Deputy Minister of Military Veterans Kebby Maphatsoe has reportedly pressured his director-general into paying out almost R8 million to fund a recent four-day conference of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA).
According to a letter sent by Maphatsoe to director-general Max Ozinsky, the Sunday Times reported at the weekend he had “urgently” sought money for the event that took place at the Birchwood Conference Centre a fortnight ago in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.
Though Ozinsky had objected to funding the event due to the verification of credentials of more than half of the 1,200 delegates who attended the meeting, about R7.8 million of taxpayers’ money was allocated to the conference – where Maphatsoe was elected the president of the association unopposed.
“Sources said a verification process conducted by the department revealed that 637 delegates could not be traced in the department’s database and were not bona fide military veterans.
“Department insiders said other delegates were current members of the South African National Defence Force with no verifiable links to Umkhonto weSizwe,” the report stated.
Insiders with the department who spoke to the paper argued it was inappropriate for the deputy minister to directly request his director-general to release funds to a political organisation he heads, saying they viewed the request by Maphatsoe as applying undue pressure on Ozinsky.
The sources said such requests are usually done by the SA National Military Veterans’ Association, not directly by the MKMVA. Another source said the money was apparently used for accommodation, food and transport for delegates who attended the conference.
Maphatsoe denied that he had pressured Ozinsky to release the funds.
“It is not true … I don’t have executive powers to do that,” he said.
He accused the director-general of sending in state security officers to do registration and accreditation of delegates.
“It was at the Birchwood Conference Centre. There was a meeting there and the DG introduced the State Security Agency people and we asked them what do they want here because it’s not a government event, it’s an MK Military Veterans’ Association event,” Maphatsoe was quoted as saying.
Maphatsoe, a staunch supporter of President Jacob Zuma, was re-elected amid divisions within the association; several senior members of MKMVA boycotted Zuma’s keynote address to delegates.
The MK Council, the breakaway group, has accused Maphatsoe and his backers of fuelling factionalism within the ANC. They called for the “bogus” conference to be canned, and also questioned the legitimacy of some members who attended the event.