JOHANNESBURG, October 6 – The African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) believes that a united Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) veterans structure is important to ultimately ensure that the governing party is itself united again, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Friday.
“We had an NEC [National Executive Committee] meeting last week at which this matter was discussed. The unity of the MK is essential for the unity of the ANC, ” Sisulu said to loud applause from delegates at the MK national council’s conference held in Johannesburg.
The NEC is the highest organ of the ANC between national conferences and has the authority to lead the organisation.
Sisulu said the NEC assessed the situation in the MK, which was was the armed wing of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid. She said they were assured that all necessary steps would be taken in consultation with the ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and representatives of both warring factions, the MK National Council and the MKMVA to ensure unity.
“That was meant to ensure that we arrive at a united meeting today. I do not know what happened, but whatever it is … my request on behalf of the ANC is that all of us rise above all that has taken place,” said Sisulu.
Programme director Thembisile Majola, the deputy minister of energy, said alliance partners including the Congress of South African Trade Unions, South African National Civic Organisation and ANC leagues were invited to address the conference, but they did not show up.
Sisulu decried the lack of funding for the two day conference.
“Everything was arranged, it was at the last minute that things changed … funding was supposed to include accommodation, venue, printing costs and so on … but as we have done in previous occasions we will still hold this conference despite of lack of funding … because we believe we have a responsibility to save this glorious movement.”
Former president, Kgalema Motlanthe, is also expected to address the delegates to the three-day conference.
The second instalment of a conference for former uMkhonto We Sizwe (MK) soldiers, organised by the MK National Council, is set to get underway in Nasrec, Johannesburg, on Friday.
The council said at 1,800 delegates representing MK detachments and invited guests would be at the ”all inclusive” conference. MK was the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) during the struggle against apartheid.
Those expected to address the conference include governing ANC leaders such as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Ramaphosa and Sisulu are two of the seven ANC presidential hopefuls ahead of the party’s December elective conference.
Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, ANC stalwarts, former MK commanders, the ANC leagues, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, SA Communist Party and the SA Council of Churches have also been invited.
”The assembly aims to foster dialogue and promote unity within the former MK community. The conference will also discuss welfare problems facing individual former combatants. It will also reflect on the crisis engulfing the ANC and determine how, as former combatants, we can assist in extricating our movement from the morass it finds itself in,” the council said in a statement.
The conference will discuss, among other things, ANC organisational renewal, welfare challenges of former cadres and amendments of the MK veterans constitution.
However, the other MK organisation, the MK Veterans Association (MKMVA) led by Kebby Maphatsoe, has rubbished the conference and labelled it as “neither official nor inclusive”.
National committee member and spokesman Carl Niehaus said statements made by the council saying that the conference would include MKMVA as a structure were “deliberately misleading and devoid of any truth.”
Niehaus said the MKMVA was the only legitimate structure representing former MK soldiers and has held its 5th national conference in June where leaders were elected.
The MK council is led by former combatants such as deputy minister of Justice and Correctional Services Thabang Makwetla, former MK chief of staff and a previous commander of the South African National Defence Force, Siphiwe Nyanda.
The two organisations claim to represent the interests of the former MK soldiers but are yet to form a united front. The MK council was not part of the MKMVA June conference after initially agreeing to participate and forge a united MK veterans’ organisation.
Nyanda accused the MKMVA of being divisive, charging that its conference was a means to sow further divisions within the ANC. The council said the former soldiers had a responsibility to ensure the preservation of the ANC as ”the instrument for transformation and sustainable development.”
”The efforts we are making are about contributing to strengthening the ANC to remain the leader of society and rebuilding MK veterans as a vehicle for the development and welfare of former combatants.
“We, therefore, urge all former MK combatants to attend the planned conference so as to have a robust and honest conversation on the correct way forward and contribute positively to building a strong, united and principled ANC that will be the ultimate and genuine instrument for the total and complete liberation of our people.”
The conference will end on Saturday.