Zuma hands out MK veterans medals


President Jacob Zuma handed out medals to several hundred Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) military veterans during a parade at Air Force Base Waterkloof on Saturday, as MK celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“The medals are…being issued to further consolidate our march to reconciliation, nation building and the deepening of our democracy,” Zuma said.

The medal parade began with a salute flight by Oryx helicopters and Hawk jets, followed by a 21-gun salute and an inspection of parading South African National Defence Force troops. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and top echelons of the SANDF were also in attendance at the parade.

The parade date of 27 October was chosen to coincide with the birthday anniversary of Oliver R Tambo, the longest serving President of the African National Congress, who also served as the longest commander of MK.

More than five hundred former members of MK Luthuli detachment (first generation of members who joined around 1961 and 1962 when MK was established) received medals in the category of platinum, gold and bronze for bravery, merit, campaigns and commemoration.
“The Luthuli Detachment will always hold a special place in the history of MK, given that this was the very first group of combatants to carry out operations in the name of Umkhonto we Sizwe,” Zuma said.
“We are here to honour and celebrate a generation, which from the very onset, history assigned one of the most difficult, complex and yet noblest tasks,” Zuma said in his address to the veterans. “This is the generation that had to face a well-armed military might of the erstwhile SADF using dynamite and small weapons, carrying out daring actions of sabotage, executing the almost impossible mission of trying to return home and pursue the struggle when there were, at the time no friendly borders…history has it on record that these campaigns played a pivotal role in the resuscitating and inspiring the mass democratic struggles such as the 1973/74 workers strikes in Durban; the June 16 student uprising in Soweto and throughout the length and breadth of the country from 1976; as well as other mass upheavals of the 1980s.”
“The campaigns also contributed to the intensification of the armed struggle, the building of the ANC underground structures as well as international mobilisation against eh racist regime. All these culminated in the ushering of democracy on 27th April 1994.”
“Over the next few months to the end of the year, the Department of Military Veterans and the SANDF will also honour other detachments of MK as we wind up the celebration of its 50th anniversary. The government will also honour and recognise the contribution of those who fought as part of the Azanian people’s Liberation Army as well as the Azanian National Liberation Army.”

Zuma said that one of the projects to honour and memorialise South Africa’s military veterans was the construction of the Matola monument in Mozambique in honour of those who died in the cross-border raid in 1981. On January 30 that year, twelve South Africans and a Mozambican were killed in a raid on a house in Matola where unsuspecting members of the ANC were staying. Zuma and Mozambican president Armando Guebuza will officially open the monument and Interpretive Centre in January next year.

The Department of Military Veterans will also conduct other military parades for successive detachments of MK, APLAMVA and AZANLAMVA.

According to the Military Veterans Act of 2011, a military veteran is “a South African citizen who rendered military service to any of the military organisations, which were involved on all the sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994, those who served in the Union Defence Force before 1961, and those who became members of the South African National Defence Force after 1994, and has completed his/her military training and no longer performs military duties, and has not been dishonourably discharged from that military organisation.”

The Act obliges the state to provide a variety of proposed services and benefits to veterans, including a military pension, housing, free military health services, job placement, burial support etc.

Zuma said the administration processes aimed at finalising the establishment of the Department of Military Veterans as a stand-alone department are being fast tracked. “This is in order to ensure that proper systems are put in place to assist with the registration of all our veterans, to ensure they have access to the benefits and services we have all agreed on…We have already agreed that some of these benefits and services will include free education for children, housing, transport and medical care.”