A meeting between the ANC’s top six and the party’s former military wing, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), collapsed on Monday morning. The meeting degenerated into chaos after the officials were accused of being factional.
This has resulted in the MKMVA rebelling against the ANC’s top officials, saying that they will continue with business as usual, despite the talks of disbanding the structure.
The meeting between the ANC’s leaders, the MKMVA and the MK Council — a splinter group of the former military wing — was called after the national executive committee resolved to establish a preparatory committee to take the structure to its long-awaited conference.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Monday morning, MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe said the meeting ended abruptly after the ANC’s top six kicked them out of the virtual platform.
“There was no understanding between us and the officials. Then they ended up kicking us out of the meeting, so the meeting was closed like that,” he said.
Maphatsoe said the impasse came when the MKMVA wanted the top officials to provide reasons for its disbandment. He added that the top six could not, but only said that the item was closed to engagement.
“Then we started saying ‘No, you are making us believe that you are factional as the officials. You call us and say you will discuss with us the conference preparations and to consider a dissolution but when we ask questions that you must explain to us, you are failing to explain to us and you don’t give us a chance to speak’.”
Maphatsoe accused ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe of refusing to allow the structure a platform to be heard.
“Our term ends next year, so we are going to operate as normal. We are not dissolved. It’s them who dissolved it in name. We are going to operate and do our programmes as planned. If they want to meet with us, we will meet with them but if they don’t want to meet with us, it’s fine — we will continue working,” he said.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe had not returned the M&G’s request for comment by the time of publication.
In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the MKMVA said it felt disrespected, adding that the engagement was alien to the democratic culture of the ANC.
“We will not be disrespected. We will not bow to dictatorship. The members of the MKMVA and the MKMVA as a legitimate constitutional entity deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Our members have dedicated their lives to the ANC and to the liberation struggle,” Maphatsoe said in a statement.
Maphatsoe added that the MKMVA did not recognise the preparatory committee set up by the national working committee.
Deep divisions between the MK Council and the MKMVA centre around the factional battles during former president Jacob Zuma’s term.
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.
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 a radical economic transformation (RET) manifesto, called Radical Economic Transformation: a Basic Document, with the subtitle Unpacking RET in Alignment to the Freedom Charter.