drugs, drinking and lawlessness. MKMVA was concerned that government had a moral, political and social obligation to extend pensions, grants, allowances and subsidies to these ex-combatants. This Committee had the power to intervene in the current situation, which was offering no assistance. Poverty amongst ex-combatants was rife and while there was such poverty there was not true freedom. The ex-combatants were victims from different conflicts.
Of particular concern was the application of the Special Pensions Act, as many of the ex-combatants did not meet the 35-year age requirement as of 1996. Having served from a young age, they were in a dire situation as they also had no skills to complete in the country's economy. If necessary this point might need to be taken to the Equality Court.
MKMVA pointed out that the problems were compounded by the fact that many ex-combatants were physically, emotionally and mentally hurt. They had minimal support from the State. MKMVA was also concerned with the other age limits set out in the MVA Act. It specifically requested the deletion of Section 2, amendment of Section 3(c) in relation to the ages, increase the number of board members to 12 and implement the definition section (vii) properly. The buy-back portions of the pensions must be abolished.
It also called for a Ministry for Military Veterans Affairs. DoD should take responsibility for exhuming, repatriating and reburying and human remains.
MKMVA further recommended that the Non Statutory Forces pensions should not be mixed with Special Pensions and veterans wanting a lump sum should be able to access it. There was a need for review of the age limits for Special Pensions. In addition, any special pensions should not be combined with the salary earnings of members, as many were facing huge tax burdens.
DoD should facilitate an easy process through recognition of prior learning, recognition of training, skills and qualification of veterans outside RA. MKMVA also called for own insurance service providers for ex-combatants.
MKMVA recommended that GetMed should be appointed by Military Veterans Associations to expedite the improvement of medical care and other relevant benefits, and rehabilitate and run health facilities. Veterans' medical aid contributions should be subsidised. SANDF should establish the South African National Military Veterans' Association (SANMVA), a non racial and truly representative body, to talk to parliament on behalf of all veterans. It believed strongly that there should be a united foundation, with strict terms of reference and strict guidelines, to administer all projects of military veterans. This would include training needs.
Although parity of pensions was the main issue, MKMVA had other suggestions too. Dormant military bases should be donated over to SANMVA so it could implement housing developments on that land, and allow military veterans to access the housing grants and build houses for themselves and their beneficiaries. It would be useful to establish provincial structures and have a launch of the national structure by November 2007.
North West MKMVA Submission
Mr Alfred Motsi, Chairperson, North West MKMVA, added to the comments just made. MKMVA ex-combatants had not received any benefits such as housing allowances. Funeral schemes were another area needing to be addressed as many ex-combatants were dying as paupers, not having had the chance to contribute to such schemes. Education was yet another area of concern. Although there was the Safety and Security Sector Training Authority (SASSETA), the Board contained no military veterans and was not in tune with the needs of the veterans. Many that the SASSETA claimed to have trained were not former liberation movement veterans at all. The process of re-training was particularly slow. North West MKMVA recommended that the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) must be involved also in the training. National Treasury needed to expedite payments. He agreed that there were a number of sections of the legislation requiring amendment. There also needed to be more attention given to SANDF Reserve forces as there was insufficient representation of ex-combatants. Finally he pointed out that implementation was needed as a matter of priority so as to ensure that ex-combatants received their due now as many were in dire straits or dying before being able to access facilities.
Western Cape MKMVA Submission
Mr Mbulelo Mabala, Chairperson, MKMVA, Western Cape, stressed that the legislation dealing with veterans must be looked at in detail and re-drafted to fit the prerequisites of the new associations.
He stated that the Special Pension amounted to R700, which was clearly inadequate, being even less that the older persons' grant. It was referred to as a "Special" Pension but he wondered what was so special about it. He was concerned that those who had been in liberation armies had not retained their rank on demobilisation and called for rankings to be restored. Although much had been said about the SANDF being integrated, he did not agree that it was fully integrated, because so many were not benefiting from training from the Service Corps, and there was a backlog in people having been able to access benefits.
The Deputy Secretary, Western Cape MKMVA noted concerns about his own situation, when he had not received what he had been expecting.
