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Mpumalanga: A thin line between democracy and fascism


Born in Johannesburg in 1941, Paul Trewhela worked in underground journalism with Ruth First and edited the underground journal of MK, ‘Freedom Fighter’, during the Rivonia Trial. He was a political prisoner in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Fort as a member of the Communist Party in 1964-1967, separating from the SACP while in prison. In exile in Britain, he was co-editor with the late Baruch Hirson of ‘Searchlight South Africa’, banned in South Africa.

There needs to be an independent judicial inquiry to decide whether threats of violence in Mpumalanga by armed and uniformed members of Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) - as headed by deputy minister of defence and military veterans, Kebby Maphatsoe - did or did not play a significant role in providing delegates to the ANC elective conference in Soweto.

After electing Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president, the delegates chose David Mabuza (premier of Mpumalanga) as deputy president and Free State premier Ace Magashule as secretary general.

As ANC secretary general, Magashule is now one of the most powerful people in South Africa, especially if he is still supported by Mabuza.

What happened in Mpumalanga is crucial for the whole country. With only 4.04 million people according to the 2011 census (by comparison with three times as many, 12.27 million, in Gauteng), this province nevertheless was kingmaker in providing nearly one and a half times as many delegates as Gauteng to the ANC conference.

This means that video evidence of what is alleged to have taken place in Mpumalanga in the lead-up to the elective conference has vital, national importance. The matter can not be left to ANC itself to sort out. There is a national, public issue here that could potentially involve arrests and prosecution on the grounds of illegal and unconstitutional behaviour.

Crucial evidence is available online and can be seen by anyone across the whole of South Africa – indeed, across the world.

I urge readers please to see for themselves. A principal video is available from eNCA, dated 7 November:

WATCH: Video emerges of MKMVA members enforcing ‘unity’ campaign

This video begins with an interview by journalist Xoli Mngambi with the former underground MK commander, subsequent premier of Mpumalanga and ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa, who stood initially as one of seven candidates for election as ANC president, before retiring from the campaign.

A subsequent article available online on eNCA on 12 December, headed “Phosa makes shock allegation against Mabuza”, refers back to the same video shown on 7 December, and provides crucial further information. It states:

“A chilling video of ANC members firing guns recklessly in a crowded area has surfaced.

“Presidential hopeful Matthews Phosa alleges the men are linked to Mpumalanga ANC chairperson David Mabuza.

“Phosa claims the group has been disrupting the general meetings of branches that do not support Mabuza’s unity campaign. …

“In an eNCA exclusive, Phosa tells reporter Xoli Mngambi that the trigger-happy men are Mabuza’s private army.

“In the video, a man in a black coat reaches into his pocket.

“Two individuals follow suit, firing multiple shots in the air, while a number of people, including children, stand nearby.”

As the title of the eNCA video of 7 December indicates, this video purports to show “MKMVA members enforcing ‘unity’ campaign”. The group shown “firing multiple shots in the air” are in MKMVA uniform.

The article continues:

‘That video was shot after some of the branch general meetings recently,’ says Phosa. ‘They’ve been used to intimidate people.'”

According to eNCA, Phosa then “says the gunmen are not only ANC members but are directly linked to the Mpumalanga ANC chairperson. [David Mabuza].”

Phosa is quoted directly: “There are quite a number of comrades I recognise there from Nelspruit, from Barberton. And when we discuss with comrades, they’ve been used in Branch General Meetings to disrupt BGMs which were not in the favour of either Mr Unity or comrade DD (Mabuza). They are there, they are the private army, they are a disruptive private army.”

The article then notes that “Mpumalanga has seen its fair share of political assassinations in the past few years.”

It continues: “Mpumalanga is another killing field, it’s not only Kwa-Zulu-Natal,” says Phosa.

“Comrades who died, I know them by name and I worked with them. And I can tell you it remains very painful to realise they were killed in the manner they were killed. And until today there’s not a single trial, there’s not a single inquest. Everything just fizzles in the air.

“People are dead, breadwinners are dead. Now you see these guns being wielded, you ask yourself where is the arrogance coming from, of wielding arms? Even if they were legal arms, do you go drunk and shoot in the air, in a province that is riddled with corruption and murders, assassinations, poisoning?

“It’s scary. That is why I am saying I think the police should look at this.”

