SA: Thabang Makwetla: Address by Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, on the Defence Dept Budget Vote 2022/23 (24/05/2022)

24th May 2022

Honourable Speaker,
Min of Defence and Military Veterans, Min Thandi Modise,
Hon Members of Parliament’s Oversight Committees,
Distinguished guests from all institutions and enterprises of our military establishment

The Department of Military Veterans continues to make significant advances against the huge backlog it commenced its mandate with. The political support of the President through the PTT (Presidential Task Team) as led by the Deputy President was a significant intervention in this regard.

During the year in review DMV registered important success by installing ICT systems assisted by SITA, which will enable the automation of DMV’s business processes. What remains to be done is for employees in the different areas of the Department’s management, to be trained in these technologies. The Department will now strive to migrate the administration of all benefits and services onto this Integrated Data Management System.

Furthermore, the Department is already implementing its own systems in the Corporate Services and Financial Administration sections such as BAS (the Basic Accounting System) and PERSAL (the Personal Salary System). What remains outstanding is the installation of LOGIS (the Logical Information System) as the Department endeavours to fulfil the requirements of being a standalone vote, which it now enjoys. The R133.3 million allocated to program 1, Administration, will among others be utilised to realise the above plans.

Related to this strategic enablers is the pleasing development that the PTT has successfully re-established the verification process of military veterans to relieve the frustration of many, due to their inability to access DMV support because they are not on the data-base. In spite of the teething problems encountered, the verification team has made tremendous progress. In the interest of advancing administrative justice, the PTT has elected to establish an Appeals Committee of the Verification Panel, in order to provide recourse to applicants who may not be satisfied with the rulings of the Verification Panel. The ministry wishes to appeal to all military veterans to lend their support to this work in order for government to ensure that their resources are not abused by those who are intent on defrauding government resources meant for military veterans.

The verification process has also thrown up the urgent need to attend to the call by members of former self-defense-units to be verified and for a credible database of their members to be created. This will necessarily include a determination of the support policy tailored to their needs. It is a matter which our parliamentarians will be expected to deal with expeditiously in order to vanquish fears and anxieties.

Early in this financial year steps were taken by the Department to address non-compliance to protect the Department against corruption, fraud, and maladministration resulting in the suspension of a significant number of the Department’s senior managers. This intervention had the unintended consequence of reducing the managerial capacity of the Department for the greater part of the past financial year, as the departmental hearings of these cases were not prosecuted expeditiously within the stipulated timelines. This matter is receiving close attention.

After a considerable wait, supporting structures to the DMV mandate are being renewed following the disruption occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic to processes and procedures governing their renewal. A new Military Veterans’ Advisory Council has been re-established and its inaugural meeting took place three weeks ago. The process to reconstitute the Military Veterans’ Appeals Board has commenced. The invitation for submissions has been published.

Speaker, it gives me pleasure to report that the responsibility of the DMV to facilitate the unification conference of the MK former members community has been successfully achieved, bringing us closer to the convening of the long awaited renewal of the mandate of the military veterans’ umbrella body SANMVA. The existence of strong, united, well managed, representative, transparent, and accountable military veterans associations is vital and complimentary to the realisation of the mandate of the DMV.

The PTT through the work-streams and Provincial visits, is spearheading the collaboration of DMV and provinces in enhancing services to military veterans. As it was to be expected, the beginning of the process proved to be difficult as officials proceeded to grind the sausage, so to speak. Nonetheless the commitment to find solutions is showing signs of improvement. In the fullness of these interactions it is reasonable to expect that the plans we have tabled may need to be reworked as we work on them. Firm SLAs (Service Level Agreements) with the provinces around housing, health, education, and jobs are bound to lead to a need to revise the projected targets of our tabled plans.

A major pressure point in the needs of military veterans, including those who have received houses but are not working, is the absence of incomes. This still leaves many of them who are unable to find jobs destitute. It is with a sense of relief that work around the introduction of the military veterans’ pension, provided for in the Military Veterans Act, Act no. 18 of 2011, has been concluded under the guidance of the PTT. The administrative roll out of this pension and the legal agreements with GPAA is being finalised. The commencement date will be announced soon. This pension will bring the desired relief to military veterans who were not gainfully employed during their service in the liberation armies and who demobbed without pensions. These will however exclude those military veterans from NSF who are recipients of the Special Pension, unless the amount of the Special Pension an individual receives is below the soon to be introduced military veterans’ pension. In the invent a military veteran receives a Special Pension that is below the Military pension, he or she will be entitled to apply for the difference.

The founding policy of DMV has always been that military veterans are not invalids. Military veterans are citizens who possess skills which they can no longer employ for their incomes, therefore the primary obligation the state has is to re-skill milvets. However, there is a need for us to appreciate that South Africa’s Freedom Fighters against apartheid are in the majority citizens who no longer fall within the economically active population. Emphasis on the training of military veterans must always be based on a diligent enquiry into the appropriateness of the intervention and the existence of such a need. To overlook this reality, may lead to wasteful and fruitless expenditure. Program 3 demands of us to improve planning to minimise arbitrariness of pursuits around training and irregular expenditure.

There are two important strategic imperatives DMV cannot change its output without diligently addressing them. These are the amendments to the Act and the restructuring of the Department. These two challenges shall be addressed urgently. The schedule of the processes of the amendment bill was revised owing to the resignation of the legal officer of the Department of Military Veterans. Assistance has been sourced from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the State-law-advisers office to expedite this work. The structure of DMV submitted with the APPs will be updated upon the completion of the restructuring project.

As I conclude, we should make the point again that the contradictions inherent in the policy of DMV as a department which is understood by some as a department of freedom fighters, and a department which is perceived by others as a department of ex-soldiers, past and present, must not be lost on our radar screen. This is important because this matter is tied to what this department will evolve into with the passing of time. While it may appear to belong to the future, it is at the same time, legitimately, a current matter. The disconnect between DMV and the DOD Human Resource Division constitute a policy and administrative schizophrenia we must address.