/ 11 February 2021

Minister had ‘no interest’ in military veterans’ woes or wisdom

Mama Winnie Mandela Laid To Rest In South Africa
Embattled National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.(Photo by Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

The urge for Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to announce her new advisory council after the previous term of office came to an end last October does not seem too pressing.

Members of the previous council claim their efforts in the past five years to advise the department have gone unnoticed. On Wednesday council members briefed the portfolio committee on defence and military veterans for the first time since they were appointed in 2015. The council was initially established in 2011.

Obbey Mabena, an Umkhonto weSizwe military veteran and a former member of the council, along with fellow ex-members voiced their despondency at serving on the council — whose role in the departmental hierarchy is above the director general and on the same level as the department’s deputy minister.

“I can say here, without any fear of any contradiction, that whatever resources were spent on us, have yielded no results whatsoever to the department,” Mabena told the committee. 

He alleges that the department has failed to serve military veterans.

“The cause of that is we had a minister who had no interest in the resolution of the problems that were confronting military veterans. The appointment of the advisory council to the minister was nothing more than ticking off a box.”

Mabena argues that the Act under which they stood, the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011,  provided that the minister had to appoint a council which she duly did, but it ended there, according to Mabena.  

“In the five years that we have serviced the advisory council to the minister, we have not had more than five meetings with the minister. All the recommendations we made to the minister I can’t remember how many responses we got back,” said Mabena, concluding that an audit of the activities in the department was necessary. 

More members, following Mabena, voiced their concerns. Former council member, Snuki Zikalala, told the committee military veterans “have been failed by our own government” and that policies on education, health and housing, if appropriately managed, could benefit those who deserve it. Another former member, Dudu Phama, argued that if the council wants to be anything more than it has been, the Act must be amended. The deputy minister Thabang Makwetla, however, responded that new council members would be announced soon.

He admitted that the council should have been in place on 1 October 2020 and the Act should have provided regulations on how it should function.