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SA: Zweli Mkhize, Address by the member of National Executive Committee ANC, on the occasion of celebration of 60th Anniversary of formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, PMB (17/12/21)


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SA: Zweli Mkhize, Address by the member of National Executive Committee ANC, on the occasion of celebration of 60th Anniversary of formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, PMB (17/12/21)

17th December 2021


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I have been asked by MKMVA to reflect on the issue of wars of resistance and the struggle leading up to the formation of MK and reflect on the life of comrade Johnny Makhathini. Let me thank you for the kind invitation.

In June 1961, Mandela sent a letter to South African newspapers warning the government that a campaign of sabotage would be launched unless the government agreed to call for a national constitutional convention Beginning on 16 December 1961, the campaign by uMkhonto we Sizwe with Mandela as its leader, was launched, with bomb attacks on government targets and planned for possible guerrilla warfare.


The first target of the campaign was an electricity sub-station. uMkhonto we Sizwe undertook other acts of sabotage in the next eighteen months. The government alleged more acts of sabotage had been carried out and at the Rivonia Trial the accused would be charged with 193 acts of sabotage in total.The sabotage included attacks on government posts, machines and power facilities, and crop burning.

Mandela as saying during his trial in 1964, in which he was sentenced to life imprisonment: “We believed that, as a result of government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalise and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism, which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of the country which is not produced even by war.”


Mandela also explained that the ANC had adopted sabotage as a policy because it, “did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations.” Umkhonto members, he noted, were given, “strict instructions ... that on no account were they to injure or kill people”.

So deep did this outlook go, that the ANC became the first liberation movement to sign the protocol of the Geneva Convention on the “humanitarian conduct of war”.

During the succeeding years, Umkhonto carried out many acts of sabotage: Some were spectacular in attacking government plants and electricity installations but overall they did only limit damage to the economy. “Armed struggle” was really no more than “armed propaganda”.

Non-violence did not extend to what the ANC viewed as legitimate targets – armed or uniformed combatants, police officers, perceived informers and collaborators, and white farmers in border areas who formed part of military structures.

In 1962, Mandela went to Algeria, Egypt and Ghana to get international backing for the group. After returning to South Africa, Joe Slovo reportedly complained that they had "sent [Mandela] off to Africa a Communist and he came back an African nationalist".

In December 1962, Looksmart Ngudle and Denis Goldberg helped to organise a training camp held at Mamre, outside Cape Town, later recognised as the first MK training centre inside South Africa; however it had to be abandoned early due to Security Police interest.

A lack of familiarity with the necessities of covert military work and the reliance on high-profile figures (such as Mandela) as leaders contributed to the South African state's ability to capture the organisation's leadership at their Rivonia headquarters outside Johannesburg at the end of 1962: effectively neutralisation of MK within South Africa for the next decade. However the organisation had established itself - and its key relationship as a disciplined part of the ANC - and did not disappear.

The early 1970s were a low point for the ANC in many ways, including in the military sphere. Attempts to rebuild uMkhonto we Sizwe inside South Africa resulted in many losses, though, as noted by the Military History Journal, some members, including Chris Hani, were able to remain undetected for a long period. Meanwhile, MK cadres had access to a growing range of military training opportunities in Algeria, Egypt and the Soviet Union and other communist-bloc countries.

The Soweto Uprising of 1976 led to a large exodus of young black men and women. Anxious to strike back at the apartheid regime, they crossed the border to Rhodesia to seek military training. While uMkhonto we Sizwe were able to rebuild an army—one capable of attacking prestigious targets such as the refineries at Sasolburg (with assistance from the Provisional Irish Republican Army)[13]

In January 1969, the ANC declared its solidarity with the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and pursued close military relations with that party, then involved in the Angolan War of Independence. Both movements were drawn into a practical and ideological friendship because of their shared links with the Soviet Union through the communist parties of their respective nations.[22] At the First International Conference of Solidarity with the Fighting People of Southern Africa and the Portuguese Colonies, organised by the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organisation and the World Peace Council, the MPLA and ANC entered into a formal military alliance together with the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO), the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). This became known as the Khartoum alliance.

