Avatar photo

By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


Defence force integration was ‘not perfect’

Group’s demands are unreasonable, their membership numbers suspect.


Some background might be useful to explain whether or not the Liberation Struggle War Veterans’ (LSWV) demands are legitimate.

Between 1993 and 1996, the SA Defence Force, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla) and the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei forces were integrated into a new SA National Defence Force (SANDF) via a carefully negotiated process agreed to by all.

Each force produced a certified personnel register (CPR) of its members for either integration or demobilisation, depending on age, skills and willingness to integrate.

ANC military wing MK’s list had 28 888 names, PAC’s Apla had 6 000. A British military advisory team oversaw the process.

By the end of the integration period though, only 15 416 MK and Apla personnel had actually reported to the assembly points.

Those who didn’t report, along with around 4 000 of those who did report, voluntary demobilised for a one-time gratuity payment based on length of service.

The cost of those gratuity payments amounted to about R225 million (nearly R1 billion today). No further payments or support were planned at the time, or formally promised by any official structure that I can see.

There was a clear divide, however, between the MK members who had joined earlier in the struggle and trained in other countries, and a large number of self-defence unit (SDU) members who were hastily recruited in SA in the final stages of the struggle who received minimal training.

Those SDU members were not only largely unsuitable for integration into the SANDF because of their poor training, but they received minimal gratuity payouts on demobilisation because they’d only been in MK service for a relatively small amount of time.

The integration process was not perfect, mostly because the personnel registers were flawed as a result of the difficulty of accurately tracking members of guerrilla forces.

Many went under “combat names” only. Some people reported who were not on the registers, etc.

For that reason, there was at least one general assembly notice for any former MK or Apla members who weren’t on the registers to report.

A post-integration audit was conducted, finding some minor issues but not enough to render the entire process illegitimate.

By 2002 after what parliament, the department of defence and involved political parties considered to be a sufficient number of assemblies and iterations, integration officially closed with the Termination of Intake Act.

No more integrations, demobilisations or gratuities were legally allowed.

Years later, as the MK Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) became a more powerful faction within the ANC, there was pressure to reward veterans.

The result was the 2011 Military Veterans Act, establishing the department of military veterans with a R650 million annual budget.

Importantly, the Act defined veterans as including SANDF veterans and members of the former liberation armies, regardless of integration status.

The LSWV sprung up out of nowhere at more or less the same time as the ANC disbanded the MKMVA. It also introduced a new set of demands such as a R4.2 million payout for each former soldier, land and jobs.

They also claim to have 40 000 members, far more than both MK and Apla combined claimed they had in 1993 – 1994 – not counting those who’ve died.

In short, LSWV isn’t an authentic representative of former MK and Apla soldiers, who are already eligible for benefits.

The group’s membership claims are suspect and its demands unreasonable. Ministers indulge them because of ANC factional battles, nothing more.

  • Darren Olivier is the director of African Defence Review.