Columns 31.5.2018 08:15 am

Our courageous military veterans need recognition

Military veterans are seen protesting outside the department of military veterans after they stopped recieving their veterans payments in November last year, 5 February 2018, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Military veterans are seen protesting outside the department of military veterans after they stopped recieving their veterans payments in November last year, 5 February 2018, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Twenty-four years into democracy, what an injustice we have visited on these men and women of immense courage!

Here lies before us an issue of contention for me, as an almost-born free – military veterans.

Before and after democracy men and women have uprooted themselves, sometimes their families, too, and crossed borders to take up arms for the abolition of apartheid – some so young, they were raised by strangers.

Today, as a country, have we adequately shown gratitude for a sacrifice many of us would never make?

For me, the real struggle heroes are not just the men and women who stayed behind, because it takes a special kind of resilience to set off to a foreign land in order to emancipate your people.

From where I stand, it seems only the politically connected are celebrated – your name must have been recognised for your sacrifice to have had any value.

They called on our brothers, sisters and parents to take up arms. They shouted from loudhailers how Azania would be freed from an evil regime by fearless men and women.

Today it is communities and cash-strapped families who must lay to rest these fallen heroes who are unknown to the same organisation that encouraged their displacement. I hang my head in shame.

In 2010, my family bid farewell to a cousin I only met as a preteen because he spent most of his life in Russia as a commander of Umkhonto weSizwe. He grew up without family. We waited for a phone call from strangers to keep us informed that he was still alive.

One of our own went so far from home for all of us. He was a nomadic wanderer and as we laid him to rest, there was no gun salute.

He had no house to call home. He came back to live in squalor in the democratic South Africa he fought so hard for.

How many families have this as their silent cry. What is the ANC doing about this? You called on the children of many a home, they heeded your call – thank them appropriately!

Not even a memorial day, let alone financial security. Twenty-four years into democracy, what an injustice we have visited on these men and women of immense courage!

Kekeletso Nakeli-Dhliwayo.

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