Military vets to be reskilled – Zuma

2012-12-06 14:00

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Government will build a heroes acre and a museum, complete with a statue of a soldier, to document the history of military veterans and their contributions to the struggle for liberation, President Jacob Zuma has announced.

Zuma also announced plans to turn the Defence Centre of Advanced Training in Phelindaba, Pretoria, into a training and “reskilling” academy for military veterans who qualify to be taught new skills.

Speaking at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria, Zuma awarded various medals to military veterans and the relatives of veterans who have died.

He urged veterans to record their experiences and stories in exile through books, poetry and films.

Zuma and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki were also acknowledged with the Decoration Medal in Platinum Class II for their roles in the negotiated political settlement that saw the end of the apartheid government in 1990.

Mbeki did not attend the event. The department of defence and military veterans said it had been informed that he would not be able to make it.

Most of the medals were awarded to members of the ANC’s now defunct underground military wing Umkhonto weSizwe, while members from other military wings such as the Azanian People’s Liberation Army of the Pan Africanist Congress would be honoured at a later date.

Zuma called on business, labour, civil society and the media to join government in documenting the “rich and diverse individual and collective stories of our military veterans”.

Since the Military Veterans Act was promulgated in 2011, with over R1.6 billion budgeted to support dependants of military veterans, over 2 000 veterans have received free healthcare services.

Zuma said plans were also afoot to employ about 700 veterans in the department of water affairs’ programmes.

“By these medals we commit to do more to make sure that you (veterans) take your rightful place in our society and history.

“This will mean government should create, with speed, the necessary environment that will enable our veterans to play a meaningful role in the social, economic and political life of our society,” said Zuma.

ANC heavyweights Josiah Jele, Reginald September and Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj received the medals along with Mbeki and Zuma. The medals were also posthumously bestowed on late ANC heavyweights Alfred Nzo, Mzwandile Piliso, John Gaetsewe and Titus Thomas Nkobi.

The Decoration Medal is awarded especially to members of the first national high command of Umkhonto weSizwe who were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island for their role in the Treason Trial and also to members of the subsequent national politico-military commands of Umkhonto weSizwe.

“These leaders distinguished themselves by their death defying spirit of no surrender under perilous conditions, demonstrating exemplary resilience and love for their country.

“They provide a strategic leadership by leading South Africa’s black majority, arms in hand, after more than half a century of colonial conquest, raising the military campaign against apartheid to a level which contributed to the capitulation of former apartheid rulers to a negotiated political settlement in South Africa,” Zuma said.

Other dignitaries included National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu – honoured with the Luthuli Commemorative Medal for “going to exile under perilous conditions” – and slain former South African Communist Party Leader Chris Hani’s wife, Limpho.

ANC stalwart Pallo Jordan, the former minister of arts and culture, also received The Luthuli Commemorative Medal.

Former Home Affairs director-general Mavuso Msimang, as well as Mbeki’s trusted lieutenants in his tenure in the presidency, the brothers Essop and Aziz Pahad, received the Military Veteran’s Platinum Citations III.

ANC MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela also received the Military Veterans Merit Medal in Gold with two others, Fanele Mbali and retired General Sandile Sejake for distinguishing themselves through “exceptional service beyond the call of duty and exemplary leadership at all material times”.

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