Cape Town - The cabinet has approved the spending of R1.6bn on benefits for military veterans, but more money may be needed, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu
said on Wednesday.
"This is what we asked parliament to approve as they approve the bill," Sisulu told a media briefing ahead of her budget vote speech. "It is for the next three years."
She said the costing was based on the existing register of former fighters.
"We are still dealing with that, but we have a base document, which is a CPR (certified personnel register) list."
"Of course, if we... discover that we are dealing with more people than we budgeted for, then of course we will go back to Treasury and request more, but right now what we are dealing with are those people who are on the CPR list."
The list contains 54 000 names and served as the basis for an Alexander Forbes costing study which produced estimates many times over the figure approved by the cabinet.
According to the study, anywhere between R20bn and R56bn was needed to provide pensions, housing, healthcare and education benefits to former fighters over five years.
The Military Veterans Bill, which the cabinet approved in November 2010, widened the definition of a military veteran to anybody who fought on either side of the anti-apartheid struggle.
This could mean that 800 000 former soldiers qualify for benefits, though Sisulu pointed out that a means test would scale back the number of those who qualified.
The department estimated that 5.4% of veterans qualified for new pension benefits, 26% for transport support, 35.7% for an upgraded once-off housing grant of R120 000 and 8.9% for an education grant of R10 000 a year.
However, director general for military veterans Tshepe Motumi has qualified all estimates as a "moving target" because of the expected increase in those coming forward to present themselves as veterans.
Sisulu said the R1.6bn would not be allocated directly to the defence department, but spread out across all of those involved in providing benefits to veterans.
The lack of a costing plan angered opposition MPs when the bill was introduced in Parliament and Motumi was told to "go back and do your homework".
ANC MPs have argued that it was wrong to put a price tag on the "moral issue" of providing benefits to former fighters.
The issue is politically sensitive, as Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans helped to secure President Jacob Zuma
's election as leader of the ruling party in 2007.
Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla
, who is responsible for the fledgling department of military veterans, said the public had grasped the real issues underpinning the bill despite a "wave of negativity" from the media and opposition.
He told the defence budget vote that it was expected that the bill would see spending of roughly R500m a year on benefits to veterans over the medium term budget framework period.
He said compiling an exhaustive register of veterans was being hampered by a lack of information from veterans associations, who did not have adequate administrative capacity.