MK veteran head in court this week over alleged fraud

Pretoria - Deputy Defence Minister Kebby Maphatsoe - who is also head of the uMkonto weSiwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) and the man who labelled Public Protector Thuli Madonsela a "CIA agent" - will effectively go on trial in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.  

In a long-delayed action brought by six former senior MKMVA veterans, Maphatsoe and former senior members of the association are accused of looting millions from the veterans’ organisation.

The court action began four years ago, but the failure of the MKMVA executive to respond, saw the matter ruled as not urgent. It has now, finally, been scheduled to be heard and could become a major source of embarrassment for the government in the run-up to the local government elections.

The accusations relate to a forensic audit of MKMVA, commissioned by former soldiers and conducted by auditing firm Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo. These relate to allegedly unauthorised payments, amounting to R5.4m, to Maphatsoe, former association treasurer Dumisani Khoza, former chairperson Deacon Mathe, and former treasurer Johannes Motseki.

"But that is the tip of the iceberg as it was in 2012," says one of the six MK veterans involved in the case. He pointed out that former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor earlier this year accused Maphatsoe of pocketing R10m that the Gupta family had given him to help veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle. 

Maphatsoe denied the accusation, but admitted that an extensive business relationship existed between the MKMVA and the Gupta family.

"We are not captured and we encourage others to come and do business with us," he reportedly said.

In one sense, this is a battle between the "1976 generation", who served as MK soldiers in the controversial and tumultuous  years of the 1980s in Angola, and the "SDUs" (Self Defence Units) - youths recruited after the release of Nelson Mandela and flown to Uganda to be trained. Many of these recruits are referred to by the older soldiers as "comtsotsis", or young township "comrades" who behaved like gangsters.

In this week’s hearing, fingers are likely to be pointed at the leadership of the MKMVA and a number of leading personalities involved with Maphatsoe. But he also faces further legal problems later in the year: he is being sued for defamation by former defence minister Ronnie Kasrils. 

Kasrils is seeking R1m in damages for comments made by Maphatsoe about Kasrils having set up a "honey trap" that enabled President Jacob Zuma to be charged with having raped a woman, who Maphatsoe claimed was recruited by Kasrils.  He also claimed that the former defence minister was associated with "foreign agents".


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