Several police officers rushed to the scene on Monday as hundreds of angry ex-combatants gathered outside the department of military veterans (DMV) in Hatfield, east of Pretoria CBD, threatening violence unless they receive benefits from the South African government.
“I am here to demand my pension. They have taken away the SRD (the Social Relief of Distress which is provided to military veterans who are destitute) from us. They are giving us nothing since November last year. We do not work. Now we have nothing to live on. I am 70 years old now. My children are old,” said an agitated former corporal Willie Meyer.
“Why can’t the government, or this bloody DMV here support us? So what must we do? They must make right what they are doing wrong. We don’t want to fight them, [but] we can fight them. They must stop it. We want money. We want our pension.”
Meyer said the military veterans had been promised R4 500 a month pension.
Another veteran, Ronnie Theyser, said most of the veterans protesting in Pretoria were breadwinners, demanding the money to feed big families.
“They have said that when they stopped the SRD, the pension will automatically kick in. At the moment, none of us receives any SRD – we only get messages saying the department of social development will come visit us. They say that is when they will start again to pay us the SRD. We are crying for that R1,200 because many of us are the only breadwinners in the families,” said Theyser.
The attorney for the disgruntled military veterans, Andries Nkome, told journalists at the protest that his clients have been sent from pillar to post.
“Their grievances are brief … that they keep coming to the department to claim for their educational funds, as well as for housing, which they never get. Each time they come here, they are turned around. Last year, In March, I wrote a letter that I never received an answer for, which said they [military veterans] wanted to come through and claim those things [the benefits]. Today they are here individually, each one with their name and force numbers. They are not here to protest, they are here to go into the department, and to get help,” said Nkome.
“Now when we got here, we found that they have called the military police, they have called the police. To us, that is an affront. It is as if the state is arrogantly trying to deal with the promises and the rights of these people.”
He said the military veterans were in Pretoria peacefully, with no intention of causing any disruption.
“They are here peacefully. They will spend the whole day here simply because they are patient. They are poor, they have no houses. Their kids are not going to school, some of them are here.”
The DMV’s spokesperson Mbulelo Musi was not readily available for comment.
– African News Agency (ANA)