Media statement by National Working Committee of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association
9 October 2017
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) met in one of our regularly scheduled meetings today in order to deliberate on, and to execute our duties in terms of our mandate as derived from the Resolutions of our 5th National Conference, that was held from the 8 – 11 June 2017 at the Birchwood Conference Centre.
At our National Conference delegates noted with grave concern the plight of many of our MK comrades, whose plight in terms of housing, health and general welfare leaves much to be addressed and improved on.
With this foremost in our minds the NWC received reports and inputs from the National Office Bearers (NOB’s) regarding ongoing work concerning the promotion of the welfare of our members. Among others we discussed the ongoing engagements that we have with the Department of Military Veterans (DMV), Department of Human Settlements and all national provincial and local government departments.
The NWC noted with appreciation the decision of the Council of the City of Ethekwini, under the leadership of Mayor comrade Zandile Gumede, to approve their Military Veterans Policy and to establish a Directorate of Military Veterans, which will go a long way to provide opportunities for military veterans with regards to housing, tenders and skills development. We have, however, noted with disappointment that the Democratic Alliance (DA) continued in Ethekwini with the same narrow minded and reactionary opposition that they have advanced throughout the country to try and block the implementation of the Military Veterans Act no 18 of 2011.
We note with appreciation the positive stance that the ANC takes with regards to advancing the provisions of the Military Veterans Act. Similar to the stance of the City of Ethekwini we also commend the local municipality of KwaDukuza and its Mayor comrade Ricardo Mthembu for the positive and constructive stance that they have taken in their engagements with our MKMVA representatives in order to implement the provisions of the Military Veterans Act.
At national and provincial level engagements by MKMVA has opened up opportunities in five days provinces, namely Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
It is also important to specifically note the positive engagements that MKMVA had with the Provincial Governments of Gauteng and Mpumalanga. We are appreciative that these Provincial Governments are taking the plight of Military Veterans seriously. In Gauteng a Directorate of Military Veterans had been established, and in Mpumalanga a steering committee had been established, and we were impressed by the commitment of the Premier of Mpumalanga, comrade David Mabuza, when we met him and the Mpumalanga Provincial Executive Council, who said that the plight of Military Veterans must to be addressed once and for all. It is this commitment that underpins the progress in the province where 60% of MK military veterans are now employed.
Many MK Veterans comrades have been employed as part of the municipal law enforcement agencies and job opportunities created through by-law enforcement. In Mpumalaga we are talking of 80 new job opportunities that have been created, and in Gauteng in the metro of Ekurhuleni approximately a hundred MK veterans have secured employment
In the Free State 95% of MK veterans who are members of MKMVA are been employed in different municipalities and provincial government departments across the province.
In terms of our National Conference Resolution regarding the Review of Rankings in the South African Police Services (SAPS) excellent progress has been registered, and the first report was submitted to the Minister of Police for his consideration. MKMVA is similarly engaged with regards to the process of Ranking Reviews in the Departments of Defence and Intelligence.
Our priority is to ensure that not a single legitimate MK military veteran, nor their families are excluded from the data base of the Department of Military Veterans. We are engaged in an intensive and comprehensive process with the Department of Military Veterans to achieve this critical objective.
It has always been our position that all MK military veterans have to stand united in their commitment to the political ideals that we have fought for, as well as the critical work that needs to be done in order to ensure that all MK military veterans are adequately cared for. These are the main reasons why the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) was formed.
The task that MKMVA is entrusted with is huge, and we will only be able to carry it out to its full completion if we as MK military veterans are able to work together a united and disciplined force. Any strife and divisions within our ranks are counter-productive and mitigate against the interests of MK military veterans. It has always been our belief that MKMVA must be firmly rooted within the organisational structures of our mother body, the African National Congress (ANC). Historically, and in terms of our Constitution, all members of MK are firstly members of the ANC, before they joined Umkhonto we Sizwe. MK was always politically rooted and driven by the core liberation ideals of the ANC as set out in the Freedom Charter. Our involvement in the armed liberation struggle was always driven and determined by the liberation politics of the ANC.
MKMVA adheres to the principles of democratic centralism that allows for vigorous inter-organisational debate and the consideration of a wide variety of views. However, true to democratic centralism, that sustained and kept the ANC together during the difficult years of exile, it is our firm belief that once the internal discussions are concluded the organisational decisions that are democratically arrived at have to be accepted and defended as if these are our own decisions, whether we have initially agreed with them or not. This is what we as soldiers have done many a time in exile, and we continue to be committed to do so also now. A core characteristic of any good soldier is discipline and respect for the organisational structures within which he/she serves.
MKMVA derives our authority thus from our position as the only Association for MK Military veterans that is formally provided for within the organisational structures of the ANC. It has always been of critical importance for us to protect that authority by being committed to the unity of all MK veterans and to represent and serve every single one of them to the best of our ability.
