Presidential candidate Lindiwe Sisulu has urged all former uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) combatants to put their differences aside and present a united front.
Delivering a message of support on behalf of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa‚ Sisulu made a surprise appearance at the MK National Council and uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) inclusive conference at Nasrec‚ Johannesburg‚ on Friday and pleaded with the soldiers to come out of the conference united for the sake of saving the African National Congress.
“The unity of the MK is essential for the unity of the ANC. We are that disciplined force of the ANC that at all times needs to make sure that we are that glue that keeps our people together‚” said Sisulu.
“I am not sure what has happened in the meantime. However‚ whatever it is … my request on behalf of the ANC is that we need all of us to rise above whatever it is that has happened‚” said Sisulu to a round of applause.
Her remarks follow the MKMVA‚ led by Kebby Maphatsoe‚ snubbing the two-day conference and reiterating that the MKMVA is the only legitimate structure of former MK soldiers.
Maphatsoe demanded that the MK National Council immediately stop using the name of the MKMVA‚ which they are “not entitled to use“.
He threatened to proceed with legal steps to interdict the MK National Council from using the name of MKMVA‚ or creating the false impression that they have any rights whatsoever to speak or act on behalf of MKMVA.
Thandi Modise‚ chairperson of the National Council of Provinces‚ echoed Sisulu’s plea for unity for the sake of the ANC’s survival.
“We hope that we will deliberate in the spirit of OR Tambo and not putting ourselves first‚ but to try and win what has brought us here together‚ our survival and unity. We are today comrades because we are worried about not only the unity of the African National Congress and its allies‚ [but] we are deeply worried about the unity of members of uMkhonto we Sizwe‚” said Modise.
“We are worried because‚ as the frontline‚ those of you who said that you would put your lives down to liberate South Africa — if you are in disarray and if you don’t gel‚ we will be unable to have that voice which we need when we talk to the leadership of our movement‚” she added.
The conference will discuss‚ among other things‚ ANC organisational renewal‚ welfare problems of former cadres and amendments to the MK veterans’ constitution.
The MK council is led by former combatants such as deputy minister of justice and correctional services Thabang Makwetla and former MK chief of staff and a previous commander of the South African National Defence Force‚ Siphiwe Nyanda.
The MK council was not part of the MKMVA June conference after initially agreeing to participate. Maphatsoe was re-elected president of MKMVA.
Nyanda has previously accused the MKMVA of being divisive‚ charging that its conference was a means to sow further divisions within the ANC.
Those expected to address the conference on Saturday include ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Former president Thabo Mbeki was invited but could not attend because of international commitments‚ but former president Kgalema Motlanthe will be there.
ANC stalwarts‚ ANC Women’s and Youth leagues‚ labour federation Cosatu‚ the South African Communist Party and the South African Council of Churches have also been invited.