Gauteng MKMVA Submission
Mr Agrippa Nchodo, Gauteng MKMVA, indicated that in highlighting the Special Pensions difficulties, MKMVA would like to call upon the Committee to get some assistance from Department of Finance. MKMVA believed that the preamble to the MVA Act must be closely adhered to, and the obligations of government met. Some other departments were looking to the challenges and perhaps there was a need to look closely at the Act to check whether the interpretations currently being used were correct. South Africa had the duty, capability and capacity to preserve its history, and part of that related to comrades who died in exile and in other countries, which was why there was a call for repatriation of remains. He shared the concerns of North West that matters must proceed according to time frames and a set programme.
APLA Military Veterans Association (AMVA) Submission
Gen M Fihla, Chairperson, APLA Military Veterans Association (AMVA), noted with appreciation the support thus far received from the parliamentary committees on defence. Despite this, due recognition and support was not being effected for military veterans. Military veterans of the liberation struggle could not be treated in the same way as the veterans of the former Defence Force, and the attempts by the Act to do so resulted in discrimination against the veterans of the liberation struggle.
The AMVA had held a national congress, and had managed to elect a legitimate national leadership, despite having received very little support from relevant government departments in its efforts. The lack of support was a factor that further exacerbated the problems with splinter groups. Now that AMVA was stable it would be focusing on rebuilding and revitalising its structures. The past challenges in the legacy of disorganisation and lack of direction had extended to the Advisory Board, the Steering Committee and SASSETA. The Advisory Board had not been functioning for over a year. The Steering Committee had been ineffective for a long time, as it was for years undermined by SASSETA. The Service Corps had not delivered much.
The NSF and Special Pensions had made some headway in contributing to improvement of the lives of military veterans. However, there was much that still needed to be done. The major focus must be to ensure that all were catered for in an inclusive manner, rather than the selective system currently used. He concurred with previous speakers that there was a problem with the under-35 category, who were not recognised as legitimate veterans. The issue of age needed to be reviewed. Whilst the establishment of the pension schemes was supported, they needed to be reviewed to determine their impact. Some areas of concern had already been identified. The dependants of recipients of special pensions would see a drop of around 50% in the monthly payouts on death of the main recipient. Widows and dependants of the combatants who passed away during the liberation struggle, or prior to 2006, were not fully catered for. The lump sum amount was not sufficient.
It was recognised that AMVA needed to become more involved in its own fund-raising but it would like to have assistance, and suggested that the Departments and Ministers needed to be involved in discussions. It also suggested that since MKMVA had stronger political ties with the ruling party, it could use its influence effectively to help create opportunities for other veterans' associations. A key point was that individual members of the various associations should drive the economic projects, which assumed that they would have received training and skills from SASSETA. This had simply not happened. Skills were a vital area. In addition, the current process to access medical facilities was far too slow and the pace of delivery must be accelerated.
Mr J Phungula (ANC) asked whether MKMVA was calling for designated areas to be set aside for ex-combatant housing projects, or merely that general land situated in various places be made available for use.
Mr Phungula was concerned that medical facilities were not being adequately accessed and asked what was the blockage at the moment. It was hoped that veterans would be affiliated to the schemes and that they might receive the benefit of accessing other social amenities to try to address their plight.
Mr Phungula asked, from the legislative perspective, whether the broader reserve force would accommodate members of the reserve force who were not currently employed in it. He noted the concern that there was not sufficient demographic transformation and asked how members were to be integrated.
Mr Phungula noted that the Western Cape had not alluded to which specific legislation was causing the problems.
Mr Nchodo noted that most of the problems cited arose under the Special Pensions Act, and the 35-year old limit. He stressed that children of 14 or 15 were not questioned when they wanted to join the struggle but their participation was not being properly recognised now the struggle had ended. He had also made reference to another grant, but had been unable to get full details of the Act under which it was administered. That grant was paid out by Department of Social Development to veterans who had fought in World War I and II and perhaps in other wars. He was concerned that there must be parity in treatment. He stressed that there was a need to simplify and clarify all issues, as the current problems were very demoralising for those who were not being given proper choices.
Maj Gen Solomon Mollo, Chief, Human Resources Support, DoD noted that the Department of Social Development paid out a "war grant" of R110 per month to veterans who had solved in World Wars I and II.
Mr Phungula agreed that when speaking of "veterans" there was a need to define who they were. Veterans were involved in a war at a particular time, and must recognise that "the enemy" today would not necessarily be an enemy tomorrow, outside of the war situation. Every combatant was in a sense a victim of the war that was fought. There must therefore be every attempt now to reach and stress unity.
