The Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) was left with egg on the face when high-profile guests, including President Jacob Zuma, failed to arrive for an awards ceremony held on Thursday night.
The MKMVA's 55th commemoration gala dinner and 2016 MK Awards were held at Emperors Palace casino in Ekurhuleni. Zuma, who was due to receive an award from the MKMVA as well as deliver the keynote address, failed to arrive allegedly due to ill health. South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni, former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe were also due to receive awards, but were not in attendance.
The event was a disaster from the offset. The accreditation process was in shambles, with invited guests waiting for a missing guest list and an eventual two-hour delay in the start of the programme which got underway at 20:00. ANC Women's League's president Bathabile Dlamini was listed as one of the speakers for the event, but also failed to attend. The programme was started despite the absence of Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, who was due to give the welcome address.
Following apologies and an introduction to the evening, MKMVA chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe addressed attendees, but did not appear to have received the memo that Zuma was not in the building, as he continued to read his speech that was full of praise for the president. "We are happy that you have stretched your busy schedule to attend and to honour ex combatants," he said.
Maphatsoe warned those in attendance of the importance of unity within the ANC. He said the hits that the party has had to endure were getting worse and that something needed to be done.
"The body blows being landed on the liberation movement today are becoming bolder by the day. They are rising in their noise to dissuade the movement from effecting the change that our people so need. They even declare the African National Congress dead or dying in their preparations to sell its corpse to the vultures. We should declare that the African National Congress shall never die in our hands. We shall live or die so that the ANC may endure another century," he said.
After Maphatsoe's address the evening turned into a mini rally with lots of singing and dancing. State security minister David Mahlobo took to the stage to deliver Zuma's message. He announced that the president had been advised to rest for the evening by his doctors.
But the president's medical needs fall short of explaining why the other guests failed to arrive. Despite the apologies and excuses, the evening was a disaster and embarrassment to the organisation.
Laying bare the divisions within the ruling party, former commanders and commissars of the organisation, led by General Siphiwe Nyanda, have planned a special council for the weekend where they plan to voice their concerns about how the ruling party has been run in the last few years.