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Pretoria - The military veterans department is currently sifting through a database of 57 000 names to verify the identities of members of the former armed forces.
Department director general Tsepe Motumi said on Wednesday the establishment of an umbrella body to represent the different military veterans' organisations was well underway.
It was a statutory requirement following the adoption of the Military Veterans Act, which defined veteran soldiers as those who fought both for the apartheid era SA Defence Force and the liberation forces who fought against apartheid, he told reporters in Pretoria.
The new body would be unveiled after a conference on September 28. Consultations with organisations were already underway.
The organisations included the ANC's Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), the Pan Africanist Congress's Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), Azapo's Azanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA), and soldiers of the former homeland states of Transkei, Ciskei, Venda, and Bophuthatswana.
A database of soldiers, who registered, is being updated and “cleaned up”.
“We have now updates of the details of 14 000 and we did remove some of those who were deceased... some are in what I call a grey area.”
The department was liaising with the department of home affairs to check whether information and names provided on the list did in fact qualify for benefits.
“We are very serious about the integrity of our database and even the integrity of our verification porcess, that if in that process there are individuals who misrepresent themselves... the law will take its course,” Motumi said.
In addition, the department was working with the SA Police Service, the State Security Agency, and the Hawks on possible fraud and corruption cases.
This included investigating people whose names were on the data base but who never served in any army.
It also related to people selling military veterans' benefits.
Motumi said despite the limited budget of only R51 million, they had been able to assist the veterans.
“We have almost 5000 recipients receiving health care at institutions of the SA Military Health Service,” he said.
Houses had been handed over to the first batch of veterans - those who fought in the Second World War.
The department was in continuous talks with provinces and national departments, such as rural development and human settlements.
On Monday's violent protests which saw people claiming to be military veterans storm the Germiston Civic Centre in Ekhuruleni on the East Rand, Motumi said the department would intervene.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula would lead a delegation to Ekurhuleni to meet metro officials and military veterans on Friday.
Motumi condemned the violence that accompanied the protest.
About 50 people were injured, while furniture was damaged and equipment stolen.
“Military veterans, like all the citizens of the country, have a constitutional and democratic right to protest. However, they should do so peacefully and within the confines of the law.”
Violence was not the appropriate way to air grievances.
The department understood the frustrations they had raised.
They said they had been promised basic services, such as houses and jobs by the Ekurhuleni metro, which did not materialise.
“We appeal to those involved in the protest to be calm and exercise restraint,” Motumi said.