Gen Fihla agreed that this lack of clear definition was a problem. Ex-combatants were regrettably not given a clear definition but were called military veterans, which gave rise to the main problem of non-inclusion of under 35 year olds. This was the most important item to be looked at, as without a proper definition that did not give rise to discrimination, it was not possible to move ahead.
Gen Fihla commented in general that issues such as an independent Ministry could be debated but in fact the issues raised tended to cloud the one major issue, which was that the rules, as presently framed, were nullifying the purpose for which the legislation was passed. All was based on the wrong premise, because of the definitions. Issues must be properly addressed under the MVA Act. An independent Ministry, without the necessary resources, would still not be able to solve the problems. The key question was who was benefiting and who was not.
Ms Matsemela felt it was important to consider what was in the Act. The MVA Act said that all matters around military veterans should be holistically. She was concerned that APLA and MKMVA did not seem to be united, and this had been highlighted by Dr Knobel in his presentation, and by APLA noting that their own internal structures were now in place. The Committee needed to try to help to unite all structures.
Ms Matsemela noted that the Gauteng MKMVA written submissions had called for abolition of the buy-back pension and noted that there was some doubt as to who qualified for this. She felt that this provision gave power to those who had money. Those without the necessary capital would not be able to buy back. Again, she stressed that a holistic approach for military affairs must be adopted.
Ms Daniels asked the Department for clarification on integration of various bodies, in view of the mention made earlier of the proliferation of various veterans' bodies.
Ms Daniels noted that it was clear that many things needed to be done, but also clear that government had taken steps to achieve them. She would have liked a clearer indication from the veterans as to what they were doing themselves and on which issues precisely assistance was required.
A representative of Gauteng MKMVA stated that there were already institutions that were ready and willing to discuss issues and appealed for the chance that these submissions and suggestions be heard.
Ms Daniels noted that Gen Fihla had mentioned that the playing fields needed to be levelled. She asked what he had meant by this.
Mr J Schippers (ANC) said that it seemed the process of integration had not been managed well, and this was the treason why there was need for review. One of the presenters had noted that most of the TBVC and SADF armies had received packages, and it seemed that other groups were excluded from the integration process, who still needed to be brought on board. The process was clearly not managed well.
Mr Schippers asked if there was a central database for all forces, and how the Committee could facilitate the process so that it could run more easily.
Mr Schippers wondered if APLA would support an independent Ministry for the veterans, as suggested by MKMVA, which would centralise services.
Mr Schippers noted that the closing date for applications under the Special Pensions Fund had been 31 December 2006. He asked if this was considered sufficient time, and whether there were still many people who were unable to apply for the pensions
Mr Maphatsoe said that MKMVA were not happy with the closing date, as also not with the age discrimination. The matter had been further hampered by delays and bureaucratic processes.
Mr Motsi noted that he personally had written to National Treasury in September 2006 asking that Treasury must come and give a presentation on the Special Pensions in light of the uncertainty surrounding it. Nothing was heard until 2007, when it was indicated that the application date had passed.
In regard to the discrimination around Special Pensions, Mr Modziwe cited a particular case, of which he was aware, where a foreign soldier serving in the South African force had received a payout in excess of R360 000, whereas a South African soldier serving in APLA, in the same rank, was entitled to only R20 000.
A representative of MKMVA further noted that the Department of Health had some facilities that could address part of the veterans' plight in health related matters. Mafikeng base included superb health facilities and was not currently being fully used. He called for access to this type of facility. He noted that although the Act spoke of benefits, it was not specific on how these could be accessed, and the inability of the under-35s was a major problem.
The Chairperson indicated that he would like a response to some questions from DoD. He noted that there had been a call for a South African National Veterans Association, yet that some of the various organisations needed to restructure themselves to be able to participate on a provincial and national level. He asked if it was possible for the Ministry to fund this type of initiative and if it could give the Committee some idea of whether the suggestions were implementable.
Mr Maphatsoe said the MKMVA fully supported SANVA, but the workshop recently held had made it clear that not all organisations were at the same level, or necessarily in agreement as to what they wanted. For instance, MKMVA believed this must be a military structure. MKMVA was also concerned that its membership of any national organisation would not in any way diminish its own ability still to honour its own heritage and culture. SANVA would be a platform to address military affairs in a converged manner, but should not subsume all the interests of the organisations.
