Military Veterans Affairs Bill: briefing.
JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE
1 September 1998
MILITARY VETERANS AFFAIRS BILL: BRIEFING.
Documents handed out at the meeting:
Military Veterans Affairs proposed structure organogram
Memorandum from Adm Bakkes
Military Veterans’ Affairs Bill 1998: revised draft
The briefing was given by Rear Admiral L Bakkes who was accompanied by Advocate Mjalie from the Department of Defence’s legal department. The meeting was to update the Committee on revisions made to the proposed bill as well as to obtain feedback from the Committee in order to gather whether the drafters were on the right track. Admiral Bakkes pointed out that the President had accepted the position of Patron in Chief.
At the previous briefing to the Committee in June, the Committee said that the proposed Bill was far too long (see minutes to meeting on 8 June 1998). Further questions were also raised whether indeed legislation was needed to regulate the affairs of the Military Veterans’ structure. The Admiral said that after discussions with various departmental officials and provincial veterans associations, it was agreed that they would feel more comfortable if there existed regulating legislation. Furthermore the present Defence Act, would not be sufficient to address the establishment and regulation of a Military Veterans’ Affairs Council. (Note: in previous proposals, the "Council" is referred to as "Commission" and the Committee had suggested the change.)
In terms of cost for the establishment of a Council of Military Affairs (proposed by the Bill), the only cost incurred would be the appointment of members, and this would not exceed R150, 000 - R200, 000 per annum. The office of the Military Veterans Affairs would be comprised of staff already involved in veterans’ associations.
The Chairperson, T Yengeni, stated that the aim of the meeting should be to exhaust the underlying principles and policy issues of the Bill, rather than concentrate on the legal terminolgy of the Bill. He stated that this would be the job of the Portfolio Committee. Mr Yengeni asked for clarity on the key structures with which the Bill concerned itself, noting that the Bill aims to develop separate legislation to set up structures to deal with the issues of military veterans. The reason for the chairperson request for clarity was that at the previous briefing, the committee felt that there were too many structures concerned.
The Admiral referred to the organogram in explaining the structures - the important aspect being the proposed relationship between the Council on Military Affairs (MVA), the Office of MVA, the Secretary of Defence and the Ministry of Defence:
President - Patron in Chief
l Council on MVA
Secretary for Defence-------l
Office for MVA-----------------I
Mr Loots asked if policy would be decided by the Council and then be implemented by the Office? Admiral Bakkes replied affirmatively and added that the Director of the MVA office would be a Government Official and would also serve on the Council as Secretary.
The Chairman agreed that it was necessary to address very broadly certain aspects of the Bill, to get an overview of the powers, functions and policy matters.
(It should be noted that Advocate Mjalie of the DOD legal division stated that the legal principles of the Bill were indeed appropriate.)
Questions and Comments regarding the Bill:
Clarity was requested on the definition of veterans. Admiral Bakkes stated that if someone is defined as a military veteran, this does not automatically entitle him/her to anything. Thus, the mere status as a military veteran, does not mean that someone is eligible for compensation.
The Chairperson explained that the concept of an "honourable discharge" or "dishonourable discharge" would be a problematic area because issues such as what constitutes an honourable or dishonourable discharge has not been finalised by the new Defence Act.
Mr Makwetla (ANC) wanted clarity of the context of "non-statutory forces".
The Admiral replied that non-statutory merely meant that people in all military organisations would be included (including MK, APLA, former TBVC forces).
Answering a question regarding the section "Objects of Act" point 2(b), the Admiral stressed that compensation and not reparation would take the form of grants to military veterans.
The Chairperson, referring to the above section, felt that the term "financial hardships" in point 2(c), was far too broad. He pointed out that almost all MK soldiers in exile suffered constant financial hardships. He suggested that a more appropriate, less broad term be used.
The Chairperson also wanted clarity on the issue whether black soldiers who were not allowed to fight but served in the two World Wars and the Korean War also fell under the definition of "military veteran". The Admiral replied that this certainly was the case, and that in fact they would be a category which would receive special attention. He pointed out that the South African Legion has already done excellent work in this regard and that they would work closely with a Council on Military Veterans Affairs, in this regard.
Mr Hoernle (NP), referring to point 4.2, commented that more of a guideline would be needed regarding the appointment of the Council members.
Mr Molekane (ANC), referring to the section on "Authority of President " point 3, pointed out that this aspect tended to limit the function of the minister which according to the wording, needed to consult with council. The Admiral agreed that the wording should be changed. He stated that they would redraft the entire section.
Mr Marais (NP) suggested that the principles of the Bill, should be phrased in such a way as not to create the distortion of expectation regarding military veterans affairs.
Mr Koornhof (NP) stated that the principles of the Bill were far too broad and suggested that they be redefined to narrow the scope so that it would not be left up to the regulations to narrow the scope and provide clarity. First a narrowing of the defining principles was needed.
Ms Kota (ANC) wanted clarity on woman veterans and secondly was there anyone running MVA at present. Adm Bakkes stated that there is an MVA department and Chief. However it is reactive. The aim of this Bill would be to create the structures which would result in an MVA which would be proactive. Answering the question on female veterans, he replied that the present definition of military veterans in no way excludes woman.