MPs sign off on military veterans bill

2011-06-29 17:16

Cape Town - Lawmakers on Wednesday finalised and adopted the military veterans bill, but questions remained about how much it would cost to provide benefits to former fighters and who would qualify.

The state law adviser's office told the portfolio committee on defence, that it would cost an estimated R1.6bn to implement the bill in the current medium-term expenditure framework.

The figure of R6.4bn contained in the memorandum to the bill - already a vast reduction from earlier estimates running into tens of billions - was termed a "typing error".

The correction prompted questions from the opposition as to how the fledgling department of military veterans arrived at the amount.

Director general Tsepe Motumi said the figure was "what Cabinet approved" and conceded that the amount "may go up as we move into full-scale implementation".

There would be a gradual phasing in after the legislation was passed by Parliament and enacted, he said.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said the processing of the bill had been shambolic from the start and it was frustrating that the department had never been able to properly say how much it would cost to implement.

The bill was initially sent back to the department because it had been tabled without costing and was then returned without the issue fully resolved.

Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla argued that an exception had been made because of the difficulty ascertaining the number of ex-soldiers that would be affected.

Maynier asked that his objections on the issue be placed on the record and said the drafting process had been shambolic throughout.

"I'm concerned that the department has never been able to properly brief us about the cost implications and the assumptions therein," Maynier said.

He wanted to know how a figure of R7.4bn provided by Alexander Forbes financial services had shrunk to R1.6bn.

An earlier controversy about whether former apartheid army conscripts would qualify for health, housing and pension benefits under the bill was resolved when Motumi indicated that they would.

"The bill is very clear: if they are veterans and they pass the means test, they will," he told reporters.

Historical lesson

Months ago, statements by Makwetla led the Council of Military Veterans' Organisations to accuse the government of planning to leave white men, who were conscripted into the army by the apartheid regime, out in the cold. The deputy minister later said they would be included,

The bill aims to provide benefits to all former soldiers in the former South African Defence Force, liberation movement armies and ex-armies of Bantustan states.

It remains unclear how many of those who fought in the country's liberation war from 1660 to 1994 would be entitled to state assistance once it becomes law - partly because lists are being updated and partly because the means test has not been defined.

Motumi said that at this point there were 57 500 registered veterans, but the "figure is changing every day" as more came forward.

During the drafting process, the ANC repeatedly warned of the urgent need to address the frustration of those who fought in the liberation movement, but had been left without state assistance.

Makwetla warned that the turmoil in Zimbabwe was a historical lesson in what happened when former freedom fighters were abandoned by the state.

The support of veterans of the ANC's armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe played a crucial role in President Jacob Zuma's accession to the presidency of the ANC in 2007.

Maynier said it was a noble aim to take care of former fighters, but he was not satisfied that the bill provided for "bullet proof" processes to verify whether somebody was a veteran and who his dependants were.

The Democratic Alliance is likely to oppose the bill because of this and because of the confusion about its final cost implications for the country.

  • 50something - 2011-06-29 17:22

    This means nothing until the "means" test has been defined.

  • Gavin - 2011-06-29 17:26

    Just a question, has the government ever paid the moths?

      MrSpiderman - 2011-06-29 17:40

      Gavin, your question should rather be:"Have the government ever paid to the anyone but themselves??"

  • Chewbacca - 2011-06-29 17:27

    Woo hooo! does that mean I can get a grant too now seeing that I was in the army? This will be like a tax refund

  • MrSpiderman - 2011-06-29 17:31

    Me were former SADF memba, andnow me can have moor money from me taxes! Tx Mstr Makwethla!! Just to remiend you.. my Gran is stil alife after bing ina consenstration camp in somewhier 1930's. Can she olso get som money two? My ma siad too billion would do, as loooong as I got sum lego! Much oblieget! (SIC)!!!

  • Peter - 2011-06-29 17:47

    Now we have to compensate the terrorist who killed our brothers and fathers.. What bull!The means test would be the number of off spring and the lack of brain cells and we also know that theses are predominantly cadafirs!

      Greybeard - 2011-06-29 21:23

      CADAVER - i.e. deceased person. Note the spelling.

  • Roger - 2011-06-29 17:49

    any person who was in the SADF, or "weather force" does not qualify for any of this. Correct me if I am wrong.

      MrSpiderman - 2011-06-29 17:57

      Depending whether you were "liberated". Then you are included!!

      Roger - 2011-06-29 18:27

      I did not choose to serve in the military, and the alternatives were not that rosy either.

  • Kleinjan - 2011-06-29 18:04

    Freedom fighters? Exactly when and where did the big battles take place and how many fought and died there? But I understand why they want benefits....They died in the millions waging a conventional war...

  • Eric West - 2011-06-29 18:07

    So, now every unemployed jig will be able to claim to have been a "freedom fighter"? Just another scam to bleed the white taxpayers dry!

  • Gorilla - 2011-06-29 18:19

    "War Vets" - Sound familiar anyone?

      MrSpiderman - 2011-06-29 18:22

      Shit, have to take the dogs tomorrow! Thanks for reminding me!

  • Anonymus - 2011-06-29 18:24

    strange you had to be a terrorist to qualify for this.

  • FFS - 2011-06-29 18:44

    This bill is worded to specifically EXCLUDE all national servicemen (conscripts) who ever served in the SADF. The bill serves to hand out money to former terrorists and murderers, with a provision for former permanent force members of the SADF, just to satisfy the inevitable claim that it is racist in it's very nature. So any ex-SADF conscripts.....there is nothing in it for you. It's mostly for those who planted bombs in Wimpy's and slaughtered worshipers in churches.

      Pur - 2012-01-11 12:33

      "The bill aims to provide benefits to all former soldiers in the former South African Defence Force, liberation movement armies and ex-armies of Bantustan states." It INCLUDES National Servicemen, provided they pass the means test.

  • JIKELA - 2011-06-29 19:13

    When Mugabe could no longer pay the "war vets" from the fund he had set up because he and his cronies had bled/stolen it dry he offered them land and told them to take it as and how they pleased and so this is really how the rot in Zim started. BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID.....

  • Denzil - 2011-06-29 19:19

    If you work out the figures they are giving R28000 to each Soldier. But then again what about Administration Costs .... we all know that is the bulk cost approx 70% of the costs. Therefore each soldier will only get R8300 ...

  • Stanley Black - 2011-06-30 07:58

    As a South African this is an issue that I feel is not given the attention it should. It need everyday South Africans to formulate opinions on it and for those opinions to be debated and commented on as a society. is somewhere you can do all that, go check it our submitting and commenting is easy and requires no registration.

      cliveroger.belling - 2012-12-22 18:21

      Hi Stanley, Can you tell me if you have heard any further "rumours" re this matter. Reading the comments, this sounds like a pretty volatile and emotional subject. Regards Clive

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