It is, however, important to note that although MKMVA is firmly rooted within the organisational structures of the ANC - as an Association with our own Constitution and organisational structures throughout all the regions of South Africa with members that vote regionally and nationally for our own leaders to democratically lead our organisation - we also have a considerable degree of autonomy that the ANC respects. MKMVA similarly to the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) and ANC Youth League (ANCYL), that are all a critical part of the ANC, have our own autonomous organisational structures. While we derive our authority from the ANC as our Mother Body, we similarly derive our autonomy from the recognition of the ANC that we have specific constituencies which can only be adequately served if we have our own organisational structures that are specifically set up and administered in order to provide for the unique needs and demands of our members.
It follows that we in MKMVA find any divisions within our ranks deeply disturbing and counter-productive. That is why, when some individual MK members started to challenge the authority of our MKMVA organisational structures and the leadership of these structures that have been democratically elected, we felt that engagement – rather than antagonistic rejection – with them as fellow comrades was the correct approach. Even when these individuals went one step further and organised themselves into a structure that evolved over time to become the so-called MK National Council, it was our approach not to out of hand denounce this structure but to engage with it and more specifically the individuals that formed it. This we have done despite the fact that in our military culture the setting up of parallel structures that rebel against the legitimate and properly constituted structures is anathema and in terms of military logic should have solicited our strong rejection and disciplinary action.
However, because of the political foundation that always informs the behaviour of true soldiers of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and our understanding of the critical importance of unity, we followed the route of engagement. That we have done so for a considerable time, and had placed much effort into it is a matter of historical public record, because our engagements were transparent and reported on by the media. However, what MKMVA could not allow to happen was for these engagements with the MK National Council, which we have to emphasise is not a formally recognised structure of the ANC, to paralyse the critical work that MKMVA had in the first instance been established to do. (In the earlier part of this statement we have referred to that work, and if it is not carried out will in a severe and negative manner impact on the lives of our members).
Thus, while being prepared to engage, we had to safeguard the organisational integrity of MKMVA, and especially ensure that our preparedness to engage was not abused by the MK National Council grouping to paralyse our organisational ability and eventually destroy MKMVA itself.
Sadly over a period of time we reluctantly came to the conclusion that the intention of the MK National Council grouping was not to first and foremost raise concerns about the well-being and services that are being provided to MK military veterans, but that they were politically driven to either destroy MKMVA, or take it over and put it in the service of alien political ideals and associates that do not want to see the implementation of Radical Economic Transformation to bring about the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution (NDR). The democratic mandate that our members have given us at our various Regional Conferences and our National Conference does not allow us to allow such motives to succeed.
MKMVA thus had no other option but to protect our organisational integrity and the provisions of our constitution. While we remained open to engage with any MK veteran (including the MK National Council) we had to proceed in terms of the demands of our Constitution with our 5th National Conference, which was held from the 8th to the 11th of June at the Birchwood Conference Centre. This Conference was indeed all inclusive and the Regional General Councils of MKMVA participated in the preparations for the conference and the election of delegates to attend the Conference. This process was indeed inclusive of all generations of MK. We had to proceed because the democratic mandate of the elected leadership of MKMVA had reached its end. The call of the MK National Council for us not to proceed was unconstitutional, and unreasonable.
We made it clear that the legitimate MK members who are part of the MK National Council formation were welcome to participate in the MKMVA National Conference as long as they were democratically mandated by our established structures to participate as legitimate delegates. Their unpreparedness to do so raises serious concerns about their commitment to democracy, and the true motives with which they started the engagement with MKMVA in the first place.
MKMVA puts on record that our 5th National Conference was properly and legally constituted in terms of our Constitution. Furthermore the delegates who participated in the Conference were properly accredited. The elections of our National Office Bearers and additional NEC members were conducted by an independent organisation with an unsullied reputation. Two members of the NEC Committee of Ten that was appointed by the National Executive Committee of the ANC to assist with the preparations and execution of the Conference, comrades Lindiwe Zulu and Gugile Nkwinti, presided over the Conference and also observed and endorsed the election procedures and the results thereof. In this regard we will however be amiss not to express our disappointment that Comrade Tito Mboweni, who was the convenor of the NEC Committee, and a number of other comrades have not pulled their weight with regards to the preparations for the Conference, and also did not attend the Conference. Some of them did not even present apologies for their absence. To our minds this was an unfortunate dereliction of duty.
The National Executive Committee acknowledged that our Conference was legitimate by subsequently having granted MKMVA a delegation of 30 members that participated in the National Policy Conference of the ANC. Similarly MKMVA was formally invited to participate in the ANC NEC Lekgotla. Our General Secretary is provided with office space in Luthuli House, and as a full time official his salary is paid by the ANC through the office of the General Secretary of the ANC. None of these actions would have been taken if the NEC of the ANC did not recognise MKMVA as the only official association representing MK military veterans, and furthermore did not recognise the legitimacy of the democratic outcomes of our 5th National Conference.
