Johannesburg - Former senior Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) leaders have finally convened its much anticipated all-inclusive conference at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg on Friday.
This is in spite of being denied funds by the department of defence and military veterans to secure accommodation, transport and the printing of programmes for the event.
The MK Council which is led by Siphiwe Nyanda, the former chief of the South African Defence Force, has been at loggerheads with the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association.
The latter is refusing to hold a joint conference with the former combatants, with its president Kebby Maphatsoe insisting a June conference where he was re-elected was legitimate.
"We hope that we will deliberate in the spirit of OR Tambo, not putting ourselves first but to try and win what has brought us here together, our survival and unity," said chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, who was also the day's programme director.
Sharing in the day's message of unity was African National Congress presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu who made a surprise appearance at the event, and told hundreds gathered at the conference that the MK was a disciplined force of the ANC meant to keep all its people together at all times.
"This matter was raised last week during the NEC [national working committee] and one thing we were all certain about is that the unity of the MK is essential for the unity on the ANC," said Sisulu.
The human settlements minister gave a short briefing, promising delegates that she would say a lot more when she returns to the conference to speak in her own capacity on Saturday.
She had been deployed to speak on behalf of ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday.
"We have risen against all odds, that's why we are here," she said. Sisulu added that it was the liberation army's efforts that gave way to democracy in the country.
"I know without you they would be absolutely nowhere. There would be no gravitas and no direction, which can only be found when you are at the forefront of the movement," said Sisulu.
She also wished the gathering well.
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