Terry Bell

 

Former South African intelligence services minister and Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) veteran Ronnie Kasrils has launched a scathing attack on deputy defence minister Kebby Maphatsoe.

Maphatsoe, who is also the chair of the MK Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), has emerged as a principal cheerleader for President Jacob Zuma.

Last week he was forced to apologise after accusing public protector Thuli Madonsela of being a “CIA agent”. It was in this capacity that he maintained Madonsela had “attacked” Zuma over the R200 million-plus public expenditure on his private residence.

In the midst of the furore over this accusation it emerged that the one-armed deputy minister had never seen action as an MK soldier; that he had been a camp cook. He had also lost his arm after being shot by Ugandan police in 1989 while absconding from an ANC camp.

This less than glorious background was hinted at by older MK veterans as Maphatsoe ingratiated himself with the powers that be and seemed to develop a support base among young members of the MKMVA. However, it is only now that it has come into the open.

During the country’s elections in May this year Maphatsoe was in full spate, his primary target being Kasrils, who had also once served as a deputy minister of defence in the ANC government. At the time, Kasrils was a leading member of the Sidkiwe — Vukani (We are fed up – rise up) group that advocated a strategic vote against the ANC “to get the party back on the right track”.

In one of his verbal assaults, Maphatsoe claimed he had evidence that Kasrils, as intelligence services minister, had “handpicked” the young, HIV-positive woman who laid a rape charge against Zuma in 2005. Zuma was acquited as the sex was held by the court to have been consensual.

“At the time [of the election], I was busy fending off numerous attacks, but in the light of Maphatsoe’s latest defamatory outbursts, I am demanding that this MK deserter either retract this accusation or produce his evidence which can be tested in court,” Kasrils says. He describes the allegation as “cowardly and false”.

In speaking out in this way, Kasrils has the support of a number of older MK veterans who note that many of Maphatsoe’s supporters are “youngsters and not real MK”. They point out that, on numerous occasions there have been “MK parades” in which men, clearly under the age of 40, have been prominent.

Many of these younger “MK veterans” were part of a largely secret movement of recruits from the townships in the years before 1994. They were members of community “self defence units” and were flown from Johannesburg to Uganda for training in order to bolster the numbers of ANC personnel to be incorporated into the new, integrated armed forces. This was apparently a deal done between former President Nelson Mandela and the last apartheid president, FW de Klerk.

“Basically, we didn’t have enough soldiers to make the integration look reasonable,” says a former combatant. “We never had more than about 4,000 in MK while the amabhunu (‘Boers’) had about 30,000.” From 1989, when a deal, mainly between the Soviet Union and the United States, was struck over the independence of Namibia, MK units had to leave Angola. They were sent to Uganda, Maphatsoe among them. The choice of Uganda also gave a new lease of political and military life to the disgraced former ANC national commissar Andrew Masondo. He had been effectively exiled to Uganda following allegations of brutality and sexual abuse at the ANC school in Tanzania. Earlier, and for much the same reason, he had been removed from Angola to Lusaka.

“It was a bit like the Catholic church moving a paedophile priest to remote parishes,” one veteran notes. But it did mean that when Masondo returned to South Africa, he came back as a general and was put in charge of the ANC veterans programme in the defence force. This was supposed to provide training in various skills to returned MK soldiers, but few were trained and there were allegations of up to R130 million being unaccounted for.

Masondo subsequently retired from the army under a cloud, became a sangoma (traditional healer) and was a board member of heritage site, Freedom Park, in Pretoria before he died in 2008.

 

 

Main Pic: The last MK rally which was held at Currie’s Fountain on the 16th of December 1993 by Rafs Mayet

 

Further Reading:

‘They Never Fought For Us’  — Chris Vick takes on deputy defence minister Kebby Maphatsoe

From Steve Biko to Thuli Madonsela — Ayanda Kota on deputy defence minister Kebby Maphatsoe “CIA” allegation

 


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