It’s war among the ranks of MK vets
ANC military veterans are at each others’ throats after a rival faction organised a large meeting outside of the formal structures
Awar of words has erupted over the ability of veterans of the ANC’s former military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), to unite their different interests. The spat has now spilled out into the streets and is revealing deep divisions in the governing party. Men and women with struggle credentials from various backgrounds – as commanders, cooks and combatants – are at each other’s throats on how best to work together.
Kebby Maphatsoe, the head of the MK Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), this week directed structures of the association to boycott an assembly of former combatants organised by, among others, former MK General Siphiwe Nyanda.
In a letter dated December 7, Maphatsoe said the actions of “a grouping” led by Nyanda and the correctional services deputy minister, Thabang Makwetla, were “in contravention” of a decision of the ANC national executive committee calling for “one meeting to unite all the factions”.
He said the event arranged by “the grouping”, and scheduled for this coming Saturday, was “creating a potential for public spats and further disharmony in the movement”.
He urged MKMVA leaders in the provinces to discourage members from attending this meeting until such time that the ANC could organise one, overarching meeting for everyone.
After the ANC national executive committee meeting last month, the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, promised that party veterans working with MKMVA would convene an assembly of all former combatants. Mantashe’s opinion was that working together with the “experienced stalwarts and veterans of the ANC” would contribute positively to the life of the organisation. Maphatsoe was meant to attend a meeting called by the intervention steering committee and led by Nyanda, on Monday. He was said to have undertaken to attend this with his executive team. But the Nyanda grouping claimed Maphatsoe did not bother to inform his team about attending. And then, on Wednesday, Maphatsoe wrote to the veterans’ structures, urging them not to take part in any initiatives of the intervention steering committee. Meanwhile, Makwetla insisted Mantashe was formally briefed about the committee’s plans to hold a council meeting of ex-combatants. But Mantashe distanced himself and the ANC from this planned assembly. Makwetla this week described Maphatsoe’s instruction to MKMVA members not to support the get-together as “rather unfortunate”, but he insisted his faction was not really worried. He stressed that Maphatsoe had a duty as MKMVA chairperson to convey an invitation to the planned council to all his members because the MKMVA “is not his structure [does not belong to him]”. “It is not his organisation. As [running] an office in a disciplined way, he has the responsibility to convey [our] invitation. If the national chairperson held a different view, all well and good. But his office is obliged to convey that message to members in the MKMVA structures.” Makwetla said correspondence had been sent to Maphatsoe to ensure that there was “common understanding on these matters within the organisation”. Key among gripes was how the MKMVA under Maphatsoe has been sucked into fighting factional battles in the ANC, instead of focusing on his key mandate of looking after the wellbeing of MK veterans. He referred to how MKMVA members nearly came to blows with members of the ANC who had marched to the party’s headquarters in Luthuli House. “That exposed the deficiency of the MKMVA,” he said. Makwetla added that it was not a time for spats among former members of MK. He said he was confident that many would attend Saturday’s meeting, given the number of “heartwarming responses” received. “They are coming in their hundreds, even members within the MKMVA structures themselves. In fact, the MKMVA members may be in the majority. We are not worried about the letter that he [Maphatsoe] sent [for members not to attend].” When asked what kind of relationship he foresaw with Maphatsoe now that the latter had drawn a line in the sand, Makwetla said the door was open. “What we want is [for him] to lead his team in a way that is more efficient and equal to the challenge of the moment.” Meanwhile, Makwetla also raised concerns over young people who had not been members of the former liberation army, and who had no legitimation within the structures, but who were now viewed as being an authoritative voice.
TALK TO US Is there a chance the MK Military Veterans’ Association could be united under the leadership of Kebby Maphatsoe?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword VETERANS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50