The Chairperson noted that a number of comments had been raised about the R20 000 lump sum payout and the payments per month, especially compared to some other packages.
Mr Maphatsoe said that MKMVA felt very strongly about the discrimination, which was why it had called for the abolition of the payout. It had also suggested to currently serving members that they should be cautious about signing forfeiture terms in relation to pensions.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on the ranking system and whether the ranks could be carried over to civilian use.
Major General Mollo said that a number of issues and concerns raised today had in fact already been isolated and raised by the Department itself. He stressed that many of those issues could only be resolved at a political level and lay outside the competency of the Department, which was to apply the legislation as it stood.
The fundamental difficulties lay with the benefits under the Act. The Act did allow for an inter cabinet committee, led by Defence, to be established and an interdepartmental committee that could address certain issues. As yet these did not exist. The Directorate of Military Veterans had therefore been established within the DoD. That Directorate was meant to coordinate at policy level, but it was clearly not well structured to carry out its work and address the unforeseen challenges. The DoD acknowledged this challenge and was - tasked with looking at the probability of establishing something similar to the model of France, Canada, and Algeria, which was an agency model.
Maj Gen Mollo noted the comments on the dates in relation to the pensions. He confirmed that the Special Pensions date had closed on 31 December and was not to be extended. The date under the Non Statutory Force Pensions had been moved to 31 March 2008, in view of the difficulties in tracing all those eligible.
He noted the concerns on the buy-back and the 50% reduction of monthly amounts on death of the pensioner, as also the fact that those serving less than ten years in the SANDF did not have their time served in the liberation forces taken into account. Once again he pointed out that these provisions were contained in the legislation and all the DoD could do was implement the legislation. The Deputy Ministers of Defence and Finance had established a structure to look at these issues, and DoD had called for political intervention. The Act was meant to level the playing fields. The reality was that some members might even get negative figures from the actuarial calculations. It was clear that the Act had not achieved its intentions. He stressed again that issues had been tabled and although it could not amend the Act, DoD would try its utmost to try to get benefits for all members.
Maj Gen Mollo said that the Deputy Minister of Defence had led a delegation meeting with a number of other role players and the issues of the amounts to be pad out had been discussed.
Maj Gen Mollo stated that a conference was held in 2005, with the aim of trying to establish a single Military Veterans' organisation. All had agreed that the principle was acceptable, but the problem lay in the detail. Some called for a federal organisation, some had problems concerning their assets, and so it was resolved that members must consult their constituencies, and hold their own conferences to elect and give mandates to their own leadership. The Azanian Liberation Army (AZANLA) and APLA had done so, and MKMVA indicated that it would do so this year.
In relation to the issues of health, The DoD had held meetings already with Old Mutual and Sanlam, to investigate how military veterans could be helped. However, insurance companies were business orientated and were essentially not interested in social welfare. DoD would be meeting with MedScheme later in the week. ABSA currently held around R768 million that had been set aside to assist veterans, and their actuaries had also been asked to come up with possible solutions.
Maj Gen Mollo said he could not speak to the remarks on integration of the forces. However, in relation to ranks, he explained that an NSF member would have been allocated a rank by his liberation force. If he then joined the integrated SANDF, he had to appear before the Personnel Register Mobilisation Unit, which comprised representatives of a British brokering team, and representatives from all non statutory and statutory forces. The member would have to do aptitude tests, and show his qualifications and competencies. He would then be interviewed to assess whether his rank was correct. The Unit made a recommendation to the Placement Board, which would then confirm the rank or re-rank him. A member that had demobilised would not have gone through this process and therefore would not have been assigned an SANDF force number, but a certified personnel register number. Only when this had been integrated would he be given a force number and rank. Ranks allocated by veterans' own organisations lay beyond the DoD.
In reply to the Chairperson's question on the database, Maj Gen Mollo said that this was a challenge but it was important to have such a database to service members' benefits, and to facilitate creation of medical benefits. In compiling the database, it was necessary to verify whether the person was a true veteran because of the danger of fraudulent applications for benefits. There were already allegations that many of those befitting were not true veterans. Tracing members was a huge challenge. DoD was trying to get to grips with the challenges and create a database that would issue a credible military veterans' card for accessing benefits.
