Disgruntled Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) members in Borwa township in Westonaria have vowed to prevent voting from taking place in the area until the ANC addresses their housing and service delivery demands, but say they remain “loyal” to the ruling party.
MKMVA members residing in the mining community 45km west of Johannesburg have levelled allegations of corruption and maladministration against the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements and leaders of the ANC’s former military wing.
Charles Hlatshwayo, 43, claims to have gone into exile in 1984, trained as a guerrilla and spent time in Botswana, Libya, Senegal and Mozambique. Angry and disillusioned with the ruling party, Hlatshwayo is now threatening to use his military training to disrupt next week’s election.
Hlatshwayo is one of 20 MKMVA members occupying houses built by the government for veterans in the area. Association members say that they took the decision to occupy the houses after officials from the provincial department of human settlements demanded money to process the title deeds for their houses. They also allege that some of the homes were sold to civilians.
“I didn’t have the money,” said Hlatshwayo. He mentioned a fellow MKMVA member who, desperate for a home, paid the alleged bribe. His voice quivered as he talked about the gains of democracy and the election on 8 May.
The ANC has initiated several programmes in the past aimed at bestowing rights and privileges on former freedom fighters, but these programmes have been riddled with allegations of corruption and maladministration.
In 2017, MKMVA members from Ekurhuleni marched to ANC headquarters Luthuli House to demand that the association issue them with their service certificates. These certificates give them access to military veterans’ benefits, including housing.
In the Free State, houses promised to veterans remain unbuilt despite an alleged R48 million provision in the Department of Military Veterans budget for this purpose.
Hlatshwayo’s patriotism is laced with bitter resentment. He said the sad fact is that many military veterans lack the basic services they were promised in the 1994 democratic elections.
Hlatshwayo lived in Rockville, Soweto, with his family of four before moving to Borwa on 8 August last year. Before that, he squatted in Molapo township for five years.
With no money to pay the R800 rent in Soweto, Hlatshwayo said he again turned to Luthuli House to get his service certificate and confirmation letter proving his struggle credentials. “My papers have not been processed.”
According to MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus, the Department of Military Veterans has captured data for 13 260 MKMVA members, but it is not entirely accurate and could rise to 30 000 because the department is still verifying claimants.
He said members have to produce service certificates and confirmation letters to gain access to the rights and privileges bestowed on bona fide military veterans, including MKMVA members.
“In the past, we had people who claimed to be veterans to access these rights,” Niehaus said.
He condemned any threats to prevent residents from voting and urged MKMVA members to contact organisations to iron out the challenge of getting their paperwork.
The ‘poverty soldiers live in’
Nkosana Nduza, 50, criticised the government, saying it is ill-treating veterans. “People are losing faith in the ANC, just by looking at the abject poverty soldiers live in.”
Nduza lives in a house in Borwa township and is still waiting for his title deed. He came back to South Africa in 1993 after living in exile in Tanzania for several years.
Before occupying the house, Nduza lived with his family in Vosloorus in Soweto. Like Hlatshwayo, Nduza has vowed that no political party will campaign in the area until the government addresses their concerns of unemployment and housing.
“All of the programmes meant to bring relief to veterans are looted by ANC members. We love our ANC, but it is painful,” Nduza said.
He accused department officials of selling houses designated for veterans for R90 000. “These houses were going to be sold to mineworkers. DMV [the Department of Military Veterans] has failed us many times.”
However the MKMVA has been wracked by scandal and controversy. In 2012, allegations surfaced that MKMVA executives had looted up to R5.4 million.
Infighting in late 2016 led to the formation of a group of MKMVA members who dissociated themselves from Deputy Minister of Defence Kebby Maphatsoe after he gave awards to people associated with the Zuma faction of the ruling party.
Factional battles in the MKMVA over who should take over the reins from former president Jacob Zuma saw the organisation split ahead of the ANC’s 54th elective conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg in December 2017. The current MKMVA spokesperson, Niehaus, remains a strong supporter of Zuma, has a history of public dishonesty, and is seen by many as a discredited figure.
“They trained us, we are skilled, if they don’t want to listen to us we will utilise this skill, we will turn this country upside down,” said Hlatshwayo.
Recently, other residents joined forces with MKMVA members to prevent Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor from entering the township to campaign ahead of the election.
While members say no voting will happen on 8 May, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the police have come up with a detailed strategy to ensure that the elections can go ahead with out interruption, although he declined to divulge the details.
However Hlatshwayo is resolute. “I cannot betray my organisation, while my organisation betrayed us. Today there is food in school for kids, today there is grant for kids because of this ANC. It is because of this ANC and other organisations that fought for this democracy. I cannot give my vote to the opposition party because I have experienced apartheid. You go to Vlakplaas, you will find that braai stand. People were burnt alive, so I cannot vote for the opposition,” said Hlatshwayo.
“We are part of the community. If the community says no delivery, no vote, no campaigning, we will support them.”
New Frame submitted questions to Gauteng human settlements department spokesperson Lebo Keswa on 11 April and received a reply a week later saying she would only respond after returning from leave, which fell after the date of publication.