Paul Trewhela responds to MKMVA chairperson’s attack on the founders of South Africa First
In a statement on 30 April issued above his name as national chairperson of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) – and reproduced on Politicsweb the same day under the title “South Africa First an organ of counter-revolution – MKMVA” – Kebby Maphatsoe took aim against two veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) who announced on Sunday the formation of a new political party, to be called South Africa First.
The formation of this new party had been reported the previous day on Daily Maverick, in an article by Mandy de Waal under the title “Elections 2014: SA’s new hunting party.”
In his response published on Politicsweb, Mr Maphatsoe uses very threatening language directed against the two individuals, named in Mandy de Waal’s article as Eddie Mokhoanatse (known in MK in exile as Alex Mashinini) and Lucky Twala.
Without making any attempt to examine the policies or prospects of this new party, three matters need to be considered in connection with the statement by Mr Maphatsoe, which should be read in full for an understanding of South Africa today.
The first to be considered is the language used by Mr Maphatsoe and the accusations he makes. The second matter for consideration is some basic facts about the recent history of Mr Maphatsoe, which are in the public domain. The third, is a warning made last week by the most senior defence lawyer still active today who acted on behalf of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Bram Fischer, Neil Aggett and many others in major political cases in the era of the apartheid regime – Advocate George Bizos, Senior Counsel. The focus here is on Mr Bizos’s comment that South Africa faces the danger of going down a road “lined with securocrats, the plundering of the public purse and the attack on our democratic institutions.”
The first of these points is the statement this week by Mr Maphatsoe.
He describes Eddie Mokhoanatse’s and Lucky Twala’s formation of their new political party – entirely within a citizen’s right, in terms of the Constitution – as brought about by “the enemy of our revolution and our people to undermine the collective efforts of our liberation struggles. It is the wider strategy of the Democratic Alliance and the international monopoly capital, to use agents provocateurs such as these ones” to weaken the governing status of the ANC, which by next year’s elections will have been the sole uninterrupted party of government for 20 years. Again and again Mr Maphatsoe repeats, in a tirade of hate speech, the phrases: “the enemy of our revolution”, “the enemy”, “enemy forces”, “agents provocateurs”, “counter revolution”.
There is no analysis of policy differences here – only, the psychopathic language used by dictatorial regimes everywhere, the phrases which in the Soviet Union under Stalin, or the German Democratic Republic under Ulbricht and Honecker, or Germany under Hitler, or Italy under Mussolini…or today, in North Korea under Kim Jong-un, or in Zimbabwe under Mugabe – meant a death sentence.
This is not the language of parliamentary democracy in a constitutional state.
These phrases used against a member of MK in exile invariably meant execution by Mbokodo (“the grindstone”, the ANC’s dreaded security department), or imprisonment and torture for years in its concentration camp, Quatro, in northern Angola.
By its very nature, this language incites the danger of a restoration in South Africa of the regime of Quatro, and the destruction of the country’s constitutional structure.
The second point is the recent history of Mr Maphatsoe himself.
He was named last June as first respondent in an action brought by then members of MKMVA in the South Gauteng High Court, accusing him of theft of the organisation’s funds, together with a number of other named colleagues on its executive committee, including a deputy minister in the government, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo. Mr Maphatsoe chose not to respond to these charges. He has still not responded. Because of non-response by Mr Maphatsoe and the other named respondents, the case was set aside by the judge for lack of urgency.
Showing transfer of funds from MKMVA to private bank accounts, the findings of a firm of forensic auditors, SizweNtsalubaGobodo, were set out in an article by the investigative reporters amaBhungane in the Mail&Guardian on 15 July last year, under the heading “Leading MK vets ‘looted millions'”.
The article, by Lionel Faull, states: “The top brass of the Umkhonto weSizwe 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 association is 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.”
This report should be read with care. Mr Eddie Mokhoanatse, one of the founders of the new political party who is now the target of Mr Maphatsoe’s invective about “the enemy”, “agents provocateurs”, “counter revolution” etc, was one of an official grouping of members of MKMVA then called the Commissariat which commissioned the forensic report by SizweNtsalubaGobodo into Maphatsoe’s conduct as national chairperson and brought the court action against him, and others, alleging corruption.
