Vets can’t pay school fees thanks to false claims
No funds for grants as veterans’ department accuses military veterans of 'cheating’ the system
Claiming for kids who attend no-fee schools and registering children not eligible for aid is leaving some military veterans out of pocket while government battles to clean up its database.
As military veterans complain of struggling to send their children to school and university, the military veterans department has hit back, saying a number have “cheated” the system.
The department said some military veterans claimed money for their kids while they were at no-fee schools, while others claimed for grandchildren – something they were not entitled to do.
One of the parents and military veterans struggling to raise money to send his children to school this year is late president Nelson Mandela’s former bodyguard, Ronnie Matshaya.
He said the department had abruptly stopped the education support, something he blamed on the department’s failure to verify all funding applications.
“Suddenly in this country we have so many military veterans. Some are in their mid-20s, and they have their children being paid for by the department. The blame is with the department; they should check the applications,” Matshaya said.
He is supposed to pay about R4,000 for registration and books at his kids’ respective schools, a figure he said he could not afford.
Military veterans department spokesperson Mbulelo Musi said the department, which spent R145m in this financial year on the education support of the veterans’ children, was investigating the entire payment system.
The department is currently funding 8,029 pupils and students, both in school and tertiary institutions across the country.
“The department has also since discovered that some of the schools claimed for are no-fee schools. In other cases, the students are not dependents of military veterans and some are actually grandchildren, which according to the Military Veterans Act 18 of 2011 and regulations, are not catered for,” Musi said.
“The department is working on the cleaning up the database to remove all illegal inclusions.”
Times Select has seen a list of more than 250 government no-fee schools that have invoiced the department for payment. The schools are found in all nine provinces.
Parent Bonga Madikiza, who has four children at a school in Mthatha, said he still owed thousands in outstanding fees from last year.
“I am not working, and I only afforded to pay the R800 registration for one child. The rest I am struggling with, as I don’t have the R3,600 I need to pay.”
In August last year, the department released names of 1,097 pupils at different public and private schools with outstanding invoices that were yet to be paid by the department.
Musi said the national treasury demanded that the private schools have tax clearance certificates and proven banking details.
“Some of these schools are not compliant, [but] the number has significantly dropped since some invoices have been received and processed by the department.”
Musi said the complaint that they were not assisting military veterans was untrue.
“The department is interacting with the education department regarding all the cases of no-fee schools. The department has communicated through roadshows with all the military veterans informing them about the education support.”
Last year department officials, led by director-general Derrick Mgwebi, visited a number of provinces to inform the military veterans regarding challenges of education support, the department’s plans to resolve these challenges, and other programmes planned for military veterans and their dependents.
Zet Ngomthi, also a parent, said the department had failed them, and accused Mrwebi of only telling them the department had no money rather than providing solutions.
“Director of this programme General Derrick Mgwebi was here, and they told us that they don’t have money and they are indefinitely stopping this programme. What about those who are still already in school? They should see them through until they finish before they pull the plug,” he said.
Ngomthi has four children who depend on the funding.
“They are in senior phase of the school and, if I can’t pay, they will lose out as the schools have threatened to kick them out.”
In September last year, Mgwebi said the department was looking at other solutions to ensure it could continue with its education support benefit to qualifying military veterans and their dependents.
“Due to financial constraints, the department has decided not to accept new applications for education support for 2019,” he said at the time.
He said minister of defence and military veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was engaging her counterparts in the higher education and training, basic education and treasury in an effort to find sustainable solutions.