Government shoots down demand of one-off R4m payment to military vets Aphiwe Deklerk

Members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association. File photo.

The government has rejected demands by military veterans to have their members paid a one-off R4m each for their contribution to the struggle against apartheid.

Deputy minister of defence and military veterans Thabang Makwetla revealed this during a sitting of parliament’s defence and military veterans portfolio committee on Wednesday.

Makwetla was leading a department delegation, which was meant to brief the sitting on the progress made by the presidential task team set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year after protests by the association.

The task team is led by Deputy President David Mabuza and is meant to look at the grievances of the military veterans, which include complaints about joblessness, lack of housing and nonpayment of other benefits to veterans and their families.

“The critical question which the portfolio committee must be aware of, which preoccupied the task team, was to respond to a demand by military veterans, who marched, that they be given a one-off R4m payout to each of them.

“And of course there was a political rationale that they advanced why they believe they are deserving of that kind of support,” said Makwetla.

He said the issue was difficult for the government to resolve, with veterans staging a sit-in at the Union Buildings.

“It was a matter that took the presidential task team to come to a determination that it was not possible, it was virtually impossible to accede to. However, the need for the financial support just for the upkeep of these military veterans, because many of them are without jobs, was appreciated.”

Makwetla said the task team instead decided to prioritise the payout of the military veterans’ pension, as envisaged by the law.

He said the task team came to the conclusion not to pay the R4m after consulting with various government department.

“It was clear that it was not possible to pay out that R4m,” said Makwetla.

The military veterans began their protests late last year, which included scenes of violence in KwaZulu-Natal.

The groupings are from different veterans’ associations, not just the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, which was the armed wing of the ANC.

By Aphiwe Declerk -TimesLIVE