Mr Maphatsoe has never answered these charges. Instead, he announced that Eddie Mokhoanatse and a colleague in the Commissariat in whose name the court application had proceeded were now stripped of their membership of MKMVA. They were then barred by him from attending the organisation’s national conference, held at Boksburg last October, and so were not permitted to present their argument to the members present. Under these conditions, Mr Maphatsoe was re-elected national chairperson of MKMVA, stridently commiting the organisation to securing the re-election of Jacob Zuma as ANC president at its national elective conference last December. In his own speech to the MKMVA conference, President Zumareferred to his critics within the ANC as the “enemy within” – the same language now used by Mr Maphatsoe against his fellow MK veterans Eddie Mokhoanatse and Lucky Twala.
Several months after the court application, one of the most highly respected former members of MK, the presidential parliamentary counsellor Siphiwe Nyanda – underground struggle hero of Operation Vula, whose brother Zwelakhe was killed by the apartheid regime, subsequent chief of the South African National Defence Force, later cabinet minister in Jacob Zuma’s government and a continuing member of the ANC’s national executive committee – made a damning criticismof the conduct of MKMVA as deployed under chairmanship of Mr Maphatsoe, condemning its use as that of a “private army”.
In a letter published in the Sunday Times last September, he wrote: “The notion advanced by some leaders of the MKMVA that Jacob Zuma is a commander-chief of the MKMVA is a dangerous illusion.
“The ANC has no army. The president of the ANC does not possess a private army.”
He added: “To style MKMVA as a security or enforcement arm of the ANC is wrong. It has no such mandate. No decision of any ANC structure or even its own constitution gives MKMVA such a role.”
For General Nyanda to use the phrase “private army” – which he further explains to mean “security or enforcement arm of the ANC” – is a grim warning.
Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (SA), or “stormtroopers”, led by Ernst Roehm and Hermann Goering, was a “private army”. Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (SS, meaning protection squadron, or defence corps), was an even more terrible “private army”. The ANC’s “security or enforcement arm” in exile, Mbokodo, had a criminal record set down in detail in three internal ANC commissions of inquiry (1984, 1992, 1993), whose reports are all publicly available, as well as by the legislatively established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose final report (1998) is also open for examination and study.
Maphatsoe was further in command last July of a paramilitary detachment in MKMVA uniform at Thohoyandou in Limpopo which was “accused of having acted unlawfully” through a “show of force” on behalf of Zuma, ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December. Members of the crowd were “assaulted and sprayed with pepper spray” and “dozens of other accredited members of the local ANC branches were removed or prevented from attending” a lecture in a church delivered by Zuma. The conduct of this uniformed squad under Mr Maphatsoe’s command preceded General Nyanda’s comment about a “private army”.
The third point relates to the warning issued last week by Advocate George Bizos.
In an address, “Law, justice and morality in South Africa: The past and the present”, delivered at the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg on 22 April, Adv Bizos surveyed the birth of democratic institutions and an independent judiciary in South Africa in terms of the writings of Plato and Thucydides on the birth of democratic political life in ancient Athens.
He drew a fundamental moral and philosophical distinction between the period of the apartheid regime and that which followed the first democratic elections in April 1994.
It was democratic institutions, he said, “that determine just laws which should be morally unassailable. However, in our past, two leading figures in the struggle against apartheid had to fight against an undemocratic system without the benefit of democratic institutions. Both Nelson Mandela and Bram Fischer, without the benefit of democratic institutions, had to try, themselves, to reconcile the conflicting notions of law, justice and morality.”
Adv Bizos made it clear that that previous period in South Africa’s past was fundamentally different from the present period in which – six days after his address – Eddie Mokhonatase and Lucky Twala exercised their democratic, constitutional right to form a political party different from the party in which they had spent more than 30 years of their adult lives, the ANC.
He concluded: “We, as South Africans, stand at a cross-road. The one road, lined with securocrats, the plundering of the public purse and the attack on our democratic institutions, if taken, will create an imbalance where law and justice cannot be reconciled with morality as our institutions and the very laws themselves will be perceived to be illegitimate. The other road is harder to follow, it requires all of us to work together with a common purpose, to do our job, and to ensure both individually and collectively that we bind ourselves to our just laws and act against those who break them.”
“Securocrats, the plundering of the public purse and the attack on our democratic institutions” – these are issues for careful thought and discussion among members of the ANC and veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe, as they consider the language, sentiments and conduct of Kebby Maphatsoe.