Zuma skips MKMVA gala dinner due to 'ill health'

Doctors tell president to 'just take a small break'

Zuma skips MKMVA gala dinner due to 'ill health'

16 December 2016

Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma, who was meant to give a keynote address at the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association's (MKMVA) gala dinner on Thursday night, did not attend due to ill health.

State Security Minister David Mahlobo, who represented Zuma at the event, said the president had been advised by doctors to "just take a small break".

"He would have loved to join us, unfortunately you know he works so hard and he could not defy doctors when if he was not feeling well," Mahlobo said.

The gala dinner was held at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park on Thursday night to commemorate the founding of the ANC liberation army 55 years ago.

Zuma's absence came amidst criticism from within the party that the event was factional, linked to the Gupta family and that "special awards" were given to those who allegedly benefited from business dealings with the family.

MKMVA chair Kebby Maphatsoe on Thursday night dismissed as "rumours" speculation that Zuma had been warned not to attend.

"I had a meeting with the president yesterday [Wednesday] and I was explaining the programme to him and how far we are with proceedings and he was excited about addressing this event. It [his absence] has nothing to do with rumours that people are talking about," Maphatsoe said.

However, Maphatsoe left it to Mahlobo to explain Zuma's absence to the guests. Zuma is due to lead the government's commemoration of Reconciliation Day in the North West on Friday.

MKMVA backtracks on awards for Motsoeneng, Myeni, Molefe

Other controversial figures who were no-shows included the SABC's Hlaudi Motsoeneng, SAA board chair Duduzile Myeni and former Eskom boss Brian Molefe who were expected to get non-combatants awards.

They were due to be honoured with "special awards" for their "contribution to radical transformation". However, Maphatsoe backtracked from conferring the awards on the three. As recently as Tuesday he had defended the awards to non-combatants. Maphatsoe on Thursday said they had decided against awarding the honours.

"To put the record straight we decided not to award the three awards."

"We have come to a conclusion that the awards that have been produced so far are only 30 so we decided we will consider them next year," Maphatsoe said.

Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina, who had been expected to welcome guests, was also not present. ANC Women's League president Bathabile Dlamini was another notable absence. She was listed on the programme as one of the speakers.

Thirty former combatants were also honoured, including former MKMVA secretary Ayanda Dlodlo and poet Mzwakhe Mbuli, who were  also absent. SARS boss Tom Moyane, who was also expected to be honoured, was not mentioned when awards were given.

The event was sponsored by the Department of Defence and Military Veterans; and Gupta-owned news channel ANN7 and the New Age newspaper.

The dinner appeared to deepen the rift between MK members. Another group, seen to be challenging Maphatsoe's, will hold a special national council on Saturday.

The steering committee of mainly former generals is led by former South African National Defence Force chief Siphiwe Nyanda and ANC national executive committee members Tony Yengeni and Bheki Cele.

This article first appeared on News24, see here