The Citizen (KZN)

Ex-fighters have no sway – expert

- Eric Naki

Political experts are expressing mixed views about the hostage drama involving former liberation military veterans and Cabinet ministers.

To some, it symbolises that worse is to come but others believe it won’t develop because the veterans have no political clout. But they agreed that the drama that saw 56 veterans arrested had nothing to do with ANC factional battles and was veterans’ fight for their interests as they felt left in limbo by their own government.

However, one analyst said that if not addressed, the problem could spill over into the current ANC political infighting.

The veterans blamed the government for taking too long to address their grievances which had been on the table for years without being finalised.

Political analyst Prof Lesiba Teffo said it was clear there was an agreement with the veterans that the government had reneged on and now the chickens had come home to roost. But as long as the matter was not addressed, a repeat of this week’s hostage drama or even something more serious should be expected.

“If not nipped in the bud it will play into the ANC factional battles. It might reach a stage where the veterans go for broke and hell breaks loose,” Teffo said.

On Thursday, members of the ANC’s uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), Azanian Peoples Liberation Army of the Pan Africanist Congress and former military wing of the Azanian People’s Organisati­on, the Azanian Liberation Army, held Defence Minister Thandi Modise, her deputy Thabang Makwetla and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele hostage after they could not agree on their demands for military benefits. The officials were rescued by the police in a Hollywood-style hostage drama. The unarmed veterans were arrested and taken to jail.

Political analyst Prof Dirk Kotze said liberation veterans in South Africa, unlike their Zimbabwean counterpar­ts, had no political sway, therefore poised no real danger to the state or the political balance of forces.

“It’s about fighting for their living conditions or their lifestyles. They are not from a particular political faction but from different ex-liberation armies.

To avoid veterans becoming an alternativ­e centre of power in the ANC, Luthuli House dissolved the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Associatio­n.

Another political analyst, Xolani Dube said the veterans raised valid grievances that should be addressed.

“Let’s not be an apartheid state where people are arrested for speaking out, let’s share their pain which they have been carrying for years. These guys were not carrying guns, they were not a threat to the ministers, why are they arrested?” Dube said.

It’s about fighting for their living conditions or their lifestyles

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