War­ring MK vet­er­ans vie for en­dorse­ment

The ANC is in a dou­ble bind since Zuma presided at a con­fer­ence that elected the MKMVA’s lead­er­ship

Mail & Guardian - - News - Di­neo Bendile

Afight has bro­ken out be­tween fac­tions within the Umkhonto weSizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans’ As­so­ci­a­tion. One group, made up of some MKMVA mem­bers and the MK Na­tional Coun­cil led by Deputy Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Tha­bang Mak­wetla and former MK chief of staff Siphiwe Nyanda, has threat­ened to go to court if the ANC fails to nul­lify the re­sults of an MKMVA elec­tive con­fer­ence in June at which Kebby Maphat­soe was re-elected pres­i­dent.

Un­der the lead­er­ship of Maphat­soe, the party’s mil­i­tary wing has been one of the loud­est and most vir­u­lent sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. But the na­tional coun­cil has dis­puted the le­git­i­macy of the cur­rent MKMVA lead­er­ship.

The joint group­ing will hold its own elec­tive con­fer­ence this week­end at the Nas­rec Expo Cen­tre in Johannesburg, where 961 del­e­gates are ex­pected to vote for a new lead­er­ship.

“[In June,] we wit­nessed a sur­prise devel­op­ment, which was that Com­rade Kebby con­vened some MK mem­bers at Birch­wood [Ho­tel] and an­nounced that that was the MK con­fer­ence that was awaited,” coun­cil mem­ber Tha­bang Mak­wetla said on Wed­nes­day.

“Now we are con­fi­dent that MK mem­bers will have the mo­ment they have long been wait­ing for — to have the priv­i­lege to gather and de­cide their own fate and af­fairs.”

He said Maphat­soe was wel­come to stand for elec­tions if he wished to. “If he is in at­ten­dance, he is a mem­ber of MK, he will be al­lowed to con­test. Ab­so­lutely,” Mak­wetla said.

At the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing in Septem­ber, the coun­cil pre­sented a re­port call­ing for the an­nul­ment of the con­fer­ence at which Maphat­soe was re-elected. It ar­gued he was elected fraud­u­lently be­cause nearly 60% of the 700 del­e­gates at the con­fer­ence he called were al­legedly not bona fide MK mem­bers.

Maphat­soe is less than im­pressed by the con­ven­ing of the joint con­fer­ence, which he said had all the el­e­ments to show that it was not en­dorsed by the ANC.

“You saw that the pres­i­dent opened our con­fer­ence [in June]. So you can’t say we are il­le­git­i­mate when the head of the or­gan­i­sa­tion opened that con­fer­ence,” Maphat­soe said.

“What kind of con­fer­ence is it where peo­ple are not elected [to at­tend] but are told to reg­is­ter on­line? What will that struc­ture call it­self any­way? MK Coun­cil VA? Or what?”

But Mak­wetla in­sisted it would still be the MKMVA, only this time round, the or­gan­i­sa­tion would rid it­self of the “for­eign” in­flu­ences he said had in­fil­trated it.

“There are in­di­vid­u­als who are re­ally mas­querad­ing as MK when they are ac­tu­ally about their own agenda, their own busi­ness in­ter­ests, their own po­lit­i­cal for­tunes. It’s got noth­ing to do with Umkhonto weSizwe what MKMVA has been do­ing un­der Kebby. Ab­so­lutely noth­ing,” he said.

But the coun­cil will only take the mat­ter to court if the NEC fails to an­nul Maphat­soe’s gath­er­ing.

“If it means in the process there may be a need to ex­pe­dite things by get­ting le­gal cover for the in­ter­ven­tions that must be done, I would imag­ine that it would be within [one of the] rea­son­able things to do — to con­sider tak­ing le­gal ac­tion,” Mak­wetla said.

Maphat­soe scoffed at this threat, say­ing: “If we were to stoop low, we would also go to court but we won’t.”

The MKMVA un­der Maphat­soe and the coun­cil, led by vet­er­ans such as Mak­wetla and Nyanda, have been at odds since Jan­uary when Maphat­soe re­neged on an ear­lier agree­ment to hold a joint con­fer­ence of the two struc­tures.

Maphat­soe has been ac­cused of us­ing the MKMVA to pro­mote a fac­tional agenda sym­pa­thetic to Zuma whereas the coun­cil has been crit­i­cal of the party’s lead­er­ship and has called for a na­tional con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence.

Maphat­soe’s de­ci­sion to re­nege on the joint con­fer­ence has led some MKMVA lead­ers, in­clud­ing his then deputy, Teenage Monama, and gen­eral sec­re­tary Du­misani Nduli, to dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from the June gath­er­ing.

It is these lead­ers who played a cen­tral part in or­gan­is­ing this week­end’s con­fer­ence, where some of those who at­tended the June con­fer­ence are ex­pected to be present to vote.

Mak­wetla said some blame had to be put on Zuma for tak­ing sides, which had em­bold­ened Maphat­soe and his sup­port­ers.

“Things would have been much eas­ier for us to deal with the prob­lem de­ci­sively if the pres­i­dent had not po­si­tioned him­self in a way that em­bold­ens those who are do­ing all these funny things in the name of Umkhonto weSizwe,” he said.

The coun­cil has in­vited the ANC’s top lead­er­ship to at­tend the con­fer­ence but it is not clear if they will. Mak­wetla said it is un­likely that Zuma will be there.

Apart from elect­ing a new lead­er­ship, the con­fer­ence will also dis­cuss the cur­rent state of the ANC and make rec­om­men­da­tions about the eco­nomic wel­fare of the mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.

Con­test: MK Na­tional Coun­cil mem­ber Tha­bang Mak­wetla. Photo: Vathiswa Ruselo/Sowe­tan/Gallo Images

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