The president of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), Kebby Maphatsoe, has hit back at what he calls a “drastic” decision by the ANC’s national leadership to disband the structure.
In a letter to deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte, dated 6 June, the leader of the controversial party structure said the MKMVA national executive committee (NEC) needed to meet the party’s officials, and the peace and stability subcommittee of the NEC, to deliberate on events that led to the disbandment.
Maphatsoe also called for the reasons behind what he termed a “drastic deviation” from the agreed on MK unitary process.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in May, during the much-anticipated NEC meeting that deliberated on the step-aside resolution, that the MKMVA had been disbanded.
In his closing address, Ramaphosa said the NEC was deeply concerned at the slow progress in convening a unified conference of its veterans.
“We have agreed to establish an inclusive committee to start preparations for an appropriate celebration of the 60th anniversary of Umkhonto weSizwe in December 2021. We support the deputy president [David Mabuza] and the deputy secretary general in the processes they lead to unite former MK combatants, and call on the MK Military Veterans Association and MK National Council to co-operate,” Ramaphosa said.
The MK Council was formed as a splinter group from the MKMVA after a group of its leaders accused Maphatsoe and his leadership collective of misrepresenting their interests and co-opting a much younger membership, who had no struggle credentials, into the association.
The divisions between the two structures led to the Nasrec conference resolving that structures should begin unity talks — involving six leaders from each structure — to take the structure to conference. Tony Yengeni was tasked with overseeing the process as head of the peace and stability subcommittee.
Maphatsoe said that the decision by the NEC was surprising, given that it fundamentally deviated from the six-a-side MK unitary process that the MKMVA and its national council had been deliberating on.
The six-a-side unity process was formulated to clean up the structure’s database and prepare for a MK unity conference.
“As MKMVA we have dutifully carried out these instructions. Thus, now being confronted by a radical deviation from these instructions, I have requested that the MKMVA NEC be given the chance to meet, and deliberate about the situation and, as a disciplined organisation, that our NEC be given the opportunity to respond in a representative and democratic manner,” he said.
In the letter, Maphatsoe goes on to blame the MK Council for its withdrawal from the unitary process, adding that the council has undermined the Nasrec conference resolution on MK unity, and hurled public insults at Yengeni as the chair of the peace and stability subcommittee.
Deep divisions between the MK Council and the MKMVA centre around the factional battles during former president Jacob Zuma’s term.
In 2017, Ramaphosa blamed the party’s leadership for sowing divisions between the two structures.
The council wrote to the ANC asking that it annul the results of the 2017 elective conference at which Maphatsoe was re-elected by more than 300 delegates, who were allegedly not bona fide MK members.
The South African Communist Party has also accused the MKMVA of being used to foster divisions in the ANC. This narrative was further bolstered when MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus — who works at the office of temporarily suspended secretary general Ace Magashule — penned an radical economic transformation (RET) manifesto, called Radical Economic Transformation: a Basic Document, with the subtitle Unpacking RET in Alignment to the Freedom Charter.
The document — which has been rejected by the NEC — called for the governing party to return to its socialist ideology, stating that there could not be organisational renewal without a recommitment to that approach.
In the document, Niehaus, who has been at the forefront of the RET group, particularly in Gauteng, writes that the RET faction rejects unity based on “abstract formulas” or a “liberal approach to those who deviate from the core of our national liberation struggle in theory and in practice”.
“We reject unity that is not based on a clear commitment to the core of the national democratic revolution, which is to shift economic power to African people, the majority of whom are working class,” the document stated.
“We reject unity that is based on this or that individual agreeing to share positions of leadership. We reject unity that is based on blind loyalty to this or that leader; unity that is based on money politics, regardless of whether the leader deviates from the core of our national liberation politics in their public and private pronouncements.”
Alluding to bias of the officials, Maphatsoe said that the MKMVA’s leadership had, on two occasions, called for a meeting with the top six on the withdrawal of the MK Council from unity talks but their requests fell on deaf ears.
“This is the case, while we are aware that the ANC national office bearers have met more than once with the leadership of the MK National Council. We find this situation deeply disconcerting.
“Once again the NEC of MKMVA formally repeat in this letter our outstanding requests to meet the NEC peace and stability subcommittee, and to receive the outstanding briefing, as well as for our long outstanding request to meet the national office bearers of the ANC to be honoured,” Maphatsoe wrote.
“We need to have these engagements prior to the MKMVA NEC meeting, that we are planning to have as soon as possible next week, so that we can be fully briefed about whatever the reasons are for those drastically deviating decisions of the NWC [national working committee] that you have conveyed to me.”