52-year-old Marina Steynberg has been widowed for several years. Her husband served in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for 27 years before his untimely death in 2016 but his family is yet to receive benefits of his labour.
Steynberg, a Bloemfontein native, is only one of several widows of the SANDF in the Free State who have been complaining, seemingly to deaf ears, about their struggles.
According to 53-year-old Segomoco Matedile from Thaba Nchu, the group of women have made numerous appeals to the Defence Force’s Veterans Office in Pretoria as well as the Office of Premier Sisi Ntombela.
“It has been 16 years since my husband’s death but we only receive R3,500 a month and about R700 worth of medical aid cover. We were promised housing, and school and university tuition. My only child wants to study Beauty Therapy but she can’t because we have no money,” she explained.
According to Kelebohile Molete, her family also depends on medical aid from the SANDF but claimed that it’s often suspended without reason.
“We only want the benefits that are rightfully ours. We have been going up and down; all we get are papers to sign but no results. As widows in the Free State, we are not treated like others in more prominent provinces. It’s as if you are forgotten when your husband dies,” added Molete.
According to Premier Ntombela’s spokesperson, Setjaba Maphalla, issues of pension, tuition and medical aid are handled by the National department of military veterans (DMV), however, the Free State department of education is in the process of decentralising educational support from the DMV.
“The Military Veterans Unit, located in the office of the premier, was in the process of meeting with the department of human settlements before the Covid-19 national lockdown to prioritise widows and dependents of military veterans in their 2020/21 Financial Year low-cost housing projects across the province,” said Maphalla.
“The unit also has compiled a list of military veterans businesses and forwarded some to Destea for economic empowerment purposes. Implementation of the aforementioned initiatives were affected by the Covid-19 national lockdown,” he concluded.
This article first appeared on Bloemfontein Courant and has been republished with permission.