Chairperson, Comrade Kebby Mphatsoe and the National Executive Committee;
Chairpersons of MKMVA Provincial Committees;
MKMVA stalwarts and veterans;
Comrades and friends;
I bring revolutionary greetings from the ANC National Executive Committee to this important conference of our MK veterans.
It is a very significant conference in many ways, as it takes place against the backdrop of very important developments in our national calendar in general and that of ANC and its military veterans in particular.
The nation and the progressive people all over the world are celebrating the centenary of the ANC as the oldest and most tried and tested movement of our times.
The ANC is a movement that has through its consistent principled approach to the struggle for freedom, democracy, non-racialism and non-sexism over the past century, been able to stand the test of time. Throughout its 100 years the ANC has seen countless and diverse onslaughts from imperialism, colonialism and Apartheid.
These storms, trials and tribulations included amongst others brutal killings, banning, assassinations, torture, imprisonment, exile as well as internal destabilisation.
Yet it has always been able to adapt and emerge stronger to accomplish its historic mission of bringing about freedom and democracy as well as a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
The dawn of freedom on the 27th April 1994 after lengthy and protracted struggles and sacrifices by our people is a true testament to that, and MK was at the centre of those struggles. This MKMVA Conference takes place as we celebrate the life and times of one of our greatest leaders and commanders.
It is within a month when we celebrate the longest serving visionary and revolutionary Commander in Chief and the late President of the ANC Comrade OR Tambo, gives this Conference even more added special meaning.
This reminds us of the fact that MKMVA comes from great traditions and principles of commitment to, amongst others, serve the people with humility and tenacity; to remain disciplined at all times whilst engaging in robust policy discourse.
It also reminds us to be objective in determining who should lead and what qualities are needed to lead effectively at each given historical epoch, to safeguard the principle of collective leadership, democratic centralism, and to commit to progressive internationalism.
To do all this we must remain true to the traditions of MK, to achieve one singular objective, the unity of the ANC and the revolutionary alliance partners, including the Leagues and the mass democratic forces.
Unity will enable the movement to ensure the realisation of the goals of the national democratic revolution as articulated in various conferences of the ANC and more specifically the 52nd Conference held in Polokwane in 2007.
All these were indeed an embodiment of what OR stood for and represented.
The movement needs all these values and traits now more than ever before in our history. This Conference should therefore assist us in finding ways and means with which we could preserve these essential characteristics of our movement.
Programme Director, we cannot talk about the centenary of the ANC without mentioning the 50 glorious years of invaluable contributions and sacrifices made by the former combatants of uMkhonto we Sizwe in that history.
On 16th December 1961, the MK founding Manifesto boldly stated that:
"The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom".
That bold statement of determination and dedication is as relevant today as it was 51 years ago. The founding members of MK took that bold step of introducing the armed struggle when the apartheid regime was unleashing unprecedented brutality against the people. They dared the regime and were prepared to die if need be.
Of course the ANC and the country is faced with a different enemy today.
That enemy is about decisively tackling the triple challenges of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.
That enemy is the diseases that continue to ravage our communities.
That enemy is the continued lack of access to decent education by many of our children including those of the military veterans, which is why we have made education an apex priority in order to effect a turnaround.
Our enemy is crime and corruption. Hence, the movement, through its government continues to work harder to deal a decisive blow against both crime and corruption in our society. Our enemy are the slow but gradually cripping alien tendencies within our glorious movement, the ANC.
These tendencies include divisions and factionalism; jockeying for positions, lack of discipline and respect; fraud and corruption; gate-keeping; bulk buying of membership to have members of members and so on.
The National General Council of 2010 and before then, the 52nd national conference identified these tendencies as needing urgent attention. Indeed, we have spent the past five years doing exactly that, working for unity and also to renew the organisation and restore its core values. The task is ongoing and calls upon all of us to prepare ourselves for the tasks ahead, as outlined in the national policy conference in June. History will judge us harshly if we do not address these challenges with a sense of urgency they deserve.
As we celebrate October as OR Tambo Month, we should remember what he always taught us: "Beware of the enemy within. Remain vigilant at all times!"
The unity and renewal of the organisation are therefore paramount.
We must heed the words of President OR Tambo, uttered when he closed the Morogoro Conference:
"Wage a relentless war against disrupters and defend the ANC against provocateurs and enemy agents.
"Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda, whatever form it takes. Be vigilant comrades. The enemy is vigilant.
"Beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge-driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue".
The movement has over the years invested on you and empowered you with many political and organisational skills.
With those skills you acquired in the frontline of our struggle, we look forward to you and this Conference in particular, finding creative ways of utilising those critical skills under conditions of peace, reconciliation and nation building.
We look forward to you to unite the ANC and its allies; advance and accelerate the achievements of the goals of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
We look forward to you to consolidate gains we have made over the past years of our democracy; and to assist us in accelerating service delivery.