The ANC-MPLA alliance assumed new significance in the mid-1970s with Angolan independence. After consolidating power with Cuban support, the MPLA granted MK permission to establish training facilities in Angola.The primary MK base in Angola was located at Novo Catengue, where intakes of up to 500 recruits were trained by Cuban military advisers. Between 1976 and 1979, over 1,000 MK guerrillas were trained at Novo Catengue. In recognition of Cuba's role in supervising the training programme, the third MK intake to muster out was named the "Moncada Detachment". There were also a number of smaller MK training camps established throughout Angola, namely at Quibaxe. Aside from Cuba, the Soviet Union also contributed some instructors at the request of Oliver Tambo; between 1976 and 1991, 200 Soviet military personnel served at various MK camps in Angola as training staff.

The ANC and MK presence in Angola re-ignited its alliance with SWAPO and its own armed wing, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). PLAN and MK frequently shared facilities in Angola and coordinated the transportation of supplies and war materiel.

In 1984 there were a series of mutinies in MK's Angolan camps which were suppressed by the Mbokodo, the ANC's internal security service. During this time, the ANC detained and executed a number of MK dissidents suspected of subversion or disloyalty.

MK's presence in Angola inevitably embroiled it in the Angolan Civil War. In August 1983, an MK battalion was deployed against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) insurgents near Kibashe. In 1986 three battalions of newly trained MK recruits were deployed to guard FAPLA rear areas during Operation Alpha Centauri.

MK also participated in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, fighting against a joint South African and UNITA expeditionary force during Operation Hooper and Operation Packer. At least 100 MK cadres were killed during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, making that engagement of enormous symbolic importance, as it was the largest single loss of life in MK's history.[27] Furthermore, MK's prestige inside South Africa was greatly enhanced by its participation in a conventional battle, and apparent willingness to directly confront a South African military force.

Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini

Member of ANC and MK, ANC head of the Department of International Affairs, teacher, political activist and freedom fighter.

Johnstone “Johnny” Mfanafuthi Makhathini was born in Durban on 8 February 1932. He attended school at Adams College in Durban where he trained as a teacher before teaching in Mzinyathi in the Inanda area. When the apartheid government imposed Bantu Education he resigned from teaching and went on to pursue further studies part time at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Makhathini joined politics and devoted his time to organizing the people as an activist of the African National Congress (ANC). He became a key youth organizer in and around Durban and rural Natal. For instance, Makhathini was instrumental in organizing the ANC's Pietermaritzburg Conference of March 1961. His political activism resulted in his detention by the police several times. He was deeply involved in spreading the message of freedom internationally and advocated the anti-apartheid movement.

In 1962 Makhathini left the country with a group of the first uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) recruits from Natal for military training. He was stationed in Morocco where he became the ANC's chief representative receiving and overseeing groups of trainees. His stay in Morocco enabled him to learn French which he used to advance the ANC cause in not only English speaking countries but also French speaking countries.

After the independence of Algeria in 1963, the ANC opened a mission in that country and Johnny Makhathini was transferred to join the then Chief Representative, Robert Resha. Makhathini became the ANC Chief Representative in Algeria in 1966. From Algeria, Makhathini visited Western European countries lobbying against apartheid. In 1974 Makhathini became a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. He was considered to be “the articulate champion of the cause of the oppressed masses of South Africa.”

After his appointment as Head of the ANC mission to the United Nations (UN) in 1977, Makhathini pushed the agenda of the struggle against apartheid in the UN and the Organization of African Union (OAU). Makhathini interacted with members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and diplomats who supported South African liberation movements. He aimed to make the global community aware of the wrongdoings of apartheid South Africa. On 30 October 1985 Makhathini addressed the UN General Assembly on this subject.

“It was in this context that Bhut’ Jonny was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC at the UN in 1977, with responsibilities in respect of the USA as well. His arrival in the USA coincided with a mushrooming anti-apartheid movement on several university campuses that was driven largely by the anti-war student movement.

