Cape Town - The families of dead soldiers continue to bear the brunt of underperformance by the Department of Military Veterans as they have to wait for at least 30 days before funds are released so they can bury their loved ones.
Briefing the portfolio committee on defence and military veterans on Wednesday on its 2023/24 second-quarter expenditure and performance, the department recorded a cumulative spend of R212 million – 50% of its target R423.4m.
Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla noted with concern the under-expenditure, saying while efforts were being made to improve processes within the department, it was happening slowly.
He singled out the expenditure on burial support for families of dead military veterans.
While this was not the largest chunk of under-expenditure, Makwetla said the impact on families was not recorded in the report.
“You will see that according to the report, (burial payouts) are doing well, it is in green, because payments are made within 30 days. But we all know when death occurs, families that must bury their dead don’t take a month.
“Those monies are needed within very short spaces of time. It is a very stressful exercise to be mourning and at the same time be concerned about how you are going to do the burial.
“We have raised this matter with the department, to the extent that we gave a timeline in which they must come back and table a tender design for purposes of putting in place permanent service providers/undertakers that the department uses to bury military veterans so that we can expedite this support,” said Makwetla.
DA portfolio committee member Maliyakhe Shelembe raised concern over the payout of pensions to military veterans, bemoaning that the department did not have the figures to show many were outstanding.
Last year the government pleaded with military veterans to exercise patience while it tackled obstacles that had delayed the processes that would enable them to access benefits.
In June this year, a group of 2 500 former soldiers demanded a one-off payment of R10.5 billion in reparations. Shelembe said the issue had dragged on for too long.
“They say they are waiting for the report from the relevant department to give them information. When they came to do the presentation (yesterday), they were fully aware that we will be looking at the report.
“As you know, it has been a burning issue for years,” said Shelembe.
Acting director general of the department, retired vice-admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane, said while they were not yet informed about members who were paid via the Government Pensions Administration Agency, the department had transferred R4.8m to the agency in October.