Maj Gen Mollo said that he could not answer to the question on whether there was sufficient budget, as this was also a political issue.
In relation to the submissions on housing, Maj Gen Mollo said that there was indeed unused land, and obsolete bases, and the Departments of Housing and Land Affairs had been willing to participate in devising workable schemes. The question was whether DoD would have the necessary funding to take this project forward.
In relation to resources, the suggestion had been made by a Member that DoD clearly did have resources, which the veterans did not have. DoD was working to try to resolve the problems. Parliament must also assist. There was a crisis and everyone must engage with each other. Treasury did not have a complete solution and it was clear that political will must be exerted.
The Chairperson noted that there were pleas for medical health schemes and immediate relief to be effected quickly. He cautioned that the veterans had been the architects of democracy and it was not right that they should have to beg the democratic institution they had set up for assistance. He believed the calls for a conference must be supported, and that a constitutional structure of a non racial SAMVA must be set up, and there should be a will by all organisations to do so. The NSF Pension had become "the unattainable carrot". Very few people could afford to buy in, and if they did, it was made very difficult for them to afford it. There had to be will in the institution and the committee and compassion in DoD to make sure that these problems were sorted out. He pointed out that the Committee's recommendations after the public hearing would be conveyed to the Ministers of Defence and Finance and to the full house. It must be noted that the current high economic growth should not be allowed to sideline the real needs.
Mr Montie Lloyd represented GetMed who through their medial aid plan, VetHealth, aimed to become the heath administrator of choice for military veterans, their dependents and victims of war. In addition to VetHealth, GetMed also facilitated economic restitution through training and education as well as work placements.
Ms Daniels thought it important that veterans’ associations informed veterans of VetHealth in order to ensure that the scheme was representative of all veterans.
Mr Lloyd responded that the VetHealth model had not yet been addressed with the “foot soldiers” but had been discussed with the various heads of the different veterans’ associations.
Mr M Booi (ANC) noted that the DOD, who had experience to draw on, had earlier indicated that sometimes medical schemes were interested in making money only. He needed to be assured that the scheme would benefit the veterans. The well-being of veterans had been on the table for the past 13 years. It had been extremely difficult to create unity among veterans’ associations and that end had not yet been achieved. He felt strongly that if all veterans were to benefit from the VetHealth scheme and others, veterans would have to be organised in a clear structure so that benefits could be awarded fairly.
Mr Lloyd explained that the idea for the model had come from the Military Veterans Foundation (MVF) who had asked them to develop it. After presenting it to the Advisory Board on Military Veterans' Affairs (ABMVA) and having started interacting with the Department of Defence (DOD), they realised that the foundation had no representation from the military veterans’ environment. They then developed another model.
Mr Schippers asked whether there was an existing medical aid scheme catering for veterans.
Mr Lloyd responded that GetMed administered four different health solutions that were based on manage care and integrated solutions.
Mr Schippers knew that medical aid schemes relied on member contributions and wondered what sort of contributions veterans would be expected to make. He reminded the delegation that many veterans had no source of income.
Mr Schippers asked whether in the light of the large number of medical schemes that were having financial problems, the scheme was sustainable, and ensured that members would in fact benefit.
Mr Lloyd explained that an actuary was reviewing their models. They would submit supporting documents containing full business plans to the Department.
The Chairperson sought clarity on what the presenter meant when he said that the scheme was in partnership with military veterans.
Mr Lloyd responded that GetMed saw the partnership with the military veterans as a new opportunity. He explained that GetMed aimed to provide shareholding opportunity of up to 60% to the military veterans’ associations. Control of the model should thus lie with the military veterans. They also saw partnership on an employment level that provided the training and employment.
The Chairperson wondered whether veterans’ dependents would also be able to benefit from the scheme.
The Chairperson wondered if the Committee could take it that the philanthropic motivation behind the VetHealth referred to a social responsibility programme.
Mr Lloyd responded that there were many people who were eager to partner with them but they sought proper administration, regulations and membership. VetHealth would seek out such partners.
Major General Solly Mollo raised a number of concerns relating to the presentation. In the DOD’s experience of dealing with other such companies things were often easier said than done. All of these organisations were interested in the bottom-line, which was business. The medical scheme thus had to make business sense. He agreed that the options members would be offered were not clear enough. As far as he was concerned veterans should be able to tell what the cheapest beneficial option was. He said that he did not know enough about the scheme to comment on it but was concerned that there appeared to be so many grey areas.
