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South Africa: Who is behind the pro-Zuma ANC military ‘veterans’?

By Anna Maree, in Johannesburg
Posted on Thursday, 25 March 2021 19:15

Members of the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), chant slogans in support of former South African president Jacob Zuma, as they attend a public inquiry into state graft, in Johannesburg
Members of the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), chant slogans in support of former South African president Jacob Zuma, as they attend a public inquiry into state graft, in Johannesburg, South Africa July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Concerns have been mounting over attempts by an increasingly militant faction in South Africa’s governing African National Congress to mobilise support for former president Jacob Zuma in his efforts to defy the law. How far might they go?

A few dozen party members dressed in camouflage and claiming to be veterans of the ANC’s anti-apartheid liberation struggle in its former military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (known as MK), have been stationing themselves outside the entrance of Zuma’s Nkandla homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma was threatened with arrest after he defied a court order compelling him to testify in front of the state capture inquiry that was set up more than three years ago to investigate large-scale state corruption that happened under his watch.

A self-proclaimed commander of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) Mduduzi Mkhize, referred to Zuma by his clan name when he told local television station Newzroom Afrika: “We are here peacefully to ensure that Msholozi’s rights are not violated.”

The group is also opposed to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership of the ANC and of the country.

One of the most prominent Zuma supporters and MKMVA spokesperson, struggle stalwart Carl Niehaus, was once Nelson Mandela’s spokesperson but years later got sacked by the ANC for lying about his mother’s death to escape repaying a loan. He has been very vocal about the group’s aims, his statements very militant, threatening that any attempt to arrest Zuma “will lead to massive instability, that will not be in the interest of our country.”