Emergence of armed veterans in S. Africa threatens political stability

Saturday December 05 2020

An armed resident after a skirmish in Durban, South Africa, on April 16, 2015. PHOTO | AFP


Clad in military fatigues, chanting freedom struggle songs while wielding improvised weapons that can cause harm, the uMkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) created a spectacle in the streets of Durban for a number of days recently.

Some of the “veterans” looked very young to qualify for such a title and their songs were laden with racial and xenophobic connotations, making it difficult to pick their exact agenda.

They marched through the streets, closing down and looting foreign-owned businesses as they told traders to vacate their market stalls as well as spaza shops and go back to their countries of origin.

The last of their protests saw them team up with the All Truck Drivers Foundation last week, demand that no foreign truck driver be employed by South African road freight companies.

That was in the midst of a wave of attacks which saw up to 30 freight trucks being petrol-bombed in separate attacks in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

“We cannot tolerate the mindless and bloody lawlessness with which the road freight industry is being targeted,” reacted South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.


The grabbing of President Ramaphosa’s attention marked the re-emergence of a powerful force, reasserting authority in the South African political, economic and social divide.

The veterans’ outfit was formed from uMkhonto Wesizwe, a military wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) which was at the forefront in the fight against apartheid.

Following the recent actions, the military veterans led by their president Kebby Maphatsoe are not yet done.

Although they stopped the violence, they went on to present a myriad of demands to the country’s vice-president David Mabuza last week.

The association’s demands include $16,000 for each veteran as compensation for their role in the struggle against apartheid. They also want jobs at state-owned enterprises, law enforcement agencies and to be considered for government tenders.

The Zuma question

What could be the biggest threat to South Africa is their promise to render the country ungovernable if former President Jacob Zuma is arrested for contempt of a Commission of Inquiry into the alleged State Capture.

State Capture is said to have occurred under the Zuma regime which saw rampant corruption and government institutions allegedly being controlled by certain individuals.

But with a warrant of arrest hovering over the head of Zuma after he walked out of the Commission of Inquiry, the MKMVA has warned commission’s chairman, deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, “not to follow through on the perilous road that he has embarked upon.”

On Wednesday, opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) weighed in.

“The DA condemns these utterances with the strongest contempt possible, as we will not allow the legitimacy of the Commission in uncovering the rot of corruption in the State to be undermined by groupings with shallow populist agendas,” a DA statement said.

Other military veterans’ associations in South Africa include the Azanian People’s Liberation Army Military Veterans Association and Azanian National Liberation Army Military Veterans Association, but it is the MKMVA that is has been hogging the headlines.