MKMVA members line up outside Luthuli House ahead of anti-Zuma protests. Picture: Siphelele Dludla/ANA
The eThekwini municipality has approved the Military Veterans policy which paves the way for military veterans to be given preferential treatment when it comes to housing allocation, tenders and skills development.

The policy, which is in line with the Military Veterans Act, has been met with mixed reactions with the uMkhonto WeSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) applauding the move while the DA voted against it in council, saying it will only benefit  former MK members.

The policy states that the municipality will consider supporting veterans and their dependants on various areas including access to municipal health services, housing, facilitation of job placement, advice on business opportunities and “any other relevant support”.

“The municipality will amend its supply chain policies to make reference to Military Veterans and prescribe conditions under which set asides may be permissible,” states the policy.

It is, however, silent on the percentage of contracts that may be set aside for veterans. Gumede said the group may be included in the 30% share reserved for locals and youth and in certain contracts.

The policy states that setting asides in terms of contracts will be subject to “the condition that business entities where military veterans have interests must meet the basic requirement”.

Mthunzi Gumede, the spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said there was already a manager dedicated to the affairs of the veterans and the office that will be dedicated solely to the affairs of veterans was being set up.

As per the new policy, the municipality’s housing allocation, skills development and health services’ policies will also be amended to make provisions for this group.

Military veterans are defined in the policy as those people who were part of statutory and non statutory military organisations “which were involved in all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994”. 

It also includes those who served in the Union Defence Force before 1961 and those who joined the SANDF after 1994 but no longer performed military service.

Despite this, DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango believes the policy will end up benefiting only members of MKMVA.

Carl Niehaus

MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus was incensed. “The DA must stop behaving like they are the old National Party. They have to understand that they are part of the new South Africa which was brought about by the sacrifices of the military veterans including members of the MK,” said Niehaus.

Mncwango questioned why military veterans should be prioritised ahead of citizens when it comes to basic services like healthcare.

“All the city is doing is to regularise the wrongdoing by MK as they (MKMVA members) have already forcefully occupied RDP houses, now the city wants to regularise that.”

Niehaus who is a former ambassador to the Netherlands, said the policy was in line with international best practice whereby countries give preferential treatment to military veterans as an acknowledgement of their sacrifices and contribution.

“In Western Europe the veterans have free access to all modes of public transport. In the US the Democrats and the Republicans are competing about who can do the most for military veterans.”

Niehaus said getting preferential healthcare treatment would mean the veterans being allowed to make use of military hospitals. and of the expertise there.

Niehaus, a former MK man who lost 65% percent of his hearing, said many of the freedom fighters had lived in the most horrible conditions in foreign countries and many came back with severe mental and physical ailments. 

“So if they get privileges more than civilians, what is wrong with that?”

 In October last year some former Apla combatants disrupted an executive committee meeting at the Durban City Hall demanding employment while members of MK have occupied houses in Cornubia and Kingsburgh.

Mbulelo Baloyi, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Human Settlements, said the specifications for houses being built for military veterans were different from the normal RDP houses. 

Houses for veterans have 3 bedrooms with a garage, kitchen and lounge area. Thirty of these houses, divided equally between Apla, Azanla and MK veterans have already been built in Pietermaritzburg. Construction has also started in Durban.