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Military Veterans Case: A defeat for Zuma’s cronies


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.

An application alleging corrupt abuse and theft from the MKMVA Trust Fund was upheld by Judge Brian Mashile, changing the balance of forces among MK veterans and representing a significant weakening of the power structure within the ANC upholding former President Zuma.

The Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kebby Maphatsoe, and three fellow executive members of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association suffered a major defeat in the South Gauteng High Court on Monday 28 May, when an application alleging corrupt abuse and theft from the MKMVA Trust Fund was upheld by Judge Brian Mashile.

This was a significant victory for five former Umkhonto weSizwe military veterans, headed by Omry Makgoale, against one of the key ANC institutions that upheld the regime of former President Jacob Zuma, who appointed Kebby Maphatsoe as a government minister despite a previous lapsed application by Makgoale in June 2012 alleging corruption against Maphatsoe and his Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) executive colleagues.

The application was made in terms of instructions issued at a meeting of more than 900 MK veterans held at the Tshwane Institute of Technology in Soshanguve, Tshwane/Pretoria, in April 2011, under the auspices of a veterans’ body called the Commissariat. The Commissariat was dissolved by the former ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, following the failed application in June 2012.

The victory in the High Court was the outcome of seven years of difficult struggles.

The applicants were represented by Moray Hathorn of attorneys Webber Wentzel, and counsel Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza SC and Adv Mbele, acting pro bono.

The respondents and their lawyers were absent.

Judge Mashile’s finding will be forwarded to the Master of the High Court. The legal representatives of the applicants will be meeting to discuss implementation of the judge’s instructions.

An interim forensic report by accountants SizweNtsalubaGobodo into disbursement of funds belonging to the MKMVA Trust Fund formed the basis of the lapsed application in June 2012.

The successful application changes the balance of forces among MK veterans and represents a significant weakening of the power structure within the ANC upholding former President Zuma.

Omry Makgoale, a former District Commander of MK in the Angolan capital, was sent to Quatro prison camp in Angola for nearly five years after being called to prevent a massacre of MK troops at Viana camp outside Luanda in February 1984. Following an election by all ANC exiles in Tanzania held in September 1989, he was elected chair of the Regional Political Committee, but he and all elected office-holders were then deposed from office on instructions from the National Executive Committee of the ANC, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

He is a member of the ANC Stalwarts and Veterans, and participated in a meeting of the MK Council in 2017 prior to the ANC national elective conference held at Nasrec in Soweto in December, at which Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC president.

He has written numerous articles calling for reform in ANC internal elections to prevent bribery and gate-keeping of delegates, as well as reform of the electoral law for national and provincial legislatures, calling for constituency representation on the basis of the majority report of the Slabbert Commission in January 2003.

He is a Chief Engineer at Necsa at Pelindaba, and took part in the school students’ march in Soweto on 16 June 1976 as a senior student at Morris Isaacson High School in Jabavu, Soweto. He joined the ANC and MK in exile later the same year.

After training in 1977 in the former German Democratic Republic, he was a bodyguard for then acting ANC president Oliver Tambo in Lusaka.

On Saturday 9 June he will chair the third Tsietsi Mashinini Memorial Lecture at Morris Isaacson High School, which will be addressed by the Rev Professor Barney Pityana, founder with Steve Biko of the South African Students Organisation (SASO), the internationally acclaimed sculptor and poet, Professor Pitika Ntuli, and Seth Mazibuko, a leader of the South African Students Movement (SASM) in Soweto ahead of the march on 16 June 1976. DM


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