The ANC’s ex-combatants in the Eastern Cape on Saturday held what they dubbed “the first all-inclusive uMkhonto weSizwe conference” attended by both members of the warring factions – the MK Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) and the MK National Council.
Meanwhile in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, the MKMVA national executive committee, which refused to give its blessing for the East London conference to proceed, was sitting for its meeting, which also required some of the association’s leaders from the Eastern Cape to be present.
“While we appreciate all your efforts in anticipating and coordinating the event, we would like to plead with you to postpone the aforesaid conference,” read the letter from MKMVA acting general secretary Moretlo Mophethe.
Even ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule tried to have the event halted without success, as those attending the conference heard that headquarters’ opposition of the sitting was not based on “facts”.
Among those who attended the Eastern Cape event was Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla, who is also a prominent member of the MK National Council.
Eastern Cape Premier and provincial ANC chairperson Oscar Mabuyane told the audience that internal fractures were holding the party back from uniting and serving the people.
“The ANC has never been meant for that and it is an organisation of the people and the country. People are looking up to the ANC to solve their problems [instead of fighting among each other].
“We have come to that point where we say that we cannot allow this situation to go on unabated,” he said, adding that the Eastern Cape ANC gave its blessing for the conference to proceed.
“You have a right to decide to sit like this, having united yourselves. You have reached a point where you feel like you have a role to play because the more you are disintegrated the more your socioeconomic and sociopolitical interest are being made peripheral everyday by those who are in charge.”
He said that the ex-combatants were a vital part of the ANC and an important voice.
“We need your voice and your voice must be quite strong.”
Mabuyane said the province had not been actively involved in organising the conference, but facilitated talks between the two groups and “everyone agreed that this is the right direction that we should take to ensure that the ANC in the Eastern Cape is stronger moving forward”.
A joint task team of members from both sides handled preparations.
“We never rushed the conference, saying next week or next month. We said let us go through a thorough process of verification so that the MK would no longer be hijacked. People who lead the MK must be the real ex-combatants, not people who are there to dispense patronage,” he said.
MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe said it was unfortunate that their Eastern Cape counterparts were talking unity but not practicing it.
“It is a factional conference that is taking place there and a conference of factionalists who do not want unity but only speak in theory.”
Maphatsoe said the MKMVA would henceforth be disengaging from the unity negotiations.
“We have not yet resolved how we are going to move forward but they start by organising a factional conference funded by the ANC in that province.”
He said the MKMVA was autonomous, although it respected the processes of the ANC.
“That is an MK national council conference, which means we are going to have parallel conferences. We will hold our conference as well in the Eastern Cape because we do not recognise that conference.”
He said the MKMVA would similarly hold its conferences in other provinces under its banner.