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Threatening language: Former MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe and the courts

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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.

Despite his protestations that he does not support violence, former MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe’s own words suggest that he is inviting violence on those who have tried to hold him to account.

Kebby Maphatsoe – former president of the now disbanded Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) – sent a letter to ANC officials last week, reported in City Press (17 July), stating, “We are not in support of any instability or violence.” This is a lie.

The lie is connected to Daily Maverick in two ways. Firstly, Maphatsoe made a direct threat on the MKMVA WhatsApp chat group on 2 April last year against the DM columnist Omry Makgoale (an MK veteran), who was first applicant of five MK veterans who made a successful application to the South Gauteng High Court in 2016, alleging misuse of funds of the MKMV Trust Fund by Maphatsoe and three other executive members of the fund. (One of the applicants, Don Sipho Mashele, has since died of Covid-19).

In their action against Maphatsoe and his fellow trust fund directors, Makgoale and his fellow MK applicants were represented by advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC and advocate Nobuntu Mbelle, on behalf of Webber Wentzel attorneys, acting pro bono.

Deciding in favour of the applicants, Judge Seun Moshidi issued three directives to the Master of the High Court on 28 May 2018, removing Maphatsoe and his three colleagues from their positions on the trust fund. At that time, Maphatsoe was deputy minister of defence and military veterans, a post from which he was removed a year later by President Cyril Ramaphosa, having been appointed by then-president Jacob Zuma in May 2014.

Maphatsoe’s message to his followers came in angry response to my article posted on DM the previous day (1 April), headed, “To the Minister of Justice – Act Now!”. My article discussed the implications of Judge Moshidi’s directives. This was the second connection to DM.

In his message, Maphatsoe did not mention me by name but refers to me as “the same person who wrote the book  ‘INSIDE QUATRO’. That book speaks about the history of Omry and his cronies why [sic] they were locked up in Quatro…”. In a manner derogatory both to Omry Makgoale and to me, he refers to my article on DM as “Omry article written by his handler”. 

Issued by the “commander” to his “comrades”, the entire text of Maphatsoe’s call to his troops is posted at the end of this article, as written. Readers may assess it for themselves.

In my article, I pointed out that Makgoale – now retired as chief mechanical engineer at the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation’s nuclear plant at Pelindaba, a former district commander of MK in Angola and prisoner in Quatro for nearly five years – had been “elected by over 900 MK veterans as chair of a commissariat at a Cadres Assembly held in Pretoria/Tshwane in April 2011, which mandated him to inquire into perceived mishandling of MKMVA Trust funds. The commissariat commissioned a forensic audit of the financial affairs of the trust by accountants Gobodo, which produced an interim audit which formed the basis of a failed court application by Makgoale in the South Gauteng High Court in June 2012.”

I slipped up in describing Makgoale in that article as having been elected as “chair” of the commissariat. In fact he was elected as secretary, while his MK veteran colleague Mahlomola Mokhoanatse (MK name Alex Mashinini) was elected as chair. Both elected MK veterans then came under identical verbal abuse from Maphatsoe, as a result of their efforts to uncover corrupt mishandling of the MKMV Trust Fund.

A major article in the Mail & Guardian headed “Leading MK vets ‘looted millions’ ” (15 June 2012) reported that the “top brass of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) turned investment holdings into their personal piggy bank, using funds to pay for jewellery, spa treatments and school drama lessons, and to withdraw large sums of cash before Christmas, a forensic report has alleged”. The article continued that MKMVA was “an influential substructure of the ANC, often used to fight factional battles. It has long been plagued by suspicions of financial malfeasance, while rank-and-file veterans live in poverty.”

Writing at 3.30 on the morning of 2 April last year in anger at my article – which told a truth to which he could not reply – Maphatsoe described Makgoale and his fellow court applicants as “izimpimpi”, specifically referring to Makgoale as an “askari”.

This was despite the fact that Maphatsoe had been held to account by Judge Kathy Satchwell in a previous ruling, issued on 23 August 2016, relating to his previous use of the same threatening language against Mahlomola Mokhoanatse.

In paragraph 34 in her judgement, Judge Satchwell noted that from the early 1960s, people who gave evidence against MK members in political trials had been called “impimpi” and “askaris”, and that they “frequently met the fate of traitors – they were assassinated”. 

As in his threatening language previously directed against Mokhoanatse, Maphatsoe’s statement on WhatsApp on 2 April implies that Makgoale and his fellow MK veteran applicants had been working for the apartheid regime. It is in this system of reference that Maphatsoe commanded his followers to “unmask the real enemies of our revolution. Let’s all MKMVA members rise up to the occasion”. In terms of Judge Satchwell’s ruling against Maphatsoe’s use of the same language in 2016, this can only be analysed as a call for Makgoale and his fellow applicants to be attacked, with use of violence. 

