South Africa

OP-ED

The scourge of Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association leaders

Members of Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association call on Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to accept their memorandum at the State Capture Commission on 9 October 2020 in Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

Nothing has caused more damage to the Umkhonto weSizwe brand than the reckless leadership of the MK Military Veterans’ Association chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe and its spokesperson Carl Niehaus.

The MK Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) was established principally to fend for the welfare needs of former Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) combatants, veterans of the struggle for liberation; and to keep them within the ANC’s guiding political ambit. MK itself, the military wing of the African National Congress during struggle days, ceased to exist in 1994, when South Africa’s first democratic government was formed.

MK members, like those of other armed formations that were involved on either side of the liberation struggle, were absorbed into the South African National Defence Force, the country’s national army. Those who did not wish to continue in the role of soldiers took up opportunities elsewhere in civilian service. 

The extent to which the MKMVA leadership has fulfilled its primary mandate is unclear. The Military Veterans Act of 2011 placed an obligation on the state to provide qualifying military veterans and their dependents, from all veterans’ organisations, services and benefits that include: a military pension; housing; free access to military health services; free/subsidised access to public transport; skills acquisition and education support services; job placement; burial support; entrepreneurial support services; and counselling. 

This, no doubt, went a long way towards providing a substantial part of the assistance the MKMVA was set up to source. It must be said, though, that the service provided by the Department of Military Veterans has consistently fallen short of expectations, to the obvious detriment of the intended beneficiaries. Unfortunately, the appointment of Maphatsoe as deputy minister in charge of veterans’ affairs did not a whit to redress the deficiency. 

It appears that the MKMVA leadership made efforts that included acquiring shares for the organisation in a number of companies, including one called Islandsite Investments, owned by the Gupta brothers, notorious for masterminding the crippling “State Capture” project. (The Guptas are currently fugitives. They and Salim Essa have been blacklisted by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and may not do business in the US, and with US businesses, because of their involvement in grand corruption in South Africa.)

Maphatsoe is quoted as saying he didn’t understand why people had problems with the Gupta family. He described criticism of the family as “racist and xenophobic”. With good reason. In 2010 the Guptas footed the bill for the MKMVA’s four-day national general council to the tune of R850,000.

During Maphatsoe’s chairmanship of the MKMVA Trust, an investigation was undertaken by SizweNtsalubaGobodo into the management of the trust’s finances. It unearthed gross irregularities. It found that Maphatsoe and three others personally received millions in benefits from MKMVA accounts. The South Gauteng High Court ruled that Maphatsoe and his friends must be removed from the trust. The court ruled that they had failed to exercise their responsibilities, prejudicing the intended beneficiaries. It is not easy to locate published MKMVA annual financial statements.

How sad for the duped and abused MKMVA members.

Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe during a briefing by the ANC’s top six officials at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lucky Maibi)

For a number of years, the MKMVA has thrown itself into the political arena as an unabashed supporter of former president Jacob Zuma. In 2016, Maphatsoe and MKMVA were ordered by a high court to pay Ronnie Kasrils, a former MK commander, R500,000 for defamation for alleging that Kasrils orchestrated Zuma’s rape charges. Maphatsoe admitted that his statements were “false, offensive and unacceptable”.

In 2014, Maphatsoe accused former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of being “a CIA agent”. When asked to provide evidence of this, he withdrew the allegation and apologised. Maphatsoe, who lost his right arm to a sniper’s bullet while absconding from an ANC military camp in Uganda in 1989, was appointed deputy minister of military veterans in May 2014 by then-president Zuma.

Wearing army camouflage, MKMVA stages street demonstrations. It has marched to Luthuli House to demand the implementation of ANC conference resolutions that call for the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank. It has proclaimed support for what is touted as “radical economic transformation”. Post the Zuma presidency, it has marched on the streets to protest against its members’ lack of employment, blaming it on ANC corruption. At the time of writing, a group of MKMVA “veterans” are encamped outside Zuma’s Nkandla home, daring any law enforcement agency to arrest Zuma for defying a court ruling that testifies at the State Capture commission.

