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Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans briefing on welfare of Military Veterans

Members of the Media, fellow South Africans.

We have called this briefing today to provide an update on the issues which unfolded overnight.

This group of military veterans we were engaging with last night have been engaged by government over the past 11 months in spite of the existence of recognized military veterans’ associations in the interests of reaching out to the broader section of veterans.

Introduction

Since 1994, the democratic government has placed the legitimate concerns of Military Veterans at the heart of its policy interventions. This recognises and acknowledges the immense contribution these men and women made to the liberation of South Africa. The issues and concerns of Military Veterans received even sharper focus by Presidential proclamation in 2009 when the Department of Military Veterans was brought into existence. The legislation giving life to this department was finalised with the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011 proclamation in December 2011. According to the legislation, the DMV is supposed to facilitate and coordinate 11 benefits that accrue to Military Veterans (MVs).

To facilitate this objective, military veterans’ associations where officially recognised and an umbrella body was established called South African National Military Veterans Association (SAMVA).

Ordinarily government engages from time to time with recognized structures of military veterans’ associations including through their umbrella body, the SAMVA.

The DMV has consistently been appealing to the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV) grouping to register themselves with the DMV in order to facilitate better engagements with them.

The progress in this work was staggered and in November 2020 a group of veterans under the banner of the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV) organization marched to the Union Buildings in protest about the services they are receiving from government.

President Cyril Ramaphosa established a Presidential Task Team (PTT) to address the issues raised by veterans over time. The President assigned the Deputy President of the Republic Mr David Mabuza to lead this task team. As early as November and December 2020, the Deputy President held extensive discussions with the military veterans and their associations to assess and hear their grievances. The result was the development of a consensus document which laid out a series of mutually agreed areas needing attention.

The meeting held last night was at the request of the LSWV and the Deputy President as the head of the PTT requested the Minister in The Presidency, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and the Deputy Minister to meet with the group. 

Progress, consultations and feedback

The work of the PTT has proceeded well and has delivered on its commitment to continuous engagements with military veterans in a bid to resolve issues raised.

As part of this process, the PTT has already held three provincial consultations in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo with visits to other provinces in the advanced planning stages. These sessions were led by the Deputy President and afforded veterans and opportunity to air their concerns but also to receive feedback on the manner in which their grievances have been taken up by the PTT.

We are able to confirm that our understanding is that all the parties were appreciative on the work that has been done to date.

A lot has been put in place with clear time lines on what is being done and still to be done. We can confirm some the work done to date which includes the following:

• A draft bill to amend the Military Veterans Act to deal with some of the discrepancies in the bill such as the definition of the Military veteran; provisions of healthcare benefits to the dependents of military veterans, and means tests criteria.
• The review of the Special Pension Act.
• The development of the Pension Policy.
• Work around the Presidential pardons and expungement of criminal records on some of the members.
• Social relief of distress and the housing for their members.
• Involvement of some of the members in the socio-economic activities.
• Repatriation of the remains of military and the erection of the monuments in the host countries and memorialization of fallen heroes.
• Support on education of the children of the combatants.
• Provision of land for farming and human settlement.

At all stages of this process feedback has been provided to veterans. In April 2021, a specific session was held with the Liberation War Veterans organization to provide an update chaired by the Deputy President.

Review of the Military Veterans Act

In as far as Legislative Review is concerned, a Draft Bill proposing necessary amendments to the Military Veterans Act of 2011 has already served before the PTT in its first draft and referred back for further inputs to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. It is the amendment of this legislation which will enable improvements in how many services are offered to veterans. Once relevant consultations are concluded this will need to go through the relevant process and Cabinet prior to becoming law.

Socio-economic support

We wish to acknowledge that a lot of work still needs to be done in this area. The intervention by the President to involve Premiers in coordinating  government programmes will go a long way in coordinating efforts to support veterans.

On the contentious issue of decent housing raised by Military Veterans, delivery of housing and rescue of distressed mortgages is on-going under the current legislative and regulatory provisions. The DMV has noted the matter of dealing with mortgage bonds above the department threshold.

The issue is addressed in the draft amendment Bill. The DMV will comply with the policy of human settlement through the MoU review process which is currently advanced.

Data base verification, cleansing and enhancement

A panel of verification has been established chaired by Major-General (ret) Mashoala. To date, a total number of processed applications as at September 2021 stands at 2 152.

The process of verification has not been without challenges as a significant number of applicants have not presented themselves for verification. The contact information they have left with the Verification team has not enabled the Secretariat to contact them. We take the opportunity of reminding all those who have submitted applications for verification to contact the verification workstream via the DMV for the dates of their verification sessions.

Heritage and Memorialisation

On-going engagements are being held with the Department of Arts and Culture and its agencies such as SAHRA, NHC, and Freedom Park. A MoU will be put in place between the two departments. We also report that the Matola Raid Memorial Site in Mozambique, SOMAFCO in Tanzania, and Kaweweta in Uganda have already been in established.

Conclusion

Over and above the Deputy President has undertaken provincial visits to meet with the Provincial Military Veterans Associations and Provincial Governments to asses some of the projects, the last of which was in Limpopo Province in June 2021.

The engagements between government and the military associations have thus far been productive and cordial even though discussions have been difficult.

Therefore, there was no reason for this group to act in an unlawful manner as it transpired last night.