Zuma honours MK veterans

2009-12-15 19:12

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma honoured veterans of the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe on Tuesday, for the role they played during the struggle for freedom.

The government's decision to expand the defence department's mandate to include military veterans showed its appreciation for the work the MK veterans had done during apartheid, Zuma told a MKMVA day celebration in Ingwavuma, KwaZulu-Natal.

"The creation of the new department has opened up space for more meaningful and continuous interaction with structures such as the MKMVA, so that they can have a strong input in the direction that the country is taking with regards to mainstreaming veterans into government programmes," read a copy of his speech sent to Sapa.

He said many veterans found themselves destitute with no work, no medical aid, no housing or education and training. A ministerial task team was looking into this matter and would report to Cabinet soon, he said.

Umkhonto we Sizwe was founded on December 16, the same day South Africa celebrates Reconciliation Day.

Zuma saluted the work of several MK veterans, especially those who died during the struggle.

"Our struggle was also won through ordinary men and women in the deep rural areas of our country, from Ingwavuma to Sekhukhuneland."

Information, food

He said villagers provided the MK with support, including food and information.

He paid tribute to Nokuhamba Nyawo from the Ingwavuma area. At the "mature age" of 63 she was recruited into the MK. Nyawo recruited members for the MK, gathered intelligence and provided supplies.

"Like many people, Mama Nyawo's family was eventually not spared the full might and brutality of the apartheid forces. But unlike many, she did not crack in the face of such vicious harassment and torture," said Zuma.

"Through her efforts and those of many people from Ingwavuma, the MK secured a very strategic base and point of entry in the country, easily accessible from both Mozambique and Swaziland."

He said it was from Swaziland where the MK was able to secure the transit of significant consignments of weapons into KwaZulu and Natal in the 1980s, places where the apartheid system was dealt "major blows".

Nyawo received the Order of Luthuli from Zuma on 11 December for her contribution to the struggle.