A group of ANC members who were members of Umkhonto we Sizwe in exile has raised a major challenge to the leadership of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) and to the Zuma election campaign hierarchy in Luthuli House. By PAUL TREWHELA.
Ahead of a planned cadres’ assembly of former MK members due to be held in Bloemfontein/Mangaung next weekend, the convenors – formerly known in the MKMVA as “the Commissariat” – have taken three bold steps, with a very broad potential significance for the ANC.
The meeting will take place only a week before the convening of the ANC’s elective conference at Mangaung.
The convenors of next weekend’s cadres’ assembly – all members of ANC branches, and each with a history of roughly 35 years as ANC members, much of it in combat conditions in Angola – will argue for support among fellow MK veterans for the formation of a new MK veterans’ organisation, provisionally to be called the Umkhonto we Sizwe War Veterans Union (MKWVU). The convenors have already placed an application before the courts arguing that members of the outgoing executive of MKMVA corruptly “looted” the organisation’s funds for their private bank accounts. The legal action is continuing.
They argue further that the same former executive members – most notably, MKMVA’s outgoing chairman, Kebby Maphatsoe – convened a “fraudulent” conference in Boksburg last month packed with fictitious members in order to reinforce their hold and to endorse President Zuma’s election campaign. Zuma addressed the same conference in an address attacking “the enemy within”.
After “numerous meetings and correspondence” with his office, the convenors have written to Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary-general, expressing their “deepest disappointment” at the manner in which the leadership of the ANC has “failed ex-MK members by refusing to act” against the former leadership of MKMVA, “in the light of clear, irrefutable and compelling evidence of corruption and mass looting of resources belonging to ex-MK members.”
The letter continues: “We can only conclude that by you refusal to act, you have acquiesced and condoned corruption in the ranks of MKMVA and knowingly and consciously contributed to the worsening plight and misery that has visited huge numbers of ex-MK members who have been systematically reduced to the status of the wretched and great unwashed of the ANC.”
The convenors have compiled a proposal for electoral reform away from the present system of unmediated proportional representation and the placement of MPs on the basis of the party list, towards a constituency-based system, on the basis of large multi-member constituencies.
Arguing that the country has “reached a dangerous impasse because of unaccountability of politicians to voters” – which it describes as the “root cause of systemic corruption and dysfunction in the country” – the proposal argues that in the 18 years since the first democratic elections in 1994, the current system of proportional representation has “led to deterioration of services, rampant corruption and lack of individual accountability of politicians.”
It argues that the “first principle in the Freedom Charter, ‘The people shall govern’, is replaced by a political aristocracy that deploys according to cliques and pals.”
Tellingly, in the light of the convenors’ letter to Gwede Mantashe, the proposal asserts that most of the time, the “people on the ground and ANC branch members are given deployees from the secretariat committee who are corrupt, inept and sometimes completely incompetent.
“Many of these deployees, the supposed cadres, spend most of their time thinking about the next tender and how much wealth they can amass, rather than service to the population. These are the people damaging the ANC brand and the cadre deployment policy on the ground. These deployees are imposed from above: the branches have no power to remove them. Under the present electoral system the population is helpless and cannot get rid of these corrupt, greedy and incompetent ANC officials.”
The convenors argue that under the system of electoral reform which they propose, a large constituency such as Soweto might have, say, 7 MPs, each elected on an individual basis by the voters.
Minority parties could be elected within multi-member constituencies on the basis of the strength of their candidates and their programme.
ANC branches, as with branches of all other political parties, would acquire the sole power to select their own candidates, by contrast with the present system in which the “local population, and also the branches, are helpless against corrupt individuals or officials appointed by the party secretariat.”
The proposal states that “the key issue” is “democratic control of politicians by electors.” It continues: “At present there is only undemocratic control of politicians by party headquarters. Local people have no control over any individual MP, member of provincial legislatures or half of municipal councils.”
Multi-member constituencies would be created on the basis of demography, so that “geography and population density” would determine constituency boundaries.
The proposal argues that this is the “only way of restoring accountability of individual politicians,” and calls for a “renewed struggle for democratic advance, so that the promise ‘The people shall govern’ can be made real.”
The proposal is signed by Omry Mathabatha Makgoale, 57, a senior engineer at Eskom with degrees from London South Bank University and Wits, who was personal bodyguard to the ANC president-in-exile Oliver Tambo in Lusaka in1979/80, and who was MK district commander in 1983/84 in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
As a senior school pupil at Morris Isaacson High School, he was a participant in the 16 June 1976 march of school pupils in Soweto alongside Tsietsi Mashinini and Murphy Morobe. He was the organiser of the 30th anniversary gathering of former pupils of Form 5A at Morris Isaacson in 2006, together with surviving teachers such as Mr Fanyana Mazibuko.
Makgoale was elected chairman of all ANC members in Tanzania, the biggest concentration of ANC members in exile, in elections to the Regional Political Committee held in September 1989.
He had previously been the most senior MK military commander to be sent to Quatro prison camp in Angola, after he had negotiated the surrender of weapons by armed MK troops at Viana camp outside Luanda in the so-called “mutiny” of February 1984, when MK troops had been surrounded by armoured vehicles of the Angolan presidential guard.
Makgoale was held in Quatro for nearly five years. His election as chairman of all ANC members in Tanzania in 1989, following his release from Quatro, was disallowed by ANC headquarters in Lusaka.
The letter to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe by the convenors of the forthcoming cadres’ assembly at Mangaung next weekend was signed by Alex Mashinini, the MK travelling name of Eddie Mokhoanatse.
Further leading members of “the Commissariat” include Obbey Mabena (MK name Jola Kamarada), one of the first MK troops to be sent to establish a base in Angola, and Tseko Nell.
The convenors represent a major presence from the June 16 and Moncada detachments of MK in exile, formed from the young people who went into exile after the renewed upsurge of struggle in 1976.
Among a wide range of ex-MK colleagues and supporters who broadly share their views on lack of accountability and corruption within MKMVA and the ANC itself is advocate Vusi Pikoli, the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority who was suspended as national director of public prosecutions by former president Thabo Mbeki in 2007 after he had instigated criminal charges against the subsequently jailed police commissioner, Jackie Selebi, as well as the then deputy president, Jacob Zuma. Pikoli was a member of MK in Angola. DM