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Gloves are off as Nyanda takes on veterans

02 September 2012 - 02:04 By GEORGE MATLALA

ONE of President Jacob Zuma's senior advisers has broken ranks and accused the ANC's military veterans of behaving like the president's "private army", threatening to beat up those opposed to his re-election bid.

In an unprecedented attack against the pro-Zuma Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veteran's Association (MKMVA), presidential parliamentary counsellor Siphiwe Nyanda said Zuma was not the commander-in-chief of the organisation as claimed by its leaders.

"The notion advanced by some of the leaders of MKMVA that Jacob Zuma is a commander-chief of the MKMVA is a dangerous illusion," he wrote.

"The ANC has no army. The president of the ANC does not possess a private army," Nyanda added in an opinion piece published by the Sunday Times today (see Review, Page 4).

Nyanda, whom Zuma kicked out of his cabinet in 2010, was one of Umkhonto weSizwe's most senior leaders, having risen to chief of staff of the erstwhile ANC military wing.

He is now believed to be part of a group of ANC leaders campaigning for Zuma's removal.

In the opinion piece, Nyanda says the ANC's national executive committee, of which he is a member, has never taken a decision to turn MKMVA into the party's security wing. "To style MKMVA as a security or enforcement arm of the ANC is wrong. It has no such mandate. No decision of any ANC structure or even its own constitution gives MKMVA such a role."

The MKMVA has been embroiled in a bitter battle with expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and his supporters. Its members kicked and punched Malema's rebelling supporters ahead of Zuma's Nelson Mandela lecture in Limpopo in July.

MKMVA has also made headlines in the past with its leaders threatening Malema and other Zuma opponents with physical harm. Its KwaZulu-Natal branch caused a stir earlier this year when it issued a statement saying "if it was still the struggle era" Malema "would have been killed by the firing squad" for being rude to the ANC leadership. These statements, according to Nyanda, were ill-considered and threatened to tarnish the ANC's and MKMVA's image.

But MKMVA chairman Kebby Maphatsoe hit back, saying Nyanda was attacking the organisation as part of a broader campaign against Zuma.

Maphatsoe said Nyanda was targeting the MKMVA for supporting Zuma's re-election bid.

"All these things are about Mangaung. The MKMVA has been vocal about the retention of the president. This is an attack against president Zuma in another way," he said.