Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele says government is going to great lengths to address the issues faced by military veterans in the country.
Gungubele was leading a media briefing of the Presidential Task Team (PTT) on Military Veterans to update the public on government interventions and the comprehensive approach to address the challenges faced by military veterans.
This comes after 56 suspects – believed to be military veterans – were arrested after allegedly holding Gungubele; the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise and her Deputy Thabang Makwetla hostage in Tshwane on Thursday evening.
Gungubele said as part of the PTT, Deputy President David Mabuza has been holding extensive discussions with military veterans and their associations in a bid to resolve the challenges.
“The engagement between government and the military associations has thus far been productive and cordial, even though discussions have been difficult. Therefore, in our view, there was no reason for this group to act in an unlawful manner as it transpired last night.
“The work of the PTT has proceeded well and has delivered on its commitment to continuous engagements with military veterans in a bid to resolve issues raised. We are able to confirm that our understanding is that all the parties were appreciative of the work that has been done to date,” Gungubele said.
According to Gungubele, some of government’s interventions for military veterans to date include:
- A draft bill to amend the Military Veterans Act to deal with some of the discrepancies in the act such as the definition of a military veteran; provisions of healthcare benefits to the dependents of military veterans, and means tests criteria.
- The review of the Special Pension Act.
- The development of the Pension Policy.
- Work around the Presidential pardons and expungement of criminal records for some of the members.
- Social relief of distress and the housing for their members.
- Involvement of some of the members in socio-economic activities.
- Repatriation of the remains of military members and the erection of the monuments in the host countries and memorialisation of fallen heroes.
- Support on education of the children of the combatants.
- Provision of land for farming and human settlement.
Other interventions still being undertaken include more socio-economic support, a verification of the military veterans’ database and matters related to heritage.
Modise said government is still open to “hear every military vet” and engage their grievances.
She dismissed any suggestions that their lives felt threatened during the hostage ordeal.
“We are willing to go to any length to hear concerns of any citizen. I am prepared to have a meeting with any military veterans…including this grouping. We should be proud as South Africans that we can sit amongst our veterans…We did not feel in any danger,” she said.
However, Modise strongly condemned the incident and said she was “uncomfortable” with being held against her will.
“We were unhappy about being refused to leave when the meeting clearly had aborted. We do not think that any citizen, whether they had volunteered to fight for the liberation of this country, has any right to interfere with any individual.
“Every citizen, every South African, has the right to sit, to walk where they want and therefore, no legitimate demand of any citizen gives that citizen the right to deprive other citizens,” she said.
Modise said she will instruct her department to open an investigation into where resources meant for the benefit of military veterans have ended up.
“I am upfront with saying that with the amounts of resources poured into the Department of Military Veterans, our military veterans should be better off than where they are now.” – SAnews.