MK Vets' conference on ice due to vetting concerns

MKMVA members stand guard in Johannesburg.
MKMVA members stand guard in Johannesburg.

A bid to have an all-inclusive conference for the fractured Umkhonto weSizwe group has been put on hold for a week.

This after the chairperson of the peace and stability committee, Tony Yengeni, announced on Thursday the vetting process, being undertaken by the Department of Military Veterans, had not been completed to its satisfaction.

The vetting process has been stifled because of bouts of load shedding, he said. 

"The Department of Military Veterans, in processing that information, found there were gaps. We need more time to deal with the gaps," Yengeni said.

Yengeni said the development had led the six-member preparatory committee to question whether all the names submitted to it was legitimate. He said each delegate needed to provide information like their defence force number. 

He said department, which is footing the bill for the conference, had requested delegates attending the conference to give details of their home city, town or villages for transportation purposes.

Factional battles

Factional battles between the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), led by Kebby Maphatsoe, and the uMkhonto weSizwe council, which is made up of former generals and commissars of the ANC's armed wing, have taken centre stage in the lead-up to the 2017 elective conference, with members resurfacing and raising concerns over statements often made by the MKMVA and welfare of former combatants.

The ANC's national executive committee nullified a 2017 conference in which Maphatsoe was re-elected, amid claims he had pushed ahead with it without permission.

Former ANC president Jacob Zuma also addressed that gathering, which left some angry, claiming his appearance endorsed the event.

Some have claimed about 60% of the delegates, who attended the 2017 conference, were bogus members.

"We are taking stock of our own resources to make sure this conference is a conference of authentic MK members," said former commissar Gregory Nthatisi who is a member of the preparatory committee.

"We are making sure this time around we fulfill the mandate assigned to us by the people of this country and ANC."

He added the verification processes showed there had been organisational challenges as to how the association had been handled.

"Where there are weaknesses in terms of administration, mischief makers and fortune seekers take advantage," said Nthatisi.

Frosty relationship

While it seems Maphatsoe and Nthatisi still have a frosty relationship, the two spoke of the importance of the conference, saying it allowed for former combatants to continue serving both the country and party.

Yengeni said unity was a process and not a "hundred metre sprint".

"A process, with ups and downs, it takes time and, in this instance, it's not going to be immediate, but this inclusive conference is a major step forward in that process of unity, not the last, not the first but major in unifying the forces," he added.

The committee is set to leave the issue of leadership to the last minute, with nominations expected to take place from the floor.

Maphatsoe is expected to contest the role, with rumours abounding that Nthatisi might take him on.

Maphatsoe said this was an opportunity to once again prioritise the welfare of the organisation's cadres.

He also reiterated the need for a clean database.

The conference is now set for the 19 to 22 March.

Yengeni will deliver the political address, with President Cyril Ramaphosa giving the keynote speech.

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