The ANC’s military veterans have warned that a coup d’etat could result should former president Jacob Zuma be arrested for leaving the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
Leader of the Zuma-aligned Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, Kebby Maphatsoe, told News24 on Tuesday: “We are not saying Zuma is special or is above the law, no, but we are saying you are dealing with a person that, he was a former president, but also he was a former commander-in-chief [of the SA National Defence Force] and [he is] a patron-in-chief of the MKMVA, so obviously I know their position that, they are not going to be happy.”
He said those who loved Zuma might react emotionally and hinted that this could result in his supporters overthrowing President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“In other countries, it happened that there were coups,” he said.
Maphatsoe confirmed that he thought that this could also happen in South Africa.
“This happened in many countries in Africa. These things, if you don’t treat them carefully, and if you have not learnt from what happened in other countries – we can’t go to that situation in South Africa,” he said.
Maphatsoe also warned of general violence during marches by MKMVA members, amongst others by “opportunists and anarchists” and criminals, who might highjack marches, but also by those who were unemployed and genuinely desperate.
“We are honestly advising as people with experience of security risks,” said Maphatsoe, who was deputy defence minister from 2014 until last year. “South Africans, when they rise up, it becomes difficult to control, with the unemployment rate high as it is.”
Already, people claiming to be MKMVA members are attacking Durban shop owners – mostly foreigners – and leaders of the association have expressed their backing for a growing number of violent and criminal attacks against foreign lorry drivers.
Violence may spill over
Maphatsoe said this kind of violence might spill over.
“Once people get into this mood, it will spread [to] the whole country.”
Maphatsoe said the veterans did not want to focus on a claim of foreign interferences that was erroneously included in the statement.
In a part of the statement that was retracted, but not removed from final versions, the MKMVA says Zondo “was placed under severe pressure by several foreign funded NGOs, and other reactionary forces that advise him” to press charges against Zuma.
Maphatsoe said it was not discussed in the body’s national executive committee meeting that was held in Durban on Friday, and the MKMVA preferred to focus on the threat of violence arising from the charges, rather than allegations about the “foreign pressures”.
He refused to be drawn into where the assertion might have originated, or if the MKMVA had any proof for such a statement.
Maphatsoe was forced to apologise in 2014 when he called former public protector Thuli Madonsela a CIA agent – and someone who worked with foreign intelligence to destabilise South Africa – without being able to prove it, and without backing by the ANC.
This was in response to her sending a letter to Zuma, asking when he would respond to recommendations in her report about his Nkandla home. Her office did, however, receive training funding from the developmental and foreign aid arm of the United States government, USAID, for training, along with with other Chapter 9 institutions.
The ANC has recently raised concerns about what it considers to be the politicisation of some members of the SANDF, after a group met with retired defence intelligence chief Lieutenant General Maomela “Mojo” Motau, himself a former Umkhonto we Sizwe commander.
The group submitted documents to the ANC, claiming that its enemy was within the party and that it was losing its character of a liberation movement.
SANDF head Solly Shoke warned defence force members against attending the group’s meetings, which some in the ANC fear could be used to plot a coup. Maphatsoe said MKMVA members were being encouraged to participate in policy discussions in the run-up to the ANC’s national general council, which had to be postponed from June to the first half of next year due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
He said the MKMVA would push for similar representation in ANC conferences and leadership meetings as the ANC Women’s League or Youth League, which are allowed the same number of delegates at conferences as provinces.
They are also allowed to send their president and secretary to national executive committee meetings.
The MKMVA currently only has observer status in conferences. It has requested permission from the ANC to hold its own conference, after unity talks with the MK Council – a rival group of veterans, who opposed Zuma’s leadership – broke down about a month ago.