29 September 2013
Venue: Birchwood Conference Center
Comrades, 5 years ago we met in Booysens. Johannesburg to consider and finally agreed to structure ourselves into a united force of military veterans. That was not easy, because we were strangers to each other, and came together from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. We were former combatants meeting for the first time outside our uniforms, in attempts to extend a hand of solidarity to each other.
However, we were prepared to surmount that which divided us, and unite to ensure that the dignity of military veterans is restored, that they are acknowledged, memorialized and given all the benefits that befits people who stood at the forefront of conflict, to bring to an end, an order that was proclaimed a crime against humanity, while our other compatriots, equally stood in defence of that order.
We met knowing fully well that the level of mistrust raging between us, informed us with different perspectives, on why we should meet and declare the unity of the military veterans. Then, without doubt the perspectives that informed us, were laden with doubts, misgivings and fears of betrayal. But we persisted with courage as South Africans, and ultimately succeeded, to cement the bonds between ourselves as individuals, and as representatives of the formations we represented.
From the onset, we had organizational culture differences, we experienced different values, we observed different traditions, and did not really see things from a similar angle. We could only endure our differences up to a certain point, as we also had to differ on many instances. But we learnt to respect the value th29at was brought to the table by each constituent formation, and treasure the wisdom that was contributed in our deliberations by each individual in our leadership collective.
The past 5 years, indeed has been instructive and taught us, amongst many other lessons, the important lesson that we as military veterans, former adversaries, and comrades in a bloody conflict, today must stand to unite, symbolise, uphold and promote peace and peaceful development in our society. As we stood to carry and operate weapons of war in the past, we proceeded to set on a path to shake hands and start to look at our world with the same eyes, and the same understanding.
We have learnt in the past 5 years that it is not just necessary and important to live with each other, but we must build bridges amongst ourselves, and even beyond ourselves as a powerful display and honour of the new struggle for peace, unity and prosperity in South Africa, and beyond the borders of our country. We would like to believe that regardless of the challenges we met, we carried out the mandate of our founding conference, and the lessons we learnt in practice, with commitment and experienced clearly satisfactory outcomes.
However, as successes increase, we also see the dangerous potential of divisions trying to emerge within our constituent member associations. We have tried to analyse this unwelcome trend and realized that, it has become a sub-culture for those who are defeated in our democratic practices, to attempt to seek power by all means, even outside the democratic principles that guide us as military veterans. We have also realized that poverty and in some instance, simple greed drive people to defy democracy in attempts to seek what they perceive as an easy way forward to feed themselves, and not serve the military veterans.
But we believe, the proper and full implementation of the new Military Veterans’ Act , 18 of 2011, will go a long way in assisting us to resolve the socio-economic needs of military veterans, and therefore, decrease the temptation to fight for power for personal reasons at all costs. We must never allow the temptation of myopic short term gains, to destabilize the movement of military veterans. Our cause is greater in the society, in our region, the continent and indeed, the world.
That we as forces which were ranged against each other in war, are able to come together, uphold and promote peace, is a legacy that we should jealously guard and be proud of, not merely for ourselves, but in the main, as an investment we are making to contribute towards our society, to treasure peace in our country, and acknowledge that great sacrifices were made to attain it. Our role as military veterans, is to promote unity, peace, tolerance and the respect of democracy and the upholding of the Constitution of the Republic.
Comrades, when we came together on September 2008, we have had a number of Ministers of Defence, and Deputy Ministers of Defence, who were supposed to have been responsible for the needs of military veterans. But we cannot vouch that they were sensitive to our needs. Not until the African National Congress 2009 reconfigured administration, which upon its establishment, introduce