Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

Speaking Notes to the MK Liberation War Veterans

“Active Citizenry and Military Veterans Economic Empowerment within the District Development Model”

Durban ICC, 3 November 2022


Programme Director,

The National Convenor for the uMkhonto Wesizwe Liberation War Veterans (MKLWV), Comrade Dan Hato, and all the leadership and members of MKLWV,

The Premier of Kwa Zulu Natal, Comrade Nomusa Dube Ncube,

Your Worship the Mayor of eThekwini Mr Mxolisi Kaunda,

Generals, Commanders, Commissars, and soldiers of the MK,

Comrades and Friends.

It is an honour to be here with you today in this great city of eThekwini, which just under 50 years ago served as an epicentre which united the four pillars of our struggle. The 9 January 1973 Durban Strikes, which started at Coronation Brick and Tile, not so far from here, will forever serve as an important watershed in our struggle.

It inspired generations of activists and MK recruits including the youth of 1976, to live up and fight for the ideals established by the Freedom Charter, which amongst others declares that “the national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people” and “all people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and enter all trades, crafts and professions”. This includes the activist and recruits of the MK whom we mentioned earlier.

These activists and recruits were at the core of our glorious people’s army — uMkhonto Wesizwe. In paying tribute to these activists and recruits President OR Tambo, during the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the MK, said:

Let us today accord proper place and recognition to that generant of MK we know as umgwenya, who by force of circumstance and in the face of such diversity became the core for our regrouping and the torchbearers of our revolution.

With superhuman dedication to the cause of our people, they held aloft our dream and lived with only one purpose in mind – to get back into our country, to be enjoined once more in the bosom of our people whose servants we are, and to pursue the revolution.”


The Durban strikes, we referred to, shook the capitalist core of the racist Apartheid system. It also became an important combustion cannon which propelled international solidarity, country wide mass mobilisation as well as armed struggle. Critical, is the fact that they were also partially fuelled by the underground movement which included June Nala, Fatima Meer, and the Lion of the Midlands — Harry Gwala. Thus, our earlier comment that the Durban Strikes were the beginning of unity amongst all four pillars of our struggle.

Comrades you will recall that up to that point the underground and military machineries and apparatuses had been completely demobilised because commanders and political leaders, as well as the foot soldiers of the movement being in jail, exile, banned, dead or under some form of restrictions. So monumental were the events leading to the Durban Strikes of 1973, that they captured the imagination of the world and were a revolutionary platform that captured the aspirations of the masses.

Therefore, the demands and petitions also echoed worker demands of a living wage and freedom in our lifetime, mirrored the 16 December 1961 Manifesto of uMkhonto Wesizwe. You will also recall that the MK manifesto picked up on the agitating Youth League manifesto of 1944 and the Freedom Charter both of which recognised the centrality of economic liberation. The Youth League Charter recognised the varied roles activists would have to play in various phases of the liberation. In particular, it notes that “we must be honest enough to realise that neither Congress nor the African people can make progress as one amorphous mass. At a certain stage we must cultivate specialised political attitudes”.

Today, you call on us to reflect on the type of specialised attitudes we should cultivate to enable cadres to contribute to the second phase of our liberation. That phase requires that we economically emancipate the people, through industrialisation and economic transformation. Again, it was President OR Tambo who reminded us that:

“It is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the country to the people as a whole. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the roots of racial supremacy and exploitation and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.”


Thus, we must remember that the principal mission of the MK was the political economic liberation of the people. The MK was a people’s army fighting a people’s war who were actively fighting all forms of discrimination, poverty, and injustice. The armed struggle was always intertwined with political education, mobilisation, and a life of activism and service. Consequently, the MK was born out of deep conviction and a heavy responsibility to our history, heritage, and our shared future.

The MK Manifesto also made it clear that the choice of armed struggle, as difficult as it was, became necessary because despite peaceful protests the regime had answered with a heavy hand. Thus, the famous words of Nelson Mandela’s statement from the dock during the Rivonia Trial which were directly lifted from the Manifesto. It reads “the time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight… that time has come for 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”.

