Johannesburg – The ANC's efforts to unite the warring factions of its military veterans were scuppered after Umkhonto weSizwe veterans vowed to disrupt the intended unity plans.
The drama unfolded inside ANC headquarters – Luthuli House – and in full view of the media on Monday when two MK veterans individually protested against the presence of retired SANDF chief General Siphiwe Nyanda and former deputy minister of military veterans Thabang Makwetla.
Nyanda and Makwetla were part of the faction of the Umkhonto weSizwe national council which met with Kebby Maphatsoe’s veterans' association to sort out their differences and possibly reunite.
These two groupings met earlier and agreed to end their differences and make plans for an elective conference of the former military veterans ahead of the ANC policy conference and elective conference in December.
They were due to brief the media about their preliminary plan to work together when the disruptions happened in what appeared to be an orchestrated plan to show their dislike for Nyanda and Makwetla.
One of Nyanda’s command team members, Kid Sigovu, stood up on the media benches and held up a poster in which he asked his former MK commander: “Tell us about Nokuthula Simelane, Siphiwe Nyanda.”
Sigovu said: “You never called a press conference when Nokuthula Simelane was killed, and why are you calling a press conference now?”
He had earlier managed to bypass the ANC in-house security carrying the same poster, which suggested not all ANC military veterans support the unity call.
Nyanda appeared shocked at the apparent snub, while Maphatsoe seemed unmoved by the unfolding drama.
Due to the chaos, Sigovu had to be forcefully removed to allow Nyanda to continue reading the press statement.
However, that calm was shortlived as another former MK member disrupted the briefing, accusing Nyanda and Makwetla of having failed to provide jobs and houses for former ANC soldiers during their tenures in the army.
The disgruntled veteran also said the planned special unity and elective conference would never happen under their watch, and he then walked out of the briefing.
The shenanigans made a mockery of the unity plans and raised questions from journalists who had witnessed the chaos.
For a time these journalists seemed oblivious about their own security inside Luthuli House following the tensions, and all they wanted was answers, primarily from Maphatsoe.
Earlier, Nyanda was quick to respond to Sigovu’s insinuation that he might have had a hand in the killing of Simelane.
“I know this comrade (Sigovu) for a long time. He worked under my army machinery. I know he was arrested. He was supposed to have debriefed other comrades about his arrest, especially his quest to know about the whereabouts of Simelane. A lot has been written of how Simelane was captured."
“I had nothing to do with her. They might have worked together. As you know, there is a criminal prosecution under way of people accused of killing her. I did not expect this."
Despite the drama, both the MK Military Veterans Association and the MK national council vowed to work together.
“It is our resolve to work together as a united force, to prepare our contributions to the three ANC gatherings which we feel are critical to the life of the ANC, for transformation of our society, and the promise our movement made to the continent and the progressive world in general,” Nyanda said.
A date has yet to be set for such a conference but it is planned before the ANC policy conference in June.