There had been an exponential increase in the number of exiles from South Africa with the banning of the ANC and PAC in the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 and in the aftermath of the 1976 Soweto student uprising. At this time, the struggle in South Africa was intensifying and the international mobilisation effort was growing at a fast pace.

Jonny Makhatini was surrounded by a highly motivated group of ANC cadres, who were articulate in their own right and well versed in the mores and politics of American society. Assisted by this collective, he galvanised the South African exiles in the campaign to enlist the support of the universities in the USA and their student bodies; members of Congress, in particular the Congressional Black Caucus; members of state and local governments; and important lobby groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the American Committee on Africa, Crossroads Africa, the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the National Conference of Black Lawyers and many eminent individuals such as Judge William Booth, Mrs Coretta Scott King, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mr Prexy Nesbitt, Ms Jennifer Davis, Ms Gay McDougall, and countless others, to increase pressure on the US Government and to urge US companies to disinvest from South Africa, with the aim of crippling the South African economy and weakening the Government.” Dumisani Khumalo.

His experience in international affairs led to his appointment as Head of the ANC's Department of International Affairs in 1983. After the National Consultative Conference of the ANC held in Kabwe in 1985, Makhathini returned to Africa to give personal attention to his departmental responsibilities and was based in Zambia.

In 1988 after being admitted to the University Teaching hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, with complications arising from a diabetic condition, Makhathini died on 3 December. In 2010 the South African government engaged the Zambian government to exhume Makhathini's remains and he was reburied at Heroes Acre Cemetery, Kwa-Zulu Natal, where Moses Mabhida was also reburied, on 27 February 2010.

President Jacob Zuma  in the reburial in 2010

“He used powerful tools – his political acumen, strategic thinking, communication as well as networking skills to promote the cause of freedom and justice in international platforms.

All who lived and worked with him will recall that as ANC representative in Algeria, he was highly effective, making the message of freedom heard in all corners, from Algeria to Western Europe.

Comrade Jonny Makhatini was also a respected figure in the Organisation of African Unity, pushing the agenda of the unity of the African people and the fight against apartheid.

He distinguished himself as the head of the ANC mission in the United Nations (UN). He was highly influential and was known by every diplomat worth his salt. ANC archives show that he was often accused of making the ANC dominate UN discussions.”

Dr. Kenneth D Kaunda, first President of the Republic of Zambia referred to Makhathini at his memorial service in 2012 at Woodburn Stadium as “an immensely gifted pan-Africanist with a rare sense of fairness and unfailing courtesy to the others, attributes, which earned him immense respect not only among his comrades but also among other people with whom he interacted.

Makhathini is survived by his wife, Valerie O’ Connor Makhathini and his daughter Nandi Makhathini and grand daughter.

How do we commemorate such heroism dedication and lifetime commitment to our struggle? How do we make reconciliation meangful and demonstrate that democracy works?

We have several tasks ahead.

Revive the vision of non-racial and United country

We must build the society they aspired for as inheritance to future generation and  revive the vision of `Mandela Tambo Mabhida Makhathini Charlotte Maxeke for which so many sacrificed and lost their homes possessions  lives and  went to prison and exile. That vision is the building a Non-racial non-sexist United egalitarian Democratic  free prosperous society— a South Africa free of poverty, inequality,  gender based violence and other crime. We need to rekindle the hope to make SA a land of our dreams a land of opportunity a land of freedom a land of prosperity and progress. That is what all freedom fighters were prepared to fight and die for.

We need to build leaders who are dedicated to service excelence, humility, respectful and understand that the struggle was for improving lives of people and creation of a better society.

We need deep introspection after huge losses were  suffered by the ANC in the local government elections  Our people have sent a powerful message that the ANC needs to take time to analyse and not only understand the deep meaning of such a huge decline in support but what corrective measures are needed to rebuild trust, confidence and support. We as leaders must accept that we have strayed and our people are angry frustrated and have begun to lose the hope in our leadership

Unity and renewal

For a start we need to focus on rebuilding the unity and renew the soul and fibre of the ANC, restoring it to its founding values of dedication to servicing our people with honesty and dignity, respect and humility. We must build leaders and members who are conscious of our role in society. We need to dismantle factionalism and build a strong United force that can unite members of our movement and act as a catalyst for unity of all South Africans. We need to reach out to all sectors and take counsel and guidance on where they see our shortcomings are and make amends.

