Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa says he is determined to ensure that military veterans receive respect and are well looked after as much as possible.
“A society like ours, which owes its freedom to the sacrifices made by these gallant sons and daughters of our country, must do everything it can to ensure military veterans and their children are able to enjoy the fruits of the freedom that they helped to bring about.
“These, in the main, are the people who were prepared to sacrifice their lives to ensure the democratic order we have in our country is installed,” Ramaphosa said this when he was responding to questions in the National Assembly.
“We ought to give consideration and respect as well as ensure that we look after their well being as much as we possibly can. This is something I am determined to ensure happens,” he said.
The president noted that the challenges faced by military veterans were many and very complex.
“They will require a common approach from all parts of the government.”
Ramaphosa was speaking on the issues of military veterans following an incident where some members of the presidential task team were held hostage by veterans recently.
The military veterans had lodged complaints in 2020 with the presidency on the perceived failure of the Department Military Veterans to provide services to them.
There was also a grouping calling itself Liberation Struggle War Veterans that marched to the Union Buildings to hand over a memorandum of grievances last year.
This prompted Ramaphosa to form a presidential task team led by Deputy President David Mabuza to engage military veterans on their challenges and grievances.
Ramaphosa said the presidential task team had, since its formation, held several consultative engagements with various military veterans associations and inter-governmental stakeholders.
Much progress has been made on several issues, he said.
Ramaphosa said the review of the Military Veterans Act was ongoing and was expected to be taken for public comment early next year.
“It is anticipated that the amendment bill will be tabled to cabinet and parliament in 2022. The amendment bill will deal with, among other things, the definition of military veterans, policy shift towards non-statutory force members and provision of healthcare, housing and burial benefits where appropriate to dependants and surviving spouses.”
He also said the process of restructuring the department had been initiated with the approval of a service delivery model and the development of a proposed structure.
“The structure is going to be finalised upon completion of the amendment bill to ensure it supports the new mandate of the Department of Military Veterans.
The president said the provincial offices had been capacitated to assist the military veterans at a provincial level.
This was one of the key complaints that military veterans don’t get sufficient service and that we needed to capacitate provincial offices so that they don’t travel all the way to Tshwane to have matters addressed,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that the moratorium on the application for educational support has been lifted and that the department was receiving and processing applications from military veterans and their dependants for educational opportunities.
He said consultations were underway on costing and funding of the pension policy.
“The target date for payment is April 2022.”
The president stated that the verification panel continues with the verification of military veterans who were from non-statutory forces.
“The total number of processed applications on 16 November was 2 549.”
Ramaphosa indicated that the department had developed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and its agencies to assist with the repatriation of remains, erection of monuments in host countries and memorialisation of fallen heroes.
He also said the department had repositioned its skills development and empowerment programme to ensure military veterans participated in all government programmes that created jobs and business opportunities for them.
“The department is forming partnerships with various SETAs and other state organs to assist with skills development programmes,” Ramaphosa said.