Maphatsoe concluded his threat by stating “Nathi sa ithata I South Africa nezimpimpi zabo zakhona. … Aluta Continua. Songambili Askari”.

Not least, this amounts to an ingrained culture of contempt for the rule of law – a practice of ongoing, systemic behaviour, as judged by the courts.

In an out-of-court settlement outside the North Gauteng High Court on 23 August 2016, the former minister and MK veteran Ronnie Kasrils was awarded a large sum of money by Maphatsoe for having used defamatory language against him. 

And in July 2017, citing Judge Satchwell’s previous ruling against Maphatsoe in the application brought by Mokhoanatase, the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of  the SA National Editors’ Forum against Andile Mngxitama and Black First Land First for use of similar threatening language to that used by Maphatsoe against Makgoale and his fellow applicants on 2 April 2020.

Sixteen months later, Makgoale has not been able to get any attorney to represent him and his fellow MKMVA Trust Fund applicants pro bono in a new application against Maphatsoe for his use against them of words such as “impimpi” and “askari”, even as successful applicants to the High Court.

In the light of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s critique on Friday night of an “attempted insurrection” in a “deliberate, well planned and coordinated attack on our democracy”, these words by Maphatsoe make nonsense of South Africa’s Constitution and the legal system.

“Was this an attempted coup d’état?”, Makgoale asked last Wednesday in his article on DM, “Leisurely police response time to looting and violence carries an inkling of a covert coup” (14 July).

“We are not in support of any instability or violence,” states Maphatsoe.

Let him be judged by his own language. 

***

MKMVA WhatsApp Chat Group message sent by Kebby Maphatsoe, 2 April 2020 (unedited)

Comrades morning it’s 03h30, I want you when you wake up you must know I was looking at my Sand Model planning on how to destroy my enemies. It was not my intention to respond to Omry article written by his handler. Comrades must remember the same person who wrote that opinion shir of piece about me is the same person who wrote the book “INSIDE QUATRO”. That book speaks about the history of Omry and his cronies why they were locked up in Quatro and that tells you who’s Omry. The nonsense of that story doesn’t start now it’s an old story that comes up every time there’s an MKMVA Conference especially when I’m contesting the leadership position of President.

This thing started in 2011 by the Commissariat we created in order to do political work for both MKMVA and ANC. We were doing that foreseeing that a strong MKMVA will make a strong ANC but our revolutionary honesty was hijacked by people who are  experienced QUATRO specialist who were trained long before they joined the MK ranks how to hijack the people’s revolution.

 In 2011 they organized an unconstitutional meeting of MKMVA wanting to take power from us through undemocratic processes and they mislead innocent comrades to attend that Mutiny unfortunately the ANC did not recognize that. In 2017 the same Omry and his cronies tried again but this time they managed to divide us but not on ground, our vigilant comrades remained firm with MKMVA. They succeeded because of factionalism in the ANC by recognizing an unconstitutional structure, that’s  water under the bridge we’re going to the all inclusive conference and I’m sure we’ll emerge much stronger than before and vigilant because we now know who are the wedge drivers, they are now exposed.

Coming to the allegations against me they’re unfounded because they are lies pursued by people who hate Kebby Maphatsoe with passion. They will never destroy me unless they can kill me, but I’m not afraid of death otherwise I would not have joined Umkhonto we Sizwe. I know I’m not alone in this war, there are many comrades who are with me in this war. This war is not about me but to take over the ANC and sell it to the highest bidder. That will never happen as long as we’re alive. Why am I not arrested for 10 years with one and the same allegations, they even brought back their handlers to assist them to steal MKMVA, they will not succeed. Comrades I repeat this battle is not about me or MKMVA is about the ANC. I think for today is to unmask the real enemies of our revolution. Let’s all MKMVA members rise up to the occasion. “Makwala a chechele  morao ho ye rona ba pelo dithata” 

I’ve been quiet for a long time, I’m now talking the war to my enemies. As I take the fight to my enemies I’ll do it in a disciplined way. The people’s patience is not endless. I know there are many comrades of mine who said I should not talk they’ll fight for me and i really appreciate your support, but a Commander must lead from the front.

“U Marchel wa ithata i Mozambique ne zimpimpi zabo zikhona”. Nathi sa ithata I South Africa nezimpimpi zabo zikhona. Na le conference sizo ithata nezimpimpi zabo zikhona . Aluta Continua. Songambili Askari. DM

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