Indeed, even the most sceptical and cynical can attest to the fact that the ANC-led government has over the past 18 years made significant political, social and economic strides towards building a better life for all.
Our constitutional democracy is renowned and envied as one of the best and most enduring in the world.
Our social and economic policies and programmes are indeed making a dent on the legacies of poverty and underdevelopment that we have inherited from centuries of colonial and apartheid rule.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding achievements post the 52nd ANC Conference held at Polokwane with regard to tackling the matters relating to military veterans in particular, is the establishment of the Department of Military Veterans in 2009.
Within the short space of time since its establishment, the Department of Military Veterans has been able to develop the Military Veterans Act No. 18, of 2011. It is now busy finalising the Regulations to ensure that they give effect to the social and economic needs of our military veterans.
That legislation is a very important policy instrument to help address the plight of the Military Veterans and their dependants.
It creates the necessary framework and an enabling environment for a rapid and sustained programme of assistance to our Military Veterans in general and those that have helped bring about reconciliation and democracy in our land.
Comrades, your heroic sacrifices were not in vain.
We remain committed and steadfast in making sure that the benefits of our democracy that you fought so hard for translate into a better life for all of you and your dependents sooner rather than later.
The DMV working together with other Departments, the provinces and the municipalities, is now hard at work to ensure that skills and education; economic empowerment as well as memorialisation and honouring programmes for Military Veterans are in place.
I dare say that we believe that the greatest heritage of any nation is its military veterans. We will therefore leave no stone unturned to make sure that the military veterans take their rightful place in our society and that is a dignified, honoured, self-reliant and empowered place.
On the 2nd of August I had a privilege of being part of the first ever military parade held at the Bloemhof Airforce in Bloemfontein to honour the founding members of MK and those that took part in the Wankie/Sipolilo Campaign together with the ZIPRA forces 45 years ago.
Plans are afoot to hold yet another parade on the 27th October 2012, in Swartkops Airforce base in Tshwane with others to honour the various MK detachments, APLA and AZANLA Military Veterans planned to follow later.
Coincidentally, the 27th October 2012 is the day in which the late OR, the former and longest serving Commander in Chief of MK, was born 95 years ago. Comrades Cabinet has approved R1, 6 billion to be allocated to the DMV programmes during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
For a start, the DMV has made provision for sixteen thousand (16 000) military veterans to be provided with access to free health care; fifteen thousand (15 000) to benefit from pension and transport assistance and seven thousand (7 000) to be aided with housing during 2014 and 2015.
The initial budget of the DMV as approved by Cabinet was R45, 5 million for the 2010/11 financial year and it increased to R51,2 million in 2012/2013.
This initial budget was largely used to sort out the database. As you may all be aware that there were many challenges in that regard.
We want to make sure that when the benefits which are due to the military veterans are rolled out, which we want to ensure happens soon, no one is left out and indeed no fraud creeps in.
As we do that, comrades, we want to tap into the rich knowledge, expertise and experience that the Military Veterans possess in order to advance our social and economic development goals and nation building.
Yours as MKMVA is not just a welfare case but a critical part of sustainable socio-economic development and political stability and you have a critical role in that direction.
Therefore, the ANC government must work in close partnership with you and other Military Veteran formations, the private sector, labour and civil society as well to roll out programmes. Working Together we can indeed do more. We hope that this Conference will be a catalyst and a voice of reason in so far as how we can go about in achieving that as we move forward.
As we advance towards the 53rd ANC Conference in Mangaung in December and beyond, we look forward to this MKMVA Conference advice and counsel as you together with the ANC Veterans in general did during the NGC in Durban in September 2010.
We look forward to your counsel and advice on how we should strengthen the unity of the ANC; enrich our policy discourse; sharpen the ANC and prepare it for its increasingly complex role in leading our members and of course society as a whole.
Perhaps most importantly, we await your advice and counsel on how we can accelerate the delivery of quality services for a better life for all our people. In conclusion allow me to humbly urge this Conference to ask hard and pertinent questions and engage in robust and frank discussion on amongst others the following:
Is MKMVA structured in such a way that it can play its expected historic role of uniting the ANC and the revolutionary alliance and providing critically needed political education across all structures of the movement? Is MKMVA organised in such a way that it can help build the values of discipline, selflessness, volunteering and commitment to service with which MK was known for over the years?
Is MKMVA ready to defend the Black Green and Gold?
Is the MKMVA Constitution, its policies and programmes appropriate to take the organisation to a new and higher trajectory that represents the best interest of all its members?
Can MKMVA rise up to become a voice of reason at this great hour of need?
All these vexing questions call for sober, robust and focused deliberations over the next three days.
I and indeed the entire NEC have no doubt that you will rise up to this historic challenge as you have done before.
We wish you all the success in your deliberations and look forward to your resolutions.
Long Live the MK Spirit of No Retreat No Surrender Long Live!
Long the Spirit of OR Tambo!
Long Live the ANC!
African National Congress
Chief Albert Luthuli
54 Sauer Street