/ 18 September 2014

MK vets slug it out over war chest

Kebby Maphatsoe says a member's court action against him is about 'fishing for information'.
Kebby Maphatsoe says a member's court action against him is about 'fishing for information'.

Two years after pointed allegations of theft and looting first emerged, the leaders of the Um-khonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) – including the lately controversial deputy defence minister Kebby Maphatsoe – are facing new allegations of trying to cash in on the group’s fortune.

MKMVA has interests in banking, mining and gambling infrastructure, interests that are supposed to benefit former combatants and their families.

Some of these interests – a disgruntled group of those former combatants will again try to convince the courts – are in the process of being liquidated, without their consent and not for their benefit.

The Mail & Guardian is in possession of the latest court papers alleging that those in control of the MKMVA assets, among which Maphatsoe is the best known, are trying to liquidate holdings, sometimes at well below their actual value.

A legal representative for the group would not comment on the matter, other than to confirm he was acting for MKMVA member Omry Makgoale.

Not involved
Makgoale has named Maphatsoe (recently notable for a subsequently retracted allegation that public protector Thuli Madonsela is a CIA spy) alongside trustees, including former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and ex-National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu. However, in a complication to the matter, representatives for Motlanthe said he no longer had any involvement in managing MKMVA trust money, and was never directly involved in the long-running saga of the assets. The same is believed to be true of Sisulu.

Motlanthe and Sisulu were both trustees of a body originally established by Nelson Mandela to promote MK history.

Not only the nature of the trust is confusing; so too is the nature of the assets held on behalf of MKMVA. In one instance Makgoale claims that organisation leaders are intent on selling assets at a tiny fraction of their value.

“They told us they wanted to sell the shares for R5-million when we knew they were at least worth R126-million,” Makgoale told the M&G this week. He said he and other MK veterans had clashed with both those they understand to be trustees and the ANC after learning about the proposed transaction.

But Maphatsoe roundly dismissed the claims as a “waste of time” and said Makgoale was fishing for information.

Holding company
Maphatsoe said that shares were housed in a holding company to which he had no access, and that the MKMVA did not have share certificates for some of the shares Makgoale alleged were being sold, because of long-running leadership and financial battles within the organisation.

Maphatsoe said Makgoale did not have issues with the veterans’ body and this was a personal vendetta against him.

Former MKMVA national executive committee member Ike Moroe said the group had decided to sell out of one of its mining interests because “people were suffering and we couldn’t run the organisation, because we didn’t have money”. But the individual with access to the share certificates would not hand them over as he did not consider the current leaders of MKMVA to be legitimate, Moroe said.

A representative for Makgoale said the aggrieved group was still gathering evidence before returning to court. “We are preparing for a case; the case is not dead. We have been trying to verify aspects of the story with the intent to take proper legal action.”

In mid-2012 a group of MK veterans claimed leaders of the MKMVA had turned its investment portfolio into their personal piggy bank, and had paid for such things as jewellery, spa treatments and school drama lessons from organisational funds –and had also withdrawn large sums of cash before Christmas.

Fingers in the pie
The allegations were contained in a draft investigation report by auditing firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo that pointed fingers at several individuals, including Maphatsoe. The report alleged that the leaders had helped themselves to at least R5.4-million.

Both the report and the subsequent civil court action seeking to freeze MKMVA accounts were driven by a group of exiled former soldiers known as the “commissariat”, which the ANC national general council had revived and endorsed in 2010 as a political resource for the party.

At the time the group said that an opaque web of investments had been created on behalf of the MKMVA, with an intentional dereliction of duty by those financially responsible for it.

The report recommended a “thorough exercise … to trace and identify all possible investment[s]/interest[s] of the MKMVA. This would include any investment obtained by individuals [through the MKMVA] for their own personal benefit.”

At the time Maphatsoe refused to answer questions on the report, saying disciplined cadres do not take their grievances to the courts or the media.

A member of the commissariat retorted that the group had tried to use ANC procedures but had been frustrated, and had turned to auditors and the courts as a last resort. – Additional reporting by Phillip de Wet