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?

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Kebby Maphat­soe

Tha­bang Mak­wetla

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