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Remarks by Deputy President of RSA, H.E David Mabuza, an address of Military Veterans in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla. Our Esteemed Military Veterans.
Government Officials.
Members of the media, Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Good Morning,
 
We were supposed to have in our midst here today, the Premier and the Executive council of the Province. However, due to an NCOP activity, of taking Parliament to the people, which had been planned and scheduled for-a while back, we agreed and accepted the apology tendered by the Premier, and allowed her to represent us in that occasion.
 
To start with, let me welcome all of you, and thank you for honouring this occasion. Your participation in this meeting is a demonstration of your commitment to see to it that challenges faced by our military veterans, are speedily resolved.
 
As your Government, we rely on your input and guidance, to employ the most prudent interventions, without undue delays.
 
Today, I look forward to a fruitful meeting with you, where we can have open discussion with each other, about what needs to be done in order to overcome the many challenges faced by military veterans.
 
I take this engagement and your presence here very serious, because this is an opportunity for us put in place, measure to restore the dignity of our heroes and heroines, who sacrificed everything to ensure that all of us can enjoy the freedom that we have today.
 
Today, we enjoy the fruits of democracy, which has been achieved at the back, sweat and limb of those of you who stepped froward, and to fight the draconian apartheid regime.
 
In the process, many of you lost opportunities to go to school and to seek gainful employment, and as a result, were left lagging behind in every aspect of life. You didn’t have an opportunity to start families.
 
You were not paid a salary and as a result, didn’t have an opportunity to join medical aid schemes and to build-up pension reserves, all because you.

We made the honourable choice to defend your people and your country against a violent and destructive apartheid regime.
 
It is for this reasons that our Government shall remain committed, to providing care to the Heroes and Heroines of our struggle for liberation. 
 
It is our responsibility to ensure that our military veterans have access to adequate health facilities, decent pension, housing and equitable access to education for themselves and their dependents.
 
This meeting was supposed to have happened a while back, around July to be exact, but kept being postponed because, as we were told, the Department of Military Veterans had a dispute with a company that it had contracted to handle its transport needs, and as a result, couldn’t transport to this occasion, its own staff as well as military veterans themselves.
 
As indicated earlier, our Government remains committed to ensuring that military veterans are assisted to lead a normal life. It is for this reason that we have enacted the Military Veterans Act number 18 of 2011, through which the Department of Military Veterans was established.
 
The sole purpose of this department is to facilitate the delivery of services and the opening of opportunities for military veterans.
 
It is therefore fundamental for the Department of Military Veterans to be staffed with personnel that is 100% committed to the service of Military Veterans. There cannot be any room in this Department, for employees that have no empathy with the plight of military veterans.
 
You will recall that the President established the Presidential Task Team, following complaints about the inadequate service by the Department of Military Veterans, that he had received from you. We are here today, to present an approach that has been adopted, and to get your guidance on how, in your view, we should proceed with this assignment.
 
Having analysed the myriad of challenges faced by military veterans, and in view of the observed inability of the Department of Military Veterans to adequately dispense services to military veterans, the Presidential Task Team resolved to establish seven Workstreams, through which it aimed to streamline specific service delivery packages to military veterans; these are;
a) The Legislative Review Workstream: which in the main, is meant to assist with the review of the current military veterans act and to bring about an act that is more responsive and supportive of current challenges.
b) The Pension and Benefits Workstream, which is meant to investigate and propose a new pension regime that will be capable of identifying the different needs of military veterans.
c) The Database Verification, Cleansing and Enhancement Workstream; which is meant to give one more opportunity for veterans who may for one or other legitimate reasons, have been left out during the integration process.
d) The Heritage, Memorialization and Burial Support Workstream; which is meant to identify and propose specific projects aimed at memorialising and repatriating our martyrs.
e) The Socio-Economic Support Workstream; which is meant to assist military veterans to access both social and economic support packages.
f) The Organizational Redesign Workstream; which is meant to propose a realigned organizational structure capable of articulating the objects of the Military Veterans act.
g) The Communication Workstream, which is meant to resuscitate the capacity of the department of military veterans to communicate timeously and effectively with military veterans about all matters that affect the livelihoods of military veterans.
 
Our visit here today is therefore part of our provincial outreach program, for us to listen to you, and to learn of your experiences and struggles, and to ascertain from you, the extent to which you are able to access benefits that are prescribed for you in the current Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011.

You are the 8th Province that we are visiting, having already visited and engaged with military veterans in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, and the Western Cape.
 
Through these visits, we want to learn more from you, about the lives and the vast challenges that you face on a daily basis, but also, to share with you, our attempts to put in place, measures to mitigate those challenges.
 
I cannot emphasise more, the important role that needs to be played by military veterans associations in ensuring that military veterans receive the care and benefits that they are entitled to.
 
In this regard, we must register our concerns about the mandate of the South-African-National-Military-Veterans-Association (“SANMVA”), which has for a while now, expired. It is important for the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans, to urgently work towards getting SANMVA to conference, where its mandate can be renewed.
 
This will in turn enable the smooth participation of military veterans as is envisage in the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011, where the dictum “nothing about us without us”, can truly find expression, and thereby, minimise the misunderstandings and misalignments of priorities that often arises in situations where solutions are contrived far away from the people that they are meant to benefit.
 
As I conclude, I must confirm that the new military veterans pension that has been approved by the Presidential Task Team, will be dispensed as soon as the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans finalises the pre-requisite regulations. We are aware of the gap that this pension is urgently required to plug, but call on our military veterans to bear with the Ministry, which is currently seized with the task.
 
The Presidential Task Team is ready to give the Department of Military Veterans all the support it needs to mobilize additional resources that are required to dispense the services that are promulgated in the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011, to the military veterans community.
 
It is therefore incumbent on the Department of Military Veterans, to be aware at all times of the size of the budget that they require to support projects that are meant to benefit Military Veterans in a given financial year.
 
There is no acceptable reason why these Heroes and Heroines of the struggle must be made to wait endlessly, for something that is already enacted in an Act of Parliament.

It is our duty and commitment to ensure that the Department of Military Veterans and the various spheres of our Government, dispense services to Military Veterans.
 
We must therefore work with speed and with added vigour, to ensure that everyone employed to serve military veterans, does so efficiently.
 
In everything that we do for military veterans, they must be consulted and involved, for, it is them that we seek to serve. They are the ones who selflessly fought to bring about the freedom that we enjoy today.
 
I thank you.