To which Mandela during the Rivonia Trial added the chilling words; “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Thus the oath of the MK, which is not time or epoch bound says: “I place myself in the service of the people, the movement and its allies [and] I promise to serve with discipline and dedication at all times…

I therefore take this opportunity to salute the contributions of the hundreds of thousands of MK soldiers and the millions that sacrificed, so that we may enjoy the fruits of our democracy. It is therefore a travesty that 28 years after the attainment of our democracy, that we should have to convene to ask the question “what about the welfare, economic participation and activism of our war veterans?”


In your invitation, and in seeking to answer this question you requested that we provide practical and implementable solutions, by which we can guarantee the livelihoods and empowerment of the veterans of our liberation struggle.

Programme Director, I must confess upfront, that although I shall highlight some programmes that veterans can participate in there has been very little coordinated and impactful efforts in the scale of model case studies such as those in places like Zimbabwe and on either side of the Vietnam War. These model case studies point for the need of a government and society wide intergenerational programme which walks war veterans, their families, and communities with regards to the inseparable rights to health, wellbeing, and development. In those international case studies, there is an integrated plan directed at veterans.

These plans seamless reinforces benefits such as compensation, social security, health, housing, and burial with development opportunities such as education, employment, and income generation. In countries such as Ethiopia, the veterans and generals were assisted to set up economic participation entities, which were guaranteed work from the state and associated businesses. Above all the model plans were coordinated and responsive to the national material conditions, aspirations, and plans.

The South African Military Veterans Act of 2011 sets amongst its objectives the improvement of “the quality of life of Military Veterans and their dependants so they may realise their socio-economic progress”. Unfortunately, our programmes and projects fall short of that.

Following much engagement and planning led by the Department if Military Veterans, several, but not all, departments placed into consideration what they would contribute in relation to pensions, housing, health, skills, education, jobs, burial, counselling, and entrepreneur support. Some SOE’s and municipalities such as eThekwini have also attempted to respond to the needs of veterans.


All these have rendered varied progress, but the impact has not been to the anticipated scales and impact. Our plans for the veterans have also not been aligned to our economic objectives and plans. In understanding the priority sectors and actions, we have not fully defined the role veterans can play in enhancing them. Even with regards to progressing veterans up the livelihood and class chain, there has been little if not negligible impact. This is partly because of silo planning and implementation.

This Summit you host over the next two days, is an important step towards ensuring that all spheres and departments begin to break the silos and internalise the needs, aspirations and challenges facing veterans. Indeed, you have correctly recognised that the plans for veterans cannot be in isolation of the broad development plans and national priorities.

Programme Director, in seeking to reverse apartheid migration patterns which have seen the rural masses leaving their homes out sheer desperation, we have developed the District Development Model. The Model interrogates the endowments in each of the areas, whilst isolating the comparative advantages of the area. This will allow us to shape and reorientate the industrial structure in each locality, such that they are complementary to each other.

We are also breaking the silos, or at least opening the windows by getting all the levels and spheres of government to plan and execute together. Through the One Plans and One Budgets, we can maximise impact in each of the district and metro spaces. This will enable all of society and investors to better understand and invest in the priorities, whilst ensuring that there are necessary skills to support the aspirations, endowments, and longer-term growth trajectory of the district.


We would advocate a similar and complementary approach for the War Veterans and their families. Wherein, all of government is called upon to plan and execute together to support the aspirations of the veterans. These plans and actions could be supported by all of society and form a critical part of the District and Metro One Plans and Budgets I have spoken of. In the meantime, I wish to highlight some key programmes and anticipated actions in the department that I believe the Veterans can impact and participate in.

For a start, I am certain that you have all come across several reports, including those of the Auditor General which have highlighted the state of decline in the local governments. Even though we must caution against using audits as the only measure of success, we do believe that the War Veterans can directly assist us in changing the fortunes of those municipalities and their residents.

This change of the fortunes requires an ideal, well capacitated, ethical and capable local government. Such a municipality, according to the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), must ensure “sustainable development which addresses the needs of our people, without compromising the interests of future generations”.

The RDP further observes that “without meeting basic needs, no political democracy can survive”. Thus, a qualitative picture, of how far our young democracy has progressed can only emerge when considering the material change in people’s livelihoods.

Therefore, an ideal municipality is one where everyone feels welcome. It is a municipal space where there is a clear delineation between the political and administrative leadership. Such a leadership is purposeful, competent, ethical, innovative and solutions driven. Administratively, the municipality must generate enough revenue to run its affairs whilst also ensuring that infrastructure is well maintained which will require in-house technical and planning capacity. To direct revenue generation and investments growth the Local Economic Development units must be sufficiently and appropriately capacitated. It is in that space that military veterans can play, in partnership with financing and development institutions such as those that have gathered here. The ultimate test of achieving an ideal municipality is when citizens attest that they:

  1. Have a decent living environment and human settlements that are resilient and can withstand disasters and calamities with minimal damage and loss of lives;
  2. Enjoy safety for themselves, particularly women and children;
  3. Can easily access education, health and recreation facilities;
  4. Have access to clean water, dignified sanitation, quality transport, consistent energy and electricity, and road networks as well as Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) services;
  5. Are part of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and have access to digitization and ubiquitous broadband connectivity;
  6. Are part of a vibrant economy creating quality jobs, sustainable livelihoods and promoting inclusiveness; and
  7. Have food security, where basics such as fruit, vegetables, and warm bread are sourced locally.

In short, an ideal local government is fundamentally about an ideal state to live in. To get to that ideal state, we believe that the following are the key requirements that municipalities must achieve for them to achieve an “ideal state”:

  • Stability in municipal councils;
  • Qualified, skilled and competent civil servants in the Administration;
  • Clear delineation between the political and administrative leadership;
  • Competent leadership;
  • Transparent and accountable;
  • Regular citizen engagement;
  • Continuity in the administration;
  • Good financial and administrative management (positive audit outcomes);
  • Responsive to service delivery needs;
  • Institutionalizing and upscaling local economic development; and
  • Planning coordinated through the District Development Model and underpinned by credible integrated development plans, and innovation.


In order to get to the ideal state municipalities, we have to work with and in partnership with communities and all stakeholders. Thus we muts be able to maintain dynamic communications so that everything is citizen centric, and locally driven. Veterans have an instrumental role in activating and directing citizen action. For our part the Department of Cooperative Governance has attempted to unlock this active citizenry through the Community Works Programme (CWP). The Programme seeks to provide skills, jobs and experience to the unemployed with an emphasis on women, people with disabilities and young people.

It is a stepping stone towards prosperity for impoverished communities. Unfortunately historically, the programme benefitted middle men in the guise of Non-Governmental Organisations who have profited from the programme. Moving forward we would like to directly deal with the communities and support their aspirations.

In this regard, we have worked with entities such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), who have delivered in Mpumalanga. The young people they have trained have been linked to business opportunities. We can begin to explore how we interact with veterans through the Department of Military Veterans. We can also explore how we can infuse activism and political education in the training given by the NYDA, as we also isolate participation opportunities for veterans.

Programme Director, At a local government level, we have begun to make many policy level interventions such as the Municipal Structures and Systems Acts, which amongst others cushion municipal administrations from political interference and allows the Minister to directly intervene. To complement this we have undertaken orientation and training with the National School of Government and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), so as to equip councillors with the technical know-how and the relevant ethics. Whereas this training is technically astute, it is not politically savvy. Since all veterans are activists who have undergone political training, it will add value if the veterans can participate in the development and delivery of future capacity building curricula.


The provinces and ourselves have also sent intervention teams to support distressed municipalities. It would therefore be useful if we could receive information and a data base of skills and experiences of veterans. This would enable us to engage the provinces as they deploy intervention teams. These intervention teams work with our Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA). They are constituted by high and low level skills in the built sector. Therefore we should be able to match skilled cadres to opportunities in MISA and other related institutions. However, what we have often found as we look at the projects is that there is a dearth of skills and experience in the area of social facilitation. This is a niche the veterans can easily fill as there is a great demand throughout the state. This priority can also complement the long mooted developmental communications we have spoken about over the longest of times.

To complement this and further facilitate for the skills revolution our department is working very closely with Motheo TVET College in the Free State and more than 10 TVET Colleges. The framework for this skills revolution has been