Venue: Birchwood Conference Centre, Ekurhuleni
President of the RSA and the Patron in Chief of the Military Veterans, Cde JG Zuma
Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Cde Thabang Makwetla
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Defence
President and the leadership of SANMVA,
Leaders of the various Military Veterans Associations
Secretary for Defence,
Chief of Defence and Leadership of the SANDF
Military Attache’s resident in our country
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am truly humbled to be given an opportunity to be part of this historic and defining moment in the history of military veterans in general and the DMV in particular. The establishment of the umbrella Association that will represent the military veterans nationally is a testament that the Military Veterans community and the DMV have now reached the crossroads. A qualitatively new era for both the country and the military veterans is about to dawn.
This conference takes place against the backdrop of the country celebrating 20 years of hard-won freedom.
The 20 years of freedom reminds us as a nation that it would not have come about had it not been for the bravery, courage, and sacrifices made in the liberation struggle by amongst others most men and women gathered here today. Be they from MKMVA, APLAMVA and AZANLAMVA. The country would not be where it is today had it not been for the individual and collective contribution of military veterans across the spectrum to reconciliation, peace and nation building. It stands to reason therefore that, our freedom and democracy will remain meaningless if it does not give effect to addressing the political, social and economic needs of the military veterans in a decisive, meaningful and sustained manner.
It is for that very reason that the Constitution of the RSA in its very opening statement boldly asserts
“We the people of South Africa; Recognise the injustices of the past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country.”
Programme Director, therein lies the historic and strategic importance of the new umbrella Association that the 600 delegates gathered here today have come to establish.
Over the past 19 years of our freedom and democracy, various initiatives have been undertaken to deal with the myriad of challenges facing military veterans. Initiatives such as the building of houses, provision of medical services, educational support, burial support, etc. have been undertaken. However all these were done by and large in a sporadic and uncoordinated manner. Thus their impact was not to be as visible as desired.
The establishment of SANMVA in 2008 marked a significant step recognising the need for unity and coordination in addressing and advocating for matters affecting military veterans. Many lessons could be learnt from that history which could be utilised in establishing building and consolidating the new umbrella body that is to be established.
Critical for the umbrella Association would be what are the lessons learnt that could be borrowed? What that is obsolete that should be discarded? and last but not least, What is new that should be creatively infused to make sure that the new Association becomes a vibrant, democratic, legitimate and representative voice, and an accountable parliament of military veterans that enjoys their unwavering trust and confidence at all times? An association that will steadfastly and consistently live up to its expected role particularly as stipulated in the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011. (Act)
Section 7 of the Act in particular, mandates the Department of Military Veterans, (DMV) in particular it enjoins the Director General:
- a) To establish a body which is to be an Association representing Military Veterans’ organisations nationally.
- Must in conjunction with Military Veterans’ organisations create mechanisms to ensure that the association serves as an umbrella structure representing Military Veterans’ organisations.
- The mechanisms contemplated in subsection (2) must at least result in the association –
- Representing Military Veterans in a fair manner;
- Conducting its business in a fair, transparent and accountable manner;
- Holding free, fair and regular elections; and
- a) A Military Veterans’ organisation is not obliged to join the association.
b) A Military Veterans’ organisation contemplated in paragraph (a) may engage the Minister or other persons or structures established or referred to in in this Act, provided such organisation is recognised by the Minister as a non-governmental organisation or association established in respect of Military Veterans that lawfully represents the interests of Military Veterans.
The critical questions that conference ought to ask are: How will we ensure that the umbrella Association gives real meaning to unity amongst military veterans? How will it ensure effective, efficient and accelerated delivery of benefits to all military veterans? How will it ensure fairness in how it conducts its business? How will it ensure inclusivity of military veterans in all its processes? How will it ensure accountability and good governance? How will it ensure the building of good working relations with the DMV and government at large? How will it enhance partnership with all the various stakeholders?
I am told that over the past month extensive consultations have taken place with all the various Associations of military veterans which culminated in a two-day workshop that was held on the 17th and 18th September 2013 at Birchwood where matters pertaining to the constitutions were discussed.
I am also informed that in order to enhance inclusivity and transparency about the process, the DMV made of a lot of media and communication interventions such as print and electronic adverts, interviews by the DG supported by the officials, as well as engagements with all those who may be outside the SANMVA processes, all with the view of ensuring that all military veterans are informed about this conference and could take part.
It has also come to my attention that despite these efforts some are still dissatisfied about this process. The Ministry door remains open at all times to deal with these concerns so as to ensure that all military veterans take part in shaping the destiny.
The umbrella association should build on all these and work closely with the DMV in ensuring that we all live up to the vision of a “dignified, unified, empowered and self-sufficient military veterans community”:
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are challenging and yet exciting times. This year during my budget vote speech I announced that R300 million has been set aside for this financial year to ensure delivery of benefits for military veterans.
I am saddened by the fact that the money allocated has not yet been disbursed to the DMV due to the fact that there are certain policy matters including the Regulations that ought to be resolved with the National Treasury for the money to by transferred. The Ministry is giving priority attention to making sure these matters are resolved as matter of extreme urgency. We cannot delay this matter any further as these delays are proving too costly both in social, political economic terms.
Alongside we are also steaming in building the capacity of the DMV to deliver. All posts are being filled with speed. Priority attention in this regard is being given to the filling of provincial coordinators so that the services can be brought closer to military veterans. By the end of the financial year no post will be left unfilled and priority in this process is given to military veterans.
By the end of this financial year the Appeals Board as well as the advisory Council will be established.
Programme Director, despite the challenges that we are having, we are making steady yet important progress in delivering some of the benefits.
To date we have been able to achieve the following:
- About 14000 files have been updated and verified in our database we have exceeded our target of providing access to free medical services to military veterans by over 100%.
- The target for this year was to provide 2000 military veterans with access to free medical. To date we have almost 4853
- In the past financial year we provided 100 military veterans and their dependants with bursaries. The number has been increased to 200 for this financial year 2013/2014.
- The DG of Department of Water Affairs has signed the MOU for the provision of 92 jobs for military veterans
- The Department of Environmental Affairs has provided for 800 jobs for military veterans and the placement of MV’s is already underway
- The process of signing other MOU’s with service delivery departments such as Defence, Public Works, Health Education, Education, Transport, Forestry and fisheries etc. to create business and job opportunities are also underway. MOU with Departments such as those of Energy on installation of solar geysers.
- In conjunction with the Department of Justice and Constitutional development we have been able to undertake the reburial of ten soldiers who fell in various battles during the liberation struggle. More reburials are planned to ensure that we finally bring closure of that painful chapter to the families.
- Last year we were able to have three medals parades to honour almost 500 founding members of MK as part of its 50th anniversary.
Our key deliverables in this financial year included the following;
- Erection of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier
- Creation of no less than 2000 job opportunities by rolling out the MOU’s we have signed
- Provision of health care services to no less than 5000
- Completion of the verification process and completion of the creation of a reliable and credible database of military veterans
- Building of no less that 505 houses for military veterans working in partnership with the DHS
I hope the establishment of the umbrella Association will go a long way in helping to rapidly increase the pace of delivery of these benefits to all deserving military veterans. Furthermore, ensuring access to benefits as well as service delivery to military veterans will require the building of partnerships and working together between the government, business, labour, civil society and perhaps most importantly the military veterans as represented by their Associations as well as the new umbrella Association that will be established through this conference.
I thank you.