South Africa

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MK vets conference postponed amid questions about missing trust fund money

MK vets conference postponed amid questions about missing trust fund money
MKMVA leader Kebby Maphatsoe speaks outside the State Capture Inquiry on 15 July 2019 where former president Zuma appeared. Photo: Ayanda Mthethwa

Preparations for a gathering that was supposed to unite the Umkhonto weSizwe military veterans hit a snag when a group of veterans asked difficult questions over missing trust money meant for suffering members. Organisers say the postponement was because there are ‘gaps’ that need to be dealt with.

Peace and security subcommittee chairperson Tony Yengeni blamed load shedding for the delays in vetting those claiming to be Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) military veterans ahead of the MK Military Veterans Association conference which was set to take place this weekend. It has been postponed by a week.

The Department of Military Veterans, tasked with looking after the needs of those who fought in the liberation struggle, said the vetting process had not yet been completed to its satisfaction, Yengeni said at a press conference on Thursday.

The press conference was advertised as a report back on the MKMVA’s state of readiness for its conference, but on Wednesday the notice said the briefing would be about the postponement of the conference.

“We need more time to deal with the gaps,” News24 reported Yengeni as saying. Delegates have to be able to provide a defence force number, for instance.

But there are deep political divisions among the military veterans, as MKMVA has been strongly aligned to former president Jacob Zuma, while the MK Council, made up of former generals and commissars of the ANC’s armed wing, came about in the run-up to the ANC’s conference in Nasrec in 2017. The council questioned some of the assertions made by the MKMVA, as well as the struggle credentials of its leadership, and it also raised concerns about the welfare of ex-combatants.

Former veterans have been struggling to hold current MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe to account for money that went missing from the MK Veterans Trust SA, even after a court had ordered that he be removed from the trust. The trust was established in 1998, but only registered in 2009, to benefit the organisation and former soldiers.

One of the applicants, Olefile Sam Mngqibisa, said no action had been taken since the 2018 ruling, which confirmed the contents of a draft forensic investigation by auditing firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo in 2011, which found money had flowed from the trust into leaders’ pockets.

It found that Maphatsoe, former MKMVA treasurer Dumisani Khoza, former chairperson Deacon Mathe, and former treasurer Johannes “Sparks” Motseki received millions in personal benefits from MKMVA accounts. All four were to be removed as trustees.

Mngqibisa said many of the veterans who were supposed to be receiving this money are dying, some of them destitute.

“The Master of the Court has not yet taken any action against these guys, even though he was ordered to do so,” Mngqibisa said, adding that he was struggling to get any answers on where this issue stood. The Master was ordered to appoint a trustee after consulting the interested parties, and to conduct an investigation into the trust’s administration.

He also said nobody was able to tell them how much was left in the trust.

The court application was done on the instruction of a Cadre’s Assembly of over 900 MK veterans in Soshanguve in April 2011.

MK veterans like Mngqibisa are now questioning Maphatsoe’s fitness to run for office at all as he looks set to be nominated for another term as MKMVA head.

Mngqibisa said there was also the unresolved issue of the notorious Quatro prison camp in Angola. He has called for an investigation of those deaths, as well as an exhumation and repatriation of the remains of MK members from countries like Angola, Tanzania and Zambia. His letters to Ramaphosa on this matter have so far gone unanswered.

The trust money issue has been one of the major sources of division among the MK veterans. The ANC’s Nasrec conference in 2017 resolved that the MKMVA’s upcoming conference should be the culmination of the unification of the MKMVA, after its factional 2017 conference was declared invalid by the national executive committee because of a large number of unverified delegates. Zuma spoke at that conference, which created the impression that he endorsed it.

Ramaphosa was due to speak at the upcoming conference, but there is speculation that Mngqibisa’s posts on an MK WhatsApp group about the 2018 court order made organisers think twice about convening a conference that would taint Ramaphosa by association.

Maphatsoe has previously said the court ruling didn’t affect the trustees – including himself – because the trust was opened long before they came into the national executive committee. He said the trust in question was dormant and there was another one that’s being run professionally.

He also said the SizweNtsalubaGobodo report wasn’t an official investigation which could make binding findings.

Maphatsoe served as deputy minister of defence and military veterans from 2014 to 2019, but was replaced by Thabang Makwetla after the 2019 general election.

The Department of Military Veterans is set to pay for the upcoming conference. In the past the association received money from the Gupta family, which paid R850,000 towards its 2010 national general council. The organisation also received shares in Gupta companies. DM

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