An image of ANC leaders at each other’s throat leading self-destructive cliques and factions cannot be a source of confidence that the ANC is still committed as leader of society. An image of ANC marching against itself, shouting abuse and concerned with its own interest, suggests that the people and their concerns have been forgotten. ANC taking each other to courts and pursuing own interests to the total disregard of the impact to society and our movement and divided ANC cannot be the inspiration for uniting society.

We have seen disunity in the selection of candidates, flouting procedures and causing disruption. There has been unacceptable violence associated with internally party contest.

We need to correct this!

ANC needs to perfect the art of cooperating with other parties and civil society and work in the ambit of broad fronts creating harmony and consensus in governance and nátion building and creation of social cohesion. This is what our forebears taught us and how we won the struggle through involvement of social partners in the tripartite alliance and beyond the alliance, involving faith based, traditional, labour and other social formations in true partnership. This will prepare the ANC for a future of coalition governments as our people have shown the way. Many parties that have led to the ANC losses are splinters from the ANC. This must strengthen our values in tolerance  disciplîne and rebuilding the ANC to be people-centred organisation.

The ANC is currently reconvening conferences across the country. Let us rebuild and unite our branches and regions but not on the basis of perpetuation of factions but on unity and renewal.  Members of MKMVA must contribute to the rebuilding of branches and be part of leadership. Youth must be mentored and supported to grow and build vibrant organisation. Let a United and stronger  ANC emerge from conferences. Let us build an ANC as home for all our people and trusted servant of our people.

Service delivery

The general outcry from our people has been concerns regarding service delivery. When people voted for the ANC and any party for that matter, it is about improved  services and providing a better and more comfortable life. Issues of clean water, electricity, sanitation, good road and housing infrastructure are bread and butter issues that  indicate the seriousness with which parties in government take the electoral mandate.

The ANC pledged to offer a responsive government whose program is geared towards provision of a better life. This commitment needs to be matched by the experience felt by our people. Challenges of shortage of water, burst water pipes and sewerage  spilling into streets give a poor reflection of governance and the  lack of seriousness by the leadership to service delîvery. Leaving in filthy towns with stench in every corner and rodents running into tall grass by the roadside are hardly a compliment to any municipal council.

Even with the current challenges the ANC need to ensure a rapid turn-around in service delivery, to respond to unfulfilled commitments and demonstrate that there are drastic changes which our people must experience. This is more so that the ANC needs to work towards reclaiming lost support in which we need to accept the opposition status and work from the opposition benches to fight for improvement of our people’s lives where necessary. Many parties declined coalition with ANC even it is largest party. We will have to live with that reality.

We need to ensure merit,  technical competence, honesty and professionalism amongst the civil and municipal servants. The experience of our people at municipal offices must be turned into a positive and welcoming experience. Street lights and potholes be fixed, bills be properly recorded and staff attitude must be friendly.

Newly elected councillors need urgent training to be properly orientated to change the negative image so everyone knows that they are servants first and foremost and the people are the masters.

Building economic growth

The past few years have seen our economy shrinking and ratings by international rating agents deteriorate and people losing income and assets and economic status worsen. This has caused anguish, disappointment and suffering to people who have had stable and reliable income and worse for those in informal economy. It is no surprise that the voter  turn-out has declined and the ANC as ruling party suffered. We need to ensure that the economy is built to support sustainable livelihoods. Our management of state enterprises particularly the provision of stable electricity that supports industrial growth and stable reliable electricity without frequent power outages is prioritised. Many SOEs need to be revived to healthy operational status to contribute in building the economy and job creation. Our economy needs to be transformed de-racialised and inclusive.

A major focus is needed to promote and support black business and small business the township and rural economy. Industrial development must be spread into the neglected township and rural areas and small towns be supported. Economic  emancipation remains our goal. There is no worse suffering as the life in townships, informal settlements and rural areas with ever diminishing prospects of changing our lives for the better.

