Kebby Maphatsoe, president of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), says the upcoming “all-inclusive” elective conference involving former ANC combatants should look at ways to create access to economic opportunities for the former liberation soldiers.
The elective conference, set to take place in two weeks’ time, will be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and will include members of a parallel grouping called the MK National Council.
The event will take place over four days at a venue yet to be confirmed. It starts on March 12.
The decision about the venue has been left to the ministry of defence and military veterans.
The ministry has also been tasked with overseeing all logistical issues, given that MK and all other liberation forces fall under its mandate.
Maphatsoe told City Press that, in addition to reviving the spirit of MK, the ANC’s former liberation wing, “the conference will have to speak to how we address the welfare of our cadres”.
“Welfare is not about food parcels; it is about getting comrades to play a meaningful role in the economy of the country,” he said.
“Other comrades are not deployed to be diplomats, so we need to have economic emancipation so that we remove this thing of ‘welfarist’ tendencies.
“When people see MK comrades, they say: ‘They are going to ask for money.’ Conference delegates should bring this to a halt.”
Gregory Nthatisi, spokesperson for the MK National Council, said: “Most of these comrades left the country when they were young. They went to train and participated in the history of the struggle. They made sure that this country got liberated.
“If you meet most of them today, you will see that because they do not have any work, they are needy. They need to be helped and treated like any other veteran in any history of the struggle.
“So, we must organise, and then come before the country and the government, and say: ‘Here are your sons and daughters, who laid their lives on the line for the struggle of this country. What can you do to empower them so that they must not be seen as disposable heroes?’” he said.
This weekend, the leaders of MKMVA and the MK National Council will visit all nine provinces “to inform the community of MK about the roadmap to the conference and about work that has been done so far in uniting the MK community”.
Maphatsoe said these visits would “clarify some of the things about the conference”.
“We do not want to go to a tense conference, because that will not achieve our desired outcome: unity,” he explained.
“We were divided; now we want to see a united outcome at the conference. It must reflect a united MK. We do not want to get surprises at the conference; things must go smoothly.”
He said that from these weekend visits, lobbying for positions would be allowed and provinces could start interacting.
By next week, regional structures would start electing delegates.
Nthatisi said MK did not have branches like in ANC structures.
“The community is spread across the country, and in places where numbers agree, we will agree that they form branches. Those in the provinces are the ones that will generate the people who will be attending the conference,” he said.
Nthatisi said conference delegates would elect a leadership that was willing and able to implement the resolutions taken at the event.
“That leadership must represent different generations of MK. The leadership of MK should never be allowed to be at the centre of everything, but rather, the investment of this unity should infiltrate into the ANC.”
The elephant in the room had for a long time been whether delegates would be selected based on their different detachments – which consisted of different generations of MK combatants – or according to provinces.
Maphatsoe said there was consensus that conference delegation should be determined according to provinces – because the detachments route had the potential of fuelling factionalism, whereby people would align only with the views of the group they belonged to.
“We must teach ourselves to accept democracy,” he said.
“We must move away from dividing MK according to generations, because unity is not about generations but about why the MK was formed and whether it has achieved its objectives.”