The less said about the apparently sociopathic Carl Niehaus, the MKMVA spokesperson, the better. Most intriguing is the fact that the ANC leadership is not discomfited by the knowledge that in 2005, Niehaus forged the signatures of several top Gauteng ANC officials, including then MEC Paul Mashatile, in order to secure a loan; that in 2009, he had to step down as spokesperson of the ANC after M&G reported on his “broad trail of bad debt and broken promises”; and that in order to wriggle out of paying a R4.3-million debt, he claimed that his mother had died? 

Allowing dodgy characters like Maphatsoe and Niehaus to use MKMVA as a tool to fight ANC factional battles is an egregious act of betrayal. It was not for this that Chris Hani, Basil February, Nokuthula Simelane, Solomon Mahlangu, Barney Molokwane, Mlungiseleli Velaphi, Abram Moroe and many others too numerous to mention here, paid the supreme sacrifice. It behoves those now in power to show a modicum of respect, and gratitude, to the fallen struggle heroines and heroes without whom they would not be in their comfort zones. DM

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All Comments 18

  • Time as well for dealing decisively with these fraudsters and psychopaths, who like their state capture masters, believe they are above the law and act with complete impunity. SA has to get rid of these demons, aka toy soldiers, and put this country back on the right path to peace and prosperity.

  • I think the ANC must do the decent thing and get the Kebby & Karl show into the 19th century shadows where low-lifes usually gather. Clearly wholly out of touch with modernity, reality and what it takes to run a successful country.

  • I have questions – Since MK was disbanded in 1994, is not the wearing of a non-national uniform and then parading in military fashion an act of treason? Worse yet, are these people bearing arms? These are people apparently trained and familiar with weapons, what stops them from being a real threat?

    • I don’t know about treason, but the reason they’re not a real threat is much the same as that why nobody seriously views Bafana Bafana as threat to the world’s soccer rankings: The individuals’ ball skills may be good, but they seem incapable of cohering as a team.

  • And Niehaus is still desperate for friends. problem is, as soon as the RET go down, nobody will give him the time of day, not even Zuma!

  • Cant understand why this ragtag bunch get so much publicity. Ignore them for heavens sake. We have more pressing needs in RSA.

  • Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) combatants, veterans of the struggle for liberation?
    What combat besides blowing up civilians? Karl Niehaus is a massive fraud like his organisation! Not one of them ever saw a day of action, not a single contact with the SADF! So WTF have these clowns been getting benefits??

  • Only in SA could such nefarious creeps have a public platform. You forgot about Kebby the Kook ‘s role as a wannabe porn star. Magashule is surely a lost cause if these Zumavirus infected louts are his character references.

  • Mavuso, I think we can soon expect a response overflowing with hilarious puffed-up strut and spittle-flecked bluster from Carl Niehaus. I, for one, am looking forward to his amusing bombast.

  • Lets hope that this is the political end of Carl Niehaus, his “RET” and fake militia. He has a terrble history and it is difficult to understand how anyone will want to be associated with him.

  • The veterans of the MK should remove these people from “office”. By allowing them to persist is an affront to the people who died under the MK flag. I am sure, that if Chris Hani was here, this ineptitude would not be the norm. Now we wait 31 days to see what transpires.

  • It would be interesting to find out how many so called military veterans actually took part in the struggle?
    What was Niehaus doing at the time?

    • He was festering in prison from November 1983 t0 March 1991, having been convicted of treason for making plans to blow up the Johannesburg gasworks. In “Beyond The Miracle” (2003), Allister Sparks writes quite sympathetically of Niehaus. That was before Niehaus’ fraud and barefaced lying.

      • The poor sod is still trying to blow up the country. And by the look of things this time it won’t go well for him either.