More veterans line up for benefits

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A CAMPAIGN by the Department of Military Veterans to update its database so it can provide benefits to former soldiers and cadres seems to have hit a snag as members of the Cape Corps and Namibian ex-combatants came forward unexpectedly to also stake their claim.

The department could miss by more than half its target to integrate its old database of 57 000 veterans with an updated and verified list, with just 20 000 recorded as of last week, according to the department’s national co-ordinator Qondi Jali.

It had hoped to complete the process by next Friday.

The Cape Corps comprising coloured men, mainly from the Western Cape, has a long history. The unit fought in both world wars and was also active as a member of the SA Defence Force during apartheid.

Jali said many of the Namibian veterans held dual citizenship and were coming forward saying they also qualified for benefits.

The Namibians were active during the Namibian War of Independence, also known as the SA Border War, between 1966 and 1988 – a guerrilla war in which the nationalist SWA People’s Organisation (Swapo) and others fought against the apartheid government, at the time in control of the then-South West Africa.

“We are still capturing vets that qualify, those that were in the Certified Personnel Register submitted in 1994 when all formations were coming together,” said Jali.

He said these included forces from the former apartheid homelands, the SADF, Umkhonto we Sizwe, Apla, Union Defence Force members (pre 1961), including those who fought in World War II.

“The project is to update the information that we have. It’s a re-registration and we’re busy compiling a list of people on our database, which is outdated. Some members have (died),” Jali said.

He said during the campaign other veterans, who were not on the register of 1994, had come forward to claim benefits.

“The Cape Corps say they’re not included in the database and also the Namibian forces that fell under South West Africa are saying they qualify. Some have SA citizenship and dual citizenship,” said Jali.

This was one of the operational challenges the department faced.

The veterans have been allocated a preliminary R1.5 billion by the Treasury, which is to be used for socio-economic support.

The Department of Military Veterans intends to roll out benefits for veterans over the next three years.

This came as a result of the Military Veterans Act of last year, which repealed the Military Veterans Act of 1999, and set out benefits for veterans and their dependents.

These include housing and transport subsidies, assistance with health care, bursaries for dependents and skills training for unemployed veterans.

A focus on veterans also became a key aspect of the ANC’s policy discussion on organisational renewal during its policy conference last week.

The party wanted to use veterans to help educate its members, not only on the history of the party but on the character of an ANC member.

ANC sub-committee member and Gauteng secretary David Makhura told journalists the party “will use veterans throughout the country”.

“There’s a critical mass of veterans who are currently out there doing nothing.”


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