• Might and malefactors: 'Military veterans' more like a gang of criminal

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Mon Oct 25 09:01:24 2021
    XPost: za.misc, za.politics, soc.history

    Might and malefactors: ‘Military veterans’ more like a gang of
    criminals threatening the nation

    By Rebecca Davis

    23 Oct 2021 12

    Of the 53 self-professed military vets who held ministers hostage in
    Irene, southern Pretoria, last week, 40 have criminal records – and a military expert says their claims are not credible. Millions have
    already been paid out to vets.

    Only 13 members of the group of self-proclaimed “military veterans”
    who held ministers hostage over demands for veterans’ benefits last
    week do not have a criminal record. This emerged at the bail hearing
    for the group of 53, with the Hawks announng that 29 have previous
    convictions for “minor cases” and 11 have previous convictions “which include murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape etc”.

    Questions have been swirling over the 53, whose names and ages were
    released by the NPA to journalists on Tuesday. The youngest of the
    group, at 43, would have been just 15 years old when anti-apartheid
    fighters were either demobilised or began to be integrated into the
    new South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in 1993. This process
    saw soldiers from Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the Azanian People’s
    Liberation Army (Apla) and other bodies either absorbed into the
    SANDF, if they wished to continue with military service, or
    demobilised if they did not.

    A DM168 investigation suggests that just one of the 53 veterans is on
    record as having integrated into the SANDF: Joseph Khulu Simelane, who according to documents seen by DM168 was dishonourably discharged in
    1998. A military source who wished to remain anonymous said that
    dishonourable discharges are given for serious offences, ranging from
    being absent without leave for a lengthy period to having committed a

    A dishonourable discharge prohibits the soldier in question from
    claiming benefits in terms of the 2011 Military Veterans Act.

    In court on Friday, the most serious criminal records of the veterans
    were laid bare. Group leader Lwazi Mzobe served 15 years in prison for
    murder, attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
    Fellow former MK fighter Muzukisi Ronyuza did time for possessing
    forged bank notes. Pius Manzi has a previous conviction for illegal
    sand mining, and Sabata Nhlankana was convicted on three previous
    cases of car theft and rape.

    The 53 individuals are members of a group calling itself the
    Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV), which emerged in public for
    the first time in late 2020 to lobby for benefits for former fighters
    against apartheid. At that time the group was organising under the
    banner of the ANC’s uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association
    (MKMVA) but since the official disbanding of the wing by the ANC in
    July 2021, they have termed themselves the LSWV.

    As reported by Daily Maverick, the group’s spokesperson, Mzobe, is
    employed by the eThekwini municipality, as is another key figure,
    Themba Jeffrey Dlamini. A number of eThekwini municipal workers were
    fingered by whistle-blowers within the ANC as helping to instigate
    July’s violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal. Mzobe is no stranger to
    this kind of action, having been at the forefront of previous military veterans’ protests in Durban, which included blocking the N3 in April
    2021 and attacking foreign traders in September and November 2020.
    There are also reports of the military veterans’ involvement in
    protests against foreign truck drivers, which coincided with attacks
    on trucks travelling between Durban and Johannesburg.

    Hefty demands

    The group ended up taking Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele,
    Minister of Defence Thandi Modise, Deputy Minister of Defence Thabang
    Makwetla and other delegates from the Presidency hostage for three
    hours in the St George’s Hotel in Irene on the evening of 14 October.
    The politicians were only released after they were rescued by the
    police’s Special Task Force.

    In court at his bail hearing, Mzobe protested that “no ministers were touched”. He implied that the ministers could never have been in
    serious danger because there were “10 or more” bodyguards present with guns.

    A hotel staff member told the Sunday Times that a member of the group
    had phoned on the day of 14 October to demand the use of a conference
    room and food to be served.

    The meeting was reportedly cordial until the veterans unveiled their
    major demand: the payment of R4.2-million each to 9,000 veterans. It
    was at this point that Modise attempted to end the meeting and was
    prevented from doing so.

    The financial demand has increased dramatically over the past year. In
    November 2020, when the group met with Deputy President David Mabuza
    in Pretoria, they were asking for a once-off payment of R250,000 each.
    It is unclear what has prompted the escalation of the demand.

    Mzobe told the court on Friday: “During the time of exile we were
    promised a lot of things: housing, better jobs, reparations, and
    once-off gratuity. None of those promises were fulfilled.”

    A complex history

    A highly sympathetic article on the veterans’ demands published in The
    New York Times this week caused outrage from some South African
    observers, with former Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes suggesting
    that “the lack of political context” in the story “borders on malpractice”.

    Dawes pointed out that, to understand the veterans’ issues, one had to
    take into account the history of the post-liberation settlement and
    the way in which MK veterans have been used in recent years to prop up factional battles of the ANC, particularly in support of Jacob Zuma.

    African Defence Review director Darren Olivier told DM168 that only
    one officially recognised veterans group exists in South Africa: the
    South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA), which
    includes veterans from the South African military, MK and Apla.

    Membership is verified by investigators from the Department of
    Military Veterans to determine who is eligible for existing veterans’ benefits, which include housing, healthcare, employment placement,
    burial subsidies, and preferential treatment for government tenders.

    “The Liberation Struggle War Veterans group, on the other hand, has questionable provenance, unclear membership with unrealistic claims,
    and appears to be a replacement for part of the factional political
    arm of the MKMVA rather than a legitimate veterans group,” Olivier
    told DM168.

    Olivier pointed out that the LSWV has claimed in the past to have
    40,000 members. When the integration and demobilisation period began
    in 1993, however, MK had 28,888 members and Apla had 6,000 – making it impossible for all LSWV members to have been authentic fighters,
    especially because many would have died by now. The LSWV’s claimed
    membership figures have since fluctuated: in court on Friday, Mzobe
    put the figure at “about 4 to 5,000”.

    Mzobe has claimed that the once-off “gratuity payment” that was
    supposed to be disbursed to anti-apartheid fighters during the
    demobilisation period never happened. In reality, about R225-million
    (almost R1-billion today) was paid out.

    Olivier says that the process was not perfect, mainly because MK and
    Apla did not have accurate personnel records. One problem was that
    some fighters used “combat names” and tracking their real identities
    proved impossible. Another was that both MK and Apla had seen an
    influx of thousands of new members between 1990 and 1993, who joined
    local self-defence units in what Olivier terms “a mostly ad hoc and uncontrolled process with minimal training”, during which few records
    were kept.

    “In cases where records were nonexistent, some local commanders used
    the opportunity to demand bribes in order to vouch for people in their
    units, excluding those who refused to pay, and vouching for
    imposters,” Olivier said.

    In addition, some fighters – mainly teenagers who had been in the
    struggle for three years or less – simply opted not to present
    themselves for demobilisation, in this way missing out on payments.
    Such payments would in any case have been minimal because of the short
    duration of their service. But there were opportunities in subsequent
    years, including when the Department of Military Veterans was
    established in 2011, for those who missed out to be picked up by the

    “The available evidence suggests that those wrongly excluded were no
    more than a couple of thousand people,” says Olivier. DM168

    This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper
    which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores.

    Source: https://t.co/8Ulw1sJj4v

    Steve Hayes from Tshwane, South Africa
    Web: http://www.khanya.org.za/stevesig.htm
    Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
    E-mail - see web page, or parse: shayes at dunelm full stop org full stop uk

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