Battle of generals vs foot soldiers

Members of the ANC’s former military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, perform at a ceremony. The upcoming national conference of the ANC’s former military wing is shaping up to be a bitter face-off between the so-called generals and the foot soldiers. Picture: Deon Ferreira
Members of the ANC’s former military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, perform at a ceremony. The upcoming national conference of the ANC’s former military wing is shaping up to be a bitter face-off between the so-called generals and the foot soldiers. Picture: Deon Ferreira

The upcoming national conference of the ANC’s former military wing is shaping up to be a bitter face-off between the so-called generals and the foot soldiers.

On Thursday, it will be the second time that the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) tries to sit down for an inclusive national conference to elect new leaders after a postponement this week.

The MK national council, referred to among lobbyists as “the generals”, is expected to put forward its secretary-geneal Gregory Nthatisi for the presidency election.

But MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe is also touted for the post and his lobbyists believe they have enough numbers among the 600 voting delegates to cause an upset. Maphatsoe’s lobby group has drummed up claims that former senior MK leaders who later became military chiefs in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), such as Siphiwe Nyanda, forgot about the foot soldiers as soon as they occupied the cosy jobs.

The group appears to have gained traction in provinces like Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where a video doing the rounds in MK circles showed members last weekend telling a retired major-general that generals were happy to pursue their self-interests and leave the foot soldiers to suffer.

“You have failed us. What is painful is that you are playing games with us. You just want positions and you are using the name of MK because you know we are fools and you will use us. Continue to play with the name of MK and history will judge you,” said a speaker in Zulu during a meeting with national leaders in the Durban City Hall.

“We sacrificed our lives as young people to fight for this nation. Blood was spilt and it was not spilt for nothing. You are fat cats and you live in luxury … You want to please ANC spoilt brats such as Siphiwe Nyanda ... We are dying paupers … You are useless,” he charged.

City Press could not establish the identity of the speaker, and retired major-general Enoch Mashoala, who was at the event, could not be reached for comment.

However, a former SANDF member among those coordinating delegates for the conference agreed with the sentiment that “the commanders have let us down”.

Nyanda said he had seen the video, adding that he would not be “responding to characters I don’t know, who insult us because we challenged and are challenging the wrongs done by people they are protecting, who are part of the project to destroy the ANC and capture the state machinery.

“By the way, there was a general there who responded appropriately to this provocateur. He can come to the conference and repeat this trash. I don’t even think he will pass as a delegate, but, if he will, let him do so next weekend”.

Nyanda said he preferred to “deal with identifiable individuals, whose backgrounds we can establish.

“Many incompetent and undisciplined individuals left the SANDF and are now masquerading as heroes, perambulating in the MKMVA, blaming us for their misery when they have only themselves to blame. The villains, many of whom do not even have any history in MK, are now playing victim.”

Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are expected to bring the biggest number of delegates to conference, adding up to 235 and 133, respectively. The Eastern Cape, which is said to be the MK council’s strong base, follows with 88 delegates.

But Maphatsoe’s opponents have accused him of using MK funds for self-enrichment, citing cases including a controversial MKMVA Trust issue where the high court eventually dissolved the group of trustees, which included Maphatsoe.

He has also been accused of building his house using MK funds, but his supporters deny the allegation.

“He built that house over four years, taking small money from his income here and there,” said one supporter.

Regarding the trust, the person said Maphatsoe would have long been prosecuted had he erred.

The decision to postpone the conference this week was owing to an administrative delay in registering all the expected delegates.

The defence force numbers of the delegates need to be matched with the database at the department of defence and military veterans, which is funding the event.

City Press understands that the MK council lobbyists had preferred that the conference be postponed for a month or longer, but Tony Yengeni, the head of the ANC peace and security subcommittee in the national executive, rejected this.

According to an insider, one of the issues Yengeni’s committee apparently had to address was a claim that the conference was more populated by people who never went to exile, referred to as internal self-defence units.

Two disputes were lodged by the MK council group against the preparatory meetings in Vhembe region in Limpopo and James Ngoloyi in KwaZulu-Natal.

Maphatsoe said the embezzlement allegations were an old story raised to discredit him: “They want to use dirty tricks to lobby. It was raised in 2012, it was raised in regional general council, and it was explained many times.”

He said a financial report would be presented in conference and “people are allowed to ask questions”.

Nthatisi said he was “never in the SANDF to experience the allegations levelled against those who served as commanders”, and he was also “never in the leadership of MKMVA at a national level”.

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