National Assembly, Cape Town: Tuesday, 16 August 2011
South Africa had several leading figures and
role-players during our transition from apartheid to democracy.
Some of these role-players included the Inkatha Freedom Party,
AZAPO, the Pan African Congress, the African National Congress,
and many others. Our freedom today belongs to all of us, and it
is owing to the collective efforts of all of these organizations
that we are fortunate to live in a free South Africa today.
It was with this in mind that we welcomed the
restructuring of the Department of Defence, to include Military
Veterans, in 2009. We welcomed the allocation of funds to those
who dedicated their lives to the struggle for freedom. The
restructuring of this Department heralded in a new era, in which
we would finally recognize and honour the selfless contributions
made by many fellow patriots in bringing about the realization
of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous South Africa. The IFP
welcomed this development as step towards intensifying our
reconciliation and nation-building efforts.
However, today the IFP remains disillusioned
as the proposed Bill has not lived up to its expectations. We
continue to lament the exclusion of some groups from accessing
the benefits that are rightly due to them.
In a statement to the Portfolio Committee on
Defence on May 25, 2011, the Deputy Minister Mr Makwetla argued
for the exclusion of many groups of veterans, including former
National Servicemen and potentially other groups.
However, in June of this year, Mr Makwetla
said that the Bill was clear in that it was dealing with former
soldiers in the ex-South African Defence Force, liberation
movement armies and ex-armies of Bantustan states. Mr Makwetla
explained that the Bill was very clear about who was eligible to
apply for benefits once the proposed law has been passed.
However, this has not been our experience.
There has been mass confusion as to who is and who is not
regarded as a military veteran. It is our understanding that the
erstwhile KwaZulu Self-Protection Units (SPUs) as well as the
ANC-aligned Self Defence Units (SDUs) will be excluded from
receiving benefits as proposed by this Bill.
The IFP has never accepted violence as a tool
for political or social liberation and therefore had no military
wing like umKhonto weSizwe. However, the erstwhile KwaZulu Government
established SPUs in response to the ruling party's People's War,
which saw the murder of many IFP councillors and members. SPUs
were never part of the apartheid machinery, but were often used
to protect social assets. The men and women that formed part of
these SPUs worked diligently for the establishment of conditions
that would make a peaceful and negotiated settlement possible.
These SPUs are military veterans too, as they were a part of a
section of the South African community that was involved in
waging and resolving the political conflicts of our past. There
is therefore no logical justification for not including the
In conclusion, I would like to remember my
dear friend Siegfried "Gobogobo" Bhengu. Siegfriend passed away recently. He
was a former member of the ANC and later the IFP. He was part of
the first group of MK cadres who left the country in the early
60s, to receive military training in various countries in
Africa, as well as in Russia. He was amongst the first
detachments of MK that were infiltrated back into the country at
the height of apartheid. He was later arrested and spent 10
years at Robben Island, with the former President Nelson
Mandela, Mr Walter Sisulu, baba Andrew Mlangeni and many others.
Upon release from prison he served another 10 year banishment
order in terms of which he was confined to his rural Nkandla
homestead. He and his family members suffered many hardships.
Today, his family lives in abject poverty and has not enjoyed
any financial benefit for his commitment to the struggle for
Most veterans' welfare is, and continues to be
a matter of concern. Many still face challenges that range from
unemployment, limited skills capabilities, and access to special
grants and health facilities. While this Bill has, as one of its
aims, that of improving the quality of life of military veterans
and of their dependants, my friend Siegfried's family can only
live in hope that they too will one day receive financial
It is my plea today that the Department gives
special attention to this matter.
The Department of Defence and Military
Veterans has a pivotal role to play in a post-apartheid South
Africa. It can unite individuals across the political divide; it
can promote unity and nation-building, and by ensuring that
military veterans are regarded as a valuable resource, to
enhance the national work force, it can contribute to the
prosperity and development of this country.
Honourable Speaker, the IFP will support this
Bill, but we want to send a clear message to the Department of
Defence and Military Veterans today, that we will no longer
allow discrimination on the basis of political affiliation. We
demand justice for all those who fought for freedom. Not only
those aligned to the ANC.
I thank you.
Contact: Mr Albert Mncwango MP, 083 448 4896.