Later the same day (12 December), eNCA published a further article headed “Mpumalanga court case averted?” It reported that in a private meeting with top-level ANC officials earlier the same day, Phosa had “reached an agreement with the party’s national office.” Phosa and the ANC leadership – no names given – had “resolved that disputes in Mpumalanga would be dealt with out of court and ahead of the elective conference”, after Phosa had previously “approached the courts to have Mpumalanga’s nomination process declared null and void.”

The article then continues: “The ANC agreed that Phosa’s branches were affected in Mpumalanga as a result of intimidation by David Mabuza’s so-called ‘goons’.”

At this meeting Mathews Phosa had a specific and limited issue in contention with ANC’s “national office”, which he resolved with them in private. It related only to delegates who supported his own candidacy for the post of ANC president. As he told eNCA, “I’ve got 408 delegates, which is higher than any one of the candidates. What happened to them? … So that’s part of the problem, what happened to my 408 delegates? What have I lost? I’m leading in that province. So we want those delegates to be legalised properly.”

Irrespective of this specific issue, which Phosa resolved in private with Luthuli House before he abandoned his legal action, there is a far greater and more fundamental issue for South Africans, which Phosa side-stepped.

Under South Africa’s democratic constitution, the ANC is a private body like any other political party, or football club, or private company. It does not “legalise” anything – only the National Assembly does that, provided its legislation conforms with the constitution.

A far more extensive video of the MKMVA shooting incident was provided on 8 December on the Lowvelder website as part of an article by Bombi Mavundza:

WATCH: MKMVA veterans fire shots in celebration | Lowvelder

This article denies, however, that the MKMVA shootings took place at an ANC BGM. The article claims that “BGMs took place on October 22, whereas the video was shot and posted on social media on September 2 after a meeting of the uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) in Ermelo”, and that the shots fired were “blank rounds”.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by the (Zuma-supporting) ANC Youth League, a man is seen claiming that he took the video, showing this MKMVA “celebration” outside his parents’s house.

What is not disputed, however, is that uniformed members of MKMVA fired shots in a residential area in Mpumalanga within months of the ANC elective conference.

On the same day (8 December), Phosa’s campaign manager, Ronalo “Ronnie” Malomane, made damning allegations in an article on TimesLIVE headed Phosa’s campaign manager alleges irregularities in nominations process.

As first applicant on Phosa’s behalf in papers submitted to the South Gauteng High Court the previous day (and subsequently withdrawn), Malomane argued that in “the vast majority of the wards within the province”, ANC members were “not provided with adequate notice of an upcoming BGM‚ nor were some members invited to attend. In many cases‚ notice was only provided to members [one] or [two] days prior to the BGM.”

His affidavit stated that in many of the wards‚ a quorum was not reached and yet the meetings proceeded and members voted for delegates nonetheless. He alleged that “many valid members in good standing were not allowed to partake in the meetings”.

Malomane claimed their names were “consequently not reflected on the official attendance register” and that they were “either denied access to the pre-selected venue or not permitted to actively participate in the election processes.” According to Malomane, “In one ward‚ the elected deployee in attendance of the meeting announced that any person in support of Mr [Cyril] Ramaphosa is destroying the ANC. In addition‚ members who vocally supported Mr Ramaphosa were sometimes removed from the BGMs and were excluded from partaking in the elections on this basis alone.”

Further, “Certain vocal supporters of Mr Ramaphosa were prevented from entering the venue and partaking altogether by a private security company that was present at the venue. This is despite the fact that the affected people are members in good standing.”

To their credit, what Phosa and Malomane have brought to public attention is the allegation of a massive, systemic crime in Mpumalanga, in which private citizens – mainly poor black people – have been intimidated on a huge scale, and some even murdered. In South Africa’s parliamentary and constitutional democracy, this is a matter for the police, the National Prosecuting Authority and the courts. For this to be conducted according to law is the most important issue for the whole society, especially when this ongoing, systemic crime is directed towards control over a political party, the ANC, and thus potentially control of the state.

Why have the police and NPA taken no action?

What exactly was this “private security company” which Malomane alleges was present at a BGM in Mpumalanga?

And why are armed and uniformed members of MKMVA under the command of the deputy minister of defence permitted to shoot at will in a residential area, whether firing blanks or live rounds?

In Mathews Phosa’s own description, a “private army” under the command of a government minister has been permitted to behave outside the houses of some of the poorest citizens in the country as if it were Adolf Hitler’s Stormtroopers.

We are discussing here a thin line between democracy and fascism.

This is a matter for all the citizens of South Africa. DM


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