Whatever the successes and failures of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) as the military wing of the ANC and the South African Communist Party, which have been debated at length in these pages and elsewhere, MK’s successor organisation, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), has not exactly covered itself in glory.
Eyebrows were raised (and laughs erupted) when, recently, in the face of a Democratic Alliance-led march on Luthuli House (oh, the terror!), the MKMVA rustled up some youthful veterans to parade in front of the ANC’s headquarters. Questions were asked, as we report this week, about these “veterans”: who they were, whether they were behaving like a private army for President Jacob Zuma, as well as questions about who is benefiting from the state scheme for veterans.
Perhaps that’s not the first or the worst scandal to beset the MKMVA. Five years ago, as reported in this newspaper, a court case about allegedly pilfered millions brought into the open conflicts within the MKMVA. We described it as an open war breaking out between the executive of the organisation and a group called “the commissariat”, which wanted to expose wrongdoing and malfeasance in the MKMVA. The last anything was heard of this case was in May last year, when Kebby Maphatsoe, the MKMVA head and current deputy minister of defence, finally appeared in court to face the charges he and his fellow accused have avoided for five years.
The same Maphatsoe, remember, who disgraced himself by throwing around wild accusations in defence of Zuma: that the then public protector, Thuli Madonsela, was a “CIA spy”, and that Ronnie Kasrils, the then minister of defence, had set up a “honey trap” for Zuma. The latter cry had to be withdrawn when Kasrils sued.
In addition, since 2011 there have been allegations that the MKMVA took money from the Guptas, and, indeed, the MKMVA stood up to defend its relationship with the Guptas – if you can call “So what?” a defence. When the MKMVA treasurer (and, coincidentally, the person replaced by Pravin Gordhan as finance minister after an outcry), Des van Rooyen, put on his best camo T-shirt and took to the MKMVA podium to damn Gordhan, it looked very much as though the MKMVA was now fully “captured”.
Bear this in mind as we look into the latest trouble in which the MKMVA finds itself.