Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist


Gauteng paid military vets over R59 million to police Covid compliance at schools

Gauteng's mammoth spend was revealed when military veterans staged a sit-in demanding payment.


The Gauteng department of roads and transport apparently splurged over R59 million on uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and Azanian People's Liberation Army (Apla) military veterans to monitor compliance with Covid-19 regulations. This was revealed after the department failed to pay the February salaries to the 534 veterans contracted for the programme in 2021. This resulted in the disgruntled veterans staging a sit-in at the department’s offices in Johannesburg last week. Cash cow for veterans? MK was the military wing of the ruling party and Apla that of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) during the struggle for freedom. According…

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The Gauteng department of roads and transport apparently splurged over R59 million on uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla) military veterans to monitor compliance with Covid-19 regulations.

This was revealed after the department failed to pay the February salaries to the 534 veterans contracted for the programme in 2021.

This resulted in the disgruntled veterans staging a sit-in at the department’s offices in Johannesburg last week.

Cash cow for veterans?

MK was the military wing of the ruling party and Apla that of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) during the struggle for freedom.

According to the veterans, their staggered contracts came to a total of 22 months. They say they first entered into a three-month contract with the department in 2021.

When this contract expired, they were given six-month contracts and then three-month contracts followed by 10-month contracts, beginning in June 2022 and set to expire this month.

Out of the total of 534 veterans recruited for the programme, 23 were contracted as supervisors earning R7 000 a month and the rest as monitors earning R5 000 a month.

ALSO READ: ‘We are still kicking alive’, says disbanded MKMVA

By the end of the latest contract, the supervisors would have pocketed a combined total of R3 542 000 and the monitors a combined R56 210 000.

According to the contract, which The Citizen has seen, the veterans were hired for “monitoring disaster management regulations compliance” on public transport vehicles, including student transport and buses at schools.

The contract, referenced MV [Military Veterans] Cadet Programme, bears the signature of Mbali Mbatha, the department’s director of human resources and administration and is dated 31 May 2022.

Covid feeding frenzy

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the National State of Disaster on 15 March 2020 in response to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was lifted in April last year.

The declaration enabled government to take necessary measures to curb the spread of the virus, allowing for funds to be repurposed and procurement requirements relaxed, resulting in rampant corruption.

When asked what exactly they have been doing under this programme, the veterans who spoke to The Citizen on condition of anonymity said they were checking Covid-19 disaster management regulations in schools.

ALSO READ: Pension benefits payout delayed, but military veterans will receive R1 250 grants

They explained that the programme was implemented in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which was allegedly tasked with developing and managing the application for the programme.

“We were required to buy iPhones for the application to be installed. We used this app to report our findings. CSIR would then collate this information and present it to the department,” a former Apla member said.

The programme went without glitch until the department failed to pay the veterans their February salaries.

According to a communique sent out to the veterans by a Valentine Mbatha, Director: Special Projects, which The Citizen has seen, the delay was due to “some operational issues”.

Sit-in

The communique promised that the salaries will be paid on March 6 but this did not happen, with scores of enraged veterans staging a sit-in at the department’s offices on Friday.

MK veteran Mlungisi ‘Ting Ting’ Mzinyane, who took part in the sit-in, said they demanded their salaries but were told the chief financial officer (CFO) who is supposed to sign off the payments was away.

He, however, said the official was suddenly available when they vowed not to leave the building.

“The meeting was very successful afterwards. We were told the CFO was waiting for the February report from the CSIR, which would not submit the report as they had not been paid,” Mzinyane said.

He said they have been promised that their February salaries will be paid with the March salaries sometime this week.

Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport spokesperson Theo Nkonki is yet to reply to questions, including the process used to recruit the military veterans and how their salaries were funded.

The CSIR would not confirm nor deny its role in the programme, with spokesperson David Mandaha saying their contractual obligations prohibited them from disclosing information to third parties.

NOW READ: Proposal to repatriate remains of military vets being considered for Cabinet approval

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