It must be understood that the calls by the MK National Council grouping that this legitimate MKMVA Conference simply had to be disregarded and replaced by a so-called conference that they, as an unofficial grouping with no legal locus standi had called, was most unreasonable. If the elected leadership of MKMVA had done so, we would have been guilty of behaving unconstitutionally and disregarding the democratic mandate that our members have given us. This would have been nothing short of treachery, and there was absolutely no way that we could accede to this unreasonable demand of the MK National Council. We have, however, indicated to the legitimate MK members who are currently associated with the MK National Council that they are always welcome to return to the fold of MKMVA. Any MK military veterans who do so will find that we are open to engage about any concerns that they have about the treatment of MK veterans, and proposals about how to improve the services that we are morally and legally bound to provide to them will be most welcome. Nothing will make us happier than to address legitimate concerns, to forge unity, and to strengthen MKMVA to become the best possible association to serve the needs and interests of our members.
We have noted that individual members of the MK National Council have lodged a complaint with the NEC of the ANC about the legitimacy of our 5th National Conference. As is required of us we have presented a comprehensive Report about the 5th National Conference to the Secretary General of the ANC, comrade Gwede Mantashe, and we have also indicated that as disciplined members of the ANC we subject ourselves to the NEC considering the complaint lodged by the said members of the MK National Council. At the last ANC NEC meeting the NEC discussed the complaint and decided in its wisdom to refer it to the National Working Committee (NWC) for consideration and for final recommendations to come back to the ANC NEC. It is our understanding that both the complainants as well as the leadership of MKMVA will get the opportunity to make presentations to the NWC. It is important to put on record that this has not yet happened.
As MKMVA we are therefore perturbed that while this legitimate complaints process that the NEC has decided on is still in the process of unfolding the MK National Council decided to proceed with their unofficial rebellious conference to counter our official 5th National Conference. This flies in the face of the complaint that they themselves have lodged with the NEC, and leaves us with the distinct impression that they do not even respect their own complaint, and in doing so exposes it as spurious and devoid of substance. This behaviour confirms the earlier impression that we gained from our engagements with them that they are primarily interested in promoting a destabilising and factional agenda.
As we have stated MKMVA will not be drawn into such factional one-upmanship. As disciplined members of the ANC who respect the official and democratic organisational structures of the ANC we will await the outcome of the procedures that the ANC NEC has put in place. Only the ANC NEC can finally decide on the complaint brought to it, and any attempt – as the MK National Council is now doing – to undermine the authority of the ANC NEC is ill-discipline of the worst order.
Such conduct is entirely unacceptable and should result in disciplinary action against members of the ANC who make themselves guilty of such.
The MKMVA NWC also discussed the very abusive and personal attacks that have lodged by members of the MK National Council against our President, comrade Kebby Maphatsoe. The NWC concluded that these unacceptable attacks are launched in order to attack and undermine MKMVA. The NWC also noted that these kind of attacks have now become a trend, which we have also seen in the attacks that constantly being launched against President Zuma. Similarly those attacks are first and foremost meant to attack and undermine the ANC.
It is in this context that MKMVA is deeply disturbed that two senior members of the NEC in the persons of comrade Lindi Sisulu and Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa attended the illegitimate MK National Council Conference and addressed the gathering.
As senior members of the NEC – in the instance of Deputy President Ramaphosa the second most senior Official of the ANC – these comrades should know better. They are fully aware of the NEC processes that we explained. In fact as members of the NEC they are party to the steps that had been decided on to process the MK National Council complaint. By having attended this illegitimate conference and having given credence to issues raised by the complainants they have now acted in a manner that undermines the NEC’s authority. The MKMVA NWC has resolved to write a formal letter of complaint about the conduct of comrades Sisulu and Ramaphosa.
We understand that both the NEC members in question are candidates for the Presidency of the ANC, and we also understand that they must be desperate for any opportunity to campaign. However, we are deeply disappointed that they are now apparently placing their personal ambitions above the organisational disciplinary requirements of the ANC. The result of their attendance of a meeting of an entirely unofficial (in fact illegitimate) rebel meeting is that they have made themselves guilty of factional behaviour and they have allowed their ambitions to contribute to further divide the family of MK military veterans.
In having done so they have done a huge disservice to all MK military veterans, but also to the ANC in general and NEC in particular. What we have hoped for was that they would have utilised their experience and seniority in the NEC in order to forge unity between all MK veterans and in doing so to strengthen MKMVA as the only constitutionally legitimate organisation. We call on them to desist from any further divisive and self-serving campaigning, and instead to fulfil their duties as members of the NEC in a manner that will place the ANC - rather than their personal ambitions - first.
In conclusion we need to re-iterate that MKMVA remains committed to organisational unity and discipline in all the structures of the ANC. In this context we call on the MK National Council to cease with their factional and divisive actions forthwith. It is high time that they recognise the legitimate and official organisational authority of MKMVA and return to our fold where all true and disciplined MK Military Veterans belong. All of us have work to do in order to serve our members and the people of our beloved country.
Issued by Kebby Maphatsoe, President of MKMVA, 9 October 2017