He wondered what the presenters meant when they spoke of funding that would be received from the DOD. He had been advised that there had been no presentation to the advisory board of the military veterans in 2006. A letter had been sent to the DOD and was meant to have the proposal attached. The DOD had not received the attachment and the letter was with the Minister at present. Once they received the proposal it would be sent to the Surgeon General who dealt with such military veterans’ proposals. The DOD did not know details of the scheme and he could not see how without that information it had been approved.
Mr Lloyd was surprised that the document had not been attached to the proposal. The response they had received from the ABMVA had made no mention of the document not having been attached.
He explained that the attachment contained the same information contained in the presentation that they had just made. It showed a model of the plan they hoped to roll out to the members. Some actuarial calculations of six options had been made.
He explained that these models were not for “pure” medical schemes but were controlled by a managed care process. The health status of individual members would be identified and managed and included a model for access to doctors and medicines. The model had been designed around the traditional military defence way of service delivery. He did not think that one could find a better mode than the one the DOD had used over the years.
In order to provide the managed care option they had to involve providers and infrastructure from both the Government and the private sector. Key providers had been involved and they would be able to get access to medicines at the same price that the military paid.
Major General Mollo also wondered whether the VetHealth was part of the Military Veterans’ Foundation.
Mr Lloyd answered that while the MVF introduced them to the model, they withdrew in December 2006. He could give the reasons for the withdrawal after the meeting.
Major General Mollo wondered where VetHealth envisaged member contributions would be taken from.
Mr Lloyd explained that the fund spoke of contributory and non-contributory members. The fund would not be funded solely by the DOD. They would follow the guidelines laid down by the intent of the Act. Some members would be contributory, while the DOD would look after the non-contributory (particularly the vulnerable) members.
General van Rensburg recommend that the DOD’s staff first undertake detailed staff action so that certain of the claims that had been made could be tested. At that moment the DOD was not able to buy into the VetHealth proposal.
Ms Matsemela wondered how regularly the ABMVA met and how well-informed it was about the veterans’ needs. The presentation raised a number of issues. Veterans needed to be sensitised and realise that they needed to unite to ensure that decisions were not made on their behalf. She wondered what had really been done so far to address the plight of the military veterans.
Mr Booi thought that a fundamental point was whether the DOD supported the idea. The DOD had reservations and he thought that they should be allowed to investigate the matter and then return to brief the Committee.
Brigadier General E Mahlangu, Director: Military Veterans Affairs, DOD, explained that the advisory board was a statutory body appointed by the Minister of Defence in Consultation with the Chief of the SANDF. The board’s term of office had expired in June 2006 and was then extended to November 2006. The board was appointed from the nominations received from the associations, who had at that stage not all had congresses. Once the congresses had been held and nominations had been made the Minister would appoint the new board.
She explained that the Board met once a month but could be called on to advise the Minister at any time. There was also a Standing Committee on Military Veterans as well as a forum of former military veterans from the seven forces that had been established by Lt General Mtanzima. They discussed issues around business ventures and other issues and met on a monthly basis. Veterans Holdings, formerly the Veteran Foundation, was an entity formed by military veterans who were now businessmen and were no longer within the SANDF.
As far as the confusion around the VetHealth presentation was concerned, she pointed out that while the presentation had been made to the Steering Committee it had not been presented to the Advisory Board. The Steering Committee supported that the presentation should go to other forums that included members of the veterans’ structures. She confirmed that the models had never been presented and that the attachment had never been received.
The Chairperson encouraged Mr Lloyd to keep in touch with the DOD so that issues around the attachment could be resolved and the Committee brought up to date.
Council for Military Veterans Organisations Submission
Col Colin Doyle presented the submission which spoke to the transformation of the Council for Military Veterans Organisations, the need to identify vulnerable military veterans and to run developmental programmes. The submission argued for improved medical support and pensions for military veterans.
Mr Booi thanked Col Doyle for his contribution but was concerned about the perception that Government focused its attention on APLA and MK veterans only. This statement was erroneous since Government had always tried to attend to the needs of all veterans.
Ms Matsemela felt that the presentation created the impression that the CMVO had met with the Minister of Defence. She was concerned about the apparent call for an amendment to the Military Veteran’s Act.
