Part-time Soldiers should be considered as Military Veterans

Conscripted or part-time soldiers (Citizen / Reserves Force) will not be considered as Military Veterans in South African in future! Irrespective if they have been involved in conflict losing comrades or being wounded. Should they should look after themselves and not the government?
We, the citizens of S.

A. are extremely concerned and disappointed that the definition of a Military Veteran given by Mr Makwetla, the Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, when addressing the Parliamentary Committee on 25th May 2011 deviates from the definition in the initial Bill. Having seen the newspaper reports, PMG summary and minutes of that meeting it appears that conscripts and Reserve Force members are no longer be considered to be part of the Defence Force!  Thus they will not be considered as Military Veterans in South Africa. This is contrary to the definition used by the World Veterans Federation and United Nations.

 The definition of Military Veterans has been discussed at various levels culminating with a final one submitted in the Bill which was discussed as part of the public debate. In no documents that the CMVO could find, was this brought up or contested. Now at the final stages of the Bill going to Parliament, the definition has changed dramatically, without consultation. The conscripts and Reserves (at times) are referred to as;

  • “Members of the non-statutory forces and permanent members of the SANDF had served on a full-time basis and were not comparable to conscripts”,
  •  “excluded from the list of members submitted by the SANDF during integration”,
  •  “not deserving of further assistance by Government”,
  •  “Conscripts were not subjected to the same responsibility as the permanent members of the Defence Force and should not be entitled to the same benefits”,
  •  “National conscription does not make a person part of the defence force”,
  •  “apartheid-era conscription “disciplinary upliftment of the youth” but of a temporary nature, etc.

 It appears that this Bill is now only for those that fought on a permanent basis in the Liberation struggle. So that should mean only permanent SADF, MK and APLA members. This excludes Transkei, Ciskei, Boputshwana, Venda Defence Forces and AZANLA. It will also exclude the WWI, WWII and Korean soldiers. It further excludes all the ex SADF Coloured, Black and Indian members as very few of them were permanent – mostly on short term contracts. This is not in the interests of uniting the Military Veterans in South Africa.

 There are many Military Veterans who are recognised by the current Military Veterans Act 1999, who will now be no-longer Military Veterans. It was in fact Past President Nelson Mandela that ensured that this Act was promulgated.  Organisations that have already been recognised will now have to change their membership, including SACCMVA etc.

 To say that “Conscripts”, of whom there were many hundreds of thousands, were not part of the then SADF is an insult to these loyal white male citizens, who more than any other group in South Africa suffered under the Apartheid Regime, in view of the fact that they were discriminated against by law, and forced to undergo compulsory military service. Many of these SADF members suffered immense hardships by being compelled under the threat of being incarcerated, to serve in operational areas, including Namibia and in the Townships of South Africa. To this day many of these soldiers suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms that prevent them from functioning as normal citizens. They are deserved of equal treatment in this matter.

 This approach is also an insult to the current Reserve Force volunteers of the SANDF, of whom over ninety percent are black. To claim that theses members of the SANDF are not equal as soldiers is discriminatory.

 We call on the Government to either:

  • Stay with the definition as already discussed in the Bill    OR
  • To reopen discussions on this matter before this Bill is taken to Parliament