Former President Jacob Zuma’s newly formed political organisation, the MK Party, is in a bitter war of words with the ANC over the souls of two liberation stalwarts.
At the centre of the political fight are the MK Party’s plans to visit the grave sites of former ANC bigwig Collins Chabane and former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) activist Mbulaheni Malada in Vhembe, Limpopo, as part of Zuma’s mobilisation in the area.
Zuma, a former MK guerilla, was one of Chabane’s closest confidants in the ANC dating back to their MK years and the broader anti-apartheid struggle in exile.
This came amid swirling rumours that Limpopo ANC chairperson and premier Stan Mathabatha had joined the MK. The Limpopo dismissed as “malicious” the rumours, which started circulating after the ANC’s 112th anniversary in Mpumalanga’s capital city, Mbombela.
According to an MK pamphlet which went viral, Zuma was due to visit Chabane’s grave at Xikundu Village in Malamulele and Malada’s at Makonde Village outside Thohoyandou on Friday, January 19. Zuma was also expected to meet religious and traditional leaders in Giyani and Thohoyandou as part of the MK programme in Limpopo. The former president was also expected to visit Giyani Taxi Rank, Muyexe village, Xikundu Village, and Thavhani Mall before the MK Party’s main event at Malamulele Stadium.
Malada, who was known by his combat name General Peter Dambuza, died in 2020. He served the MK in many capacities, including fighting against apartheid armed forces in Maputo, Mozambique, and Sibashe, Limpopo, in 1981. Zuma was an MK commander based in Mozambique at the time.
However, both Chabane and Malada’s families have distanced themselves from Zuma’s planned visit, saying they did not want the MK to use the souls of their loved ones to fight the ANC of which they were die-hard members.
In separate statements, the families reiterated that Chabane and Malada died as ANC members and their spirits needed to be respected rather than exploited for political gains.
In response to the MK Party’s mooted visit to Malada’s grave, a statement was released on behalf of the Dambuza Foundation and Malada family, accusing Zuma of political opportunism.
“We have noted with concern the announcement by the MK Party that they will be visiting the gravesite of the late MK Commander, Comrade Peter ‘Dambuza’ Malada on the 19th January 2024 in Limpopo. Whilst we acknowledge the challenges that our country is facing , we wish to emphasize that Peter Dambuza was a committed member of the ANC and its military wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe and its ideals.
“In this regard, the Dambuza Foundation and the Malada family remain loyal to the African National Congress, and we refuse that the name and legacy of Commander Dambuza be abused to divide our beloved movement, the ANC. As we all know, the four voting opportunities that Peter Dambuza casted his vote to this end, were that of the ANC. As a result, the foundation and the family have got no right nor wish to change his decision on his grave,” reads the statement.
The statement also requested the MK Party to reconsider their plans.
“We wish to distance ourselves from viral social media platforms claiming that the former President J Zuma and his MK Party will visit the gravesite of the late MK Commander, Cde Peter Dambuza’ Malada. In our view, this is mischievous and a crude attempt to distort the true values of Cde Dambuza and what he politically stood for throughout his life,” reads the statement. “As the Malada family and the Peter Dambuza foundation, We therefore call upon the MK party to desist from political opportunism, in honor of Comrade Dambuza’s memory.”
Professor Muxe Nkondo, chairperson of the Collins Chabane Foundation, shared the sentiments expressed by the Malada family.
“They have started. They are here, and everywhere, scouring graves, opening wounds and awakening resting souls. They are looking for votes and to resuscitate broken carriers. It was Moses Mabhida, then General Dambuza and now it is Collins Chabane. When will it end? Since the release of the pamphlet, purported to be issued by an organization calling itself Umkhonto We Sizwe Party, announcing its intended visit to Gen Dambuza and Collins Chabane’s graves the family of Collins Chabane and the Collins Chabane Foundation have been inundated with calls expressing shock and revulsion at this un-African practice and revision of history.
“The Foundation would like to make it very clear, that Collins Chabane’s family, the Mhinga Royal House and the foundation have not given the purported organization permission to visit the family graveyard, where the late Collins Chabane has been laid to rest. The family is opposed to the envisaged visit as insensitive and trampling on the spirit of their loved son, brother, uncle, husband and father. Collins Chabane was not a coward. He enlisted as a soldier of Umkhonto We Sizwe to fight for his land, country and people without regard to personal harm nor benefit. He made his views known without saying much. He lived and died as a member of the African National Congress,” said Nkondo.
MK national spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela was not immediately reached for comment. However, speaking on SAFM on Wednesday, Ndlela confirmed Zuma’s planned visit and that the MK had not received permission from the Chabane and Malada families. He insisted the poster was prematurely issued without authority by some MK members on the basis of a draft programme. Ndlela said the MK would not proceed with the visits against the wishes of the affected families, adding they would leave the final call to Zuma. He said he “doubted” that Chabane would have opposed the visit given the deteriorating state of affairs in the country.
Meanwhile, the Mathabatha-led ANC provincial executive committee in Limpopo was compelled to reject the rumors of his links to the MK Party publicly.
“The African National Congress in Limpopo has learned of a misleading poster circulating on social media, falsely asserting that Provincial Chairperson Comrade Chupu Stanley Mathabatha has joined the MK Party.
The ANC Limpopo unequivocally condemns this deceptive poster. The poster does not represent the current state of affairs. The ANC Limpopo PEC rejects attempts to associate the Provincial Chairperson with MK Party.
“The ANC views this malicious poster as an intentional effort to cast doubt on the integrity and commitment of the Provincial Chairperson to the unity and renewal of the African National Congress. Comrade Chupu Mathabatha remains a steadfast member and leader of the ANC, and we urge ANC members and the public not to be misled by this baseless and anonymous poster,” said provincial ANC secretary Reubens Madhadzhe.
Mathabatha could not be reached for comment.