Mr Ntuli felt that the Government had been very clear when it said that they would close commandos and make sure that their members were accommodated in the reserves, which would increase the number of reserves. He felt that the non-statutory forces could also be accommodated within their respective reserve forces. This might alleviate some of the problems, such as crime, facing the country.
Mr Booi thought that Major Fihla had made a good point when he said that the term ‘veteran’ should be clearly defined. There were 800 000 military veterans on the DOD database. APLA, AZANLA and MK veterans all had their own histories and he thought that should be taken into cognisance. He felt that these veterans would probably not be included in the CMVO’s proposed definition of ‘military veteran’. These veterans did not register when they joined the various liberation movements. He also wondered where coloured commandos who had been previously been excluded would be accommodated and stressed that it was important to pay attention to the different histories of the different forces.
Col Doyle said that the figures in the submission referred to the number of people who served in the SANDF up to 1994. There were a great number of people who could be deemed veterans.
Mr Schippers wondered why APLA and MK were not listed within the CMVO, and asked whether an APLA member would be allowed to join the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHS).
Mr Doyle said that some APLA and MK members had joined the MOTHS as well as the South African legion.
Ms Matsomela asked how many MK and APLA members were on the database.
Ms Daniels wondered whether South Africa was ready to have a unitary national veterans association when there were still so many outstanding issues within the individual ones.
Mr Diale thought it important to bear in mind that were many people who would claim that they were military veterans. He spoke from experience and felt that unemployment and poverty made people do anything just to have food to eat. He agreed that it was important for the term ‘veteran’ to be defined.
Major General Mollo agreed with Ms Daniels that the fundamental issue was whether South Africa was ready for a unified veterans’ association. To his understanding the CMVO presentation was an attempt to unpack the legislation and to then make a subjective interpretation of what it said.
The submission declared the transformation of the CMVO to the South African Military Veterans’ Federation. One of the fundamental differences at the 2003 workshop had been whether such a structure would be unitary or a federation. The submission suggested that a consensus had been arrived at. It was decided that the different groupings would consult their members and then have a congress so that they could reach an agreement.
He also wondered why the document made no reference to black ex-servicemen. These veterans felt that they were disadvantaged because they had fought for the country but were not taken care of.
Major General Mollo said that Parliament had pronounced itself on the closure of the commandos. The rejuvenation process that was taking place in the DOD was concurrent with the closure of the commandos. The DOD had entered into discussions with the South African Police Service to see whether the veterans from the commandos could be used to beef up the police in an attempt to deal with the escalating crime. The DOD was still in negotiation and the assumption was ill founded.
The document was also not sensitive to the fact that there were members from the liberation movements who had not been included. He felt that the document was one-sided and did not do much to bring unity and was thus very difficult to comment on. Some of the comments made in the document were the very same things that stood in the way of creating the unified association.
He commented that it was not true that the SASSETA catered to the needs of APLA and MK veterans. The CMVO was represented by Lieutenant Porter who was a Project Standing Committee member.
Mr Doyle explained that their perception was that the training was not open to all sectors but limited to APLA and MK.
Mr Ntuli felt that the transformation that had so far taken place at the reserve force level was not reflective of the democracy. He felt that the CMVO could be of assistance on this regard. He said that it was important to take away the suspicions, and this would have to be worked on by the leaders.
Mr Ntuli said that shutting down the commandos would strengthen the reserve force. Non-statutory members should be invited to join the reserves so that they could become more reflective. Organisations should reach out to each other so that post World War II military veterans were not treated as badly as South Africa had treated the black veterans who gad fought in World War II.
Mr Doyle said that SAPS had absorbed few of the commandos and that the current reserve force units had absorbed a relatively small percentage. There were thus quite a number of veterans from the commandos that could be deemed vulnerable.
He thought the fact that all the organisations and the SANDF and DOD had met to debate the issues was good because it had broadened his understanding of certain of the issues at stake.
The Chairperson said that many submissions argued for amendments to the legislation. He drew members’ attention to the provisions related to definitions particularly Section 3(c) of the Military Veterans Affairs Act (1999). He supposed that many of the veterans who had made submissions that day would not necessarily be included in this definition. All submissions would have to be taken into account when the Committee deliberated on the definition of military veteran.
He thanked all present for their contributions and participation and adjourned the meeting until the following day when the Committee would receive two more submissions.