All previous research demonstrated that the ANCs electoral fortunes are directly linked to improve per capita income and rising positive national mood.

Fighting poverty inequality and unemployment

Our major enemy of our revolution remains the elimination of poverty, inequality and unemployment. We are seeing rising levels of inequality, poverty with the highest unemployment rate in recent history.  Provision of land for our people is a major part of elimination of poverty, for residential, agricultural  and commercial purposes. The focus on land for youth and women must be prioritised after all the struggle for freedom was about land dispossession. This must be addressed

There are youths whose major experience is not doing work but seeking jobs. This is not sustainable. The balancing of our education and training should encourage artisanal skills and youth entrepreneurship supported by financial support for creativity and innovation. Meaningful industrial development needs to be extended to poverty stricken areas for people to work nearby their residential areas. People must feel they are contributing  to the ownership of assets and generation of wealth not just as consumers but as producers. We cannot allow a situation where the only industries that thrive in townships and rural areas are taxi industry, spaza shops, taverns, loan sharks, funeral undertakers, drugs and gangsterism.

We need to attend to the plight of the ex -combatants, their welfare, health and homelessness. We  need, like all countries have done, to show appreciation to those who were prepared to lay down their lives to bring us our democracy even as we realise that their skills may not be in a position to support their livelihood in the current situation I am glad to notice that the issue of housing at Aloe Ridge that was a thorny issue in Pietermaritzburg is being resolved. I agree that job opportunities for be sought to assist ex-combatants such as ex-MK members. We also need the ex-combatants to unite and speak with one voice.

I appeal to ex-combatants to work with authorities to resolve the issues and not take the law into their hands or cause disruption.

No tendencies towards ungovernability must be supported. That’s an instruction comrades.


Corruption has emèged as one of the major scourges that is huge source of concern to our people and our country. Corruption takes away resources destined to uplift the plight of our people and  deliver services to the poôr and all in need. The ANC has to address this matter as matter of urgency and provide accountable leadership and address consequence management to eliminate a culture of impunity. The fight against corruption has to be taken to all levels of government to ensure clean government. This has to be done in a consistent and non-partisan manner ensuring that the independence of state institutions and integrity of criminal justice system is preserved. Clearing this image of corruption in ANC,  in government and society remains fundamental for the building of an accountable people-centred government and ANC as a party.


We must unite in the fight against the covid 19 pandemic and ensure we return our country to normality and restore our people to cultural social and economic normality. We must encourage all to take the vaccine and work with government to defeat the next wave. We must unite to fight other pandemics such as gender based violence, violent and other crime,  HIV and AIDS and other ills in society

We are disappointed about the judgement in the case of former `President Zuma’s parole. Based on Ubuntu, our people have expressed concerns about the incarceration of a retired octogenarian with co-morbidities and a raging covid 19 fourth wave,  when people that age generally get released from prison. We call on all our people to allow all the legal processes to be pursued even though we know there was a huge outcry  when he was taken to prison the first time.

That incidence of violent protests and looting and cold blooded murder that was experienced reflects a low point in our history. We need to ensure such an experience is not repeated and that justice is meted to all who committed the senseless killings associated as well as support to the families that lost their beloved. On this day of reconciliation we need the whole country to always remember what sacrifices had to be made to achieve reconciliation in our country. Our diversity means we need to always remember not to take our sensitivities for granted.

Today is the day of reconciliation

This must remind us of the commitment and dedication of our heroes and not take our democracy for grantèd. This must remind us of the contribution of excombatants, workers youth women and different activists and ordinary citizens who brought us freedom without expecting any reward. This is the history that our future generations must learn so that we all appreciate and protect the democracy and freedom we achieved.

Let us appeal that this 60th anniversary must allow us to reflect and  rebuild the confidence, the trust and respect and support for this glorious movement.

Let us rekindle the hope of a prosperous and  South Africa and a better Africa.

The task for the ANC is not over!

Let us not disappoint our people!

Let us bring hope and take our revolution forward!




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