THE infiltration of the ANC’s Mkhonto weSizwe Vets by criminal elements who have taken advantage of the ex-combatants’ illegal occupation of flats in Pietermaritzburg’s Aloe Ridge rental complex is a classic case of history repeating itself.
Even the MK’s Moses Mabhida leadership that has endorsed the controversial campaign by a group of former ANC soldiers to demand jobs, houses and tenders at gunpoint, has admitted that the majority of people now occupying the close to 300 hijacked Aloe Ridge flats are not war vets.
Besides, some of the illegal occupiers who claim to be war vets are in their early 20s and were not even born when the ANC was unbanned in 1990 — a move that saw the former liberation movement permanently halting its MK recruitment campaign.
But even in exile, the ANC military wing battled to fend off a wave of infiltrations, mainly by agents of the apartheid government.
Former president Jacob Zuma, whom many love to hate, was head of the ANC’s notorious Imbokodo intelligence unit, the key purpose of which was to crush infiltrators.
Several ANC recruits, who members of Imbokodo suspected of being agents sent by the apartheid government to spy on ANC military activities in exile, were tortured to death.
Former Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Joe Seremane’s brother, Timothy, was one of the MK people who was executed by members of Imbokodo after being suspected of being an apartheid spy.
A former high-ranking MK officer, General Masondo, in 1998 confessed to having ordered the execution of Timothy, who was an MK operative stationed in Angola in the early eighties.
While Timothy’s family managed to get closure following Masondo’s confession, several others whose family members were killed while in ANC exile camps are yet to be told how their loved ones died.
Whether the methods and tactics employed by the Zuma–led Imbokodo were justified is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that the ANC’s military wing in exile was vulnerable to infiltration.
When the ANC recruited activists, mainly township youth, to join what were known as self-defence units (SDUs), which operated within the country in the eighties to counter what the party described at the time as apartheid repression, the units were also infiltrated by various interests.
At one level the SDUs where infiltrated by apartheid agents known as Askaris.
“I approached the group of ANC activists on whom we had gathered information that they were planning to use limpet mines to blow up electrical substations in the area. I pretended to be a member of Mkhonto weSizwe,” former Askari, Daniel Nkala, told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during his application for amnesty in 1998.
Nkala, who worked with the notorious Askari and apartheid hitman Joe Mamasela, handed the activists booby-trapped hand grenades on the East Rand, which when the young ANC members attempted to use, blew up on the activists, killing eight of them.
At another level, the SDUs, whose other purpose was to defend township residents against what the ANC claimed where security threats posed by Inkatha, were also infiltrated by township criminals who were later branded com tsotsis.
The com tsotsi would knock on people’s doors on the pretext of conducting patrols, only to rob residents once allowed into their homes.
Today in KwaZulu-Natal, a Mafia-style lobby group claiming to be implementing the ANC’s radical economic transformation (RET) programme has been intimidating contractors working on government projects.
Several contractors working on government projects around the Durban area have been forced to abandon work after members of the group threatened to attack them if they did not give them a stake in the project.
Two weeks ago, a gang affiliated to the group held Department of Health senior officials hostage during a departmental meeting in Pietermaritzburg.
The group, which then forced the head of the department, Musa Gumede, to draft a letter reversing an earlier decision to shift the department’s supply chain unit head to another unit, accused Gumede of failing to implement the ANC’s RET programme seeking to empower black businesspeople.
While President Cyril Ramaphosa, who branded the group a bunch of “robbers”, has called for tough action against members of the lobby group, more than two decades after the disbandment of both MK and the SDUs, the conduct of the individuals has taken the ANC back to the same position it was in decades ago — an organisation infested with infiltrators.
ANC provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala was spot on when he said: “We defeated this phenomenon before but now it’s re-emerging.”
• Clive Ndou is the political editor of