Johannesburg - ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has distanced the party from a planned council meeting by former Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) members, saying the event will be taking place "outside ANC structures".Former generals of the armed wing of the ANC are convening a council meeting on December 17 to discuss the challenges facing the ANC, the ANC Veterans League, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) led by Kebby Maphatsoe and the social welfare needs of former military veterans.The council is widely seen as a direct challenge on Maphatsoe's grip on power in the MKMVA.Maphatsoe has referred all questions on the council to Mantashe's office.But Mantashe has refused to comment, saying he doesn't comment on "issues outside ANC structures"."It has nothing to do with ANC, so I can't comment on it," Mantashe told News24.Confusion over gatheringsThe steering committee for the council meeting includes former MK heavy weights former general of the South African National Defence Force and MK Siphiwe Nyanda and ANC national executive committee (NEC) members Bheki Cele and Tony Yengeni.NEC member Thenjiwe Mtintso, who is a former top six member of the ANC, is also part of the council leadership and is believed to have been part of the failed motion calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down.Some within the MKMVA have expressed their confusion after the announcement that a council meeting would be called while there was an NEC decision to hold what has been termed a "Cadres Assembly" to address concerns around the MKMVA.The MKMVA does not have voting rights within the ANC unlike other league structures such as the women's, veterans' and youth leagues.However, under Maphatsoe, who is an NEC member, the MKMVA has shown itself to be a strong lobby group within the party.It has thrown its weight behind Zuma and is expected to back Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over the party presidency at the 2017 elective conference.In September MKMVA members came out in numbers to "defend" the party headquarters Luthuli House when members of the party embarked on an "Occupy Luthuli" protest calling on Zuma and the entire NEC to step down.During a press conference on Monday Nyanda admitted that they had undermined the role and strength of the MKMVA within the party's political dynamics.Claims of exclusion"We took it as an association to deal with the welfare of comrades. The welfare of our comrades is something very important – but some of us relegated the structure to second place [in the] internal dynamics of the ANC," Nyanda said.Nyanda also suggested that suspected attempts to exclude some veterans sparked concern amongst those unsettled by the current state of the MKMVA."We became concerned with the MKMVA when it appeared there were attempts to exclude others, I was never invited... perhaps we have left it too late but we are coming in," Nyanda said.However, some within the MKMVA say they find these comments odd as the organisation "honoured" Nyanda.They have also questioned correctional services deputy minister and former MK member Thabang Makwetla's involvement with the group of veterans "concerned with the welfare of MK" in view of the fact that he was the former deputy minister of defence and military veterans.The challenge on Maphatsoe is not new. Last month, MK members distanced themselves from his labelling of ANC veterans calling for Zuma to step down as "empty tins" "without struggle credentials"."We, as former MK combatants and members strongly condemn these comments and disassociate ourselves from Maphatsoe. He cannot say this in our name. We stand by our veterans and stalwarts who include such individuals as Gertrude Shope, Andrew Mlangeni Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg, Laloo Chiba, Rashaka Ratshitanga and many others who have also taken a stand against corruption," a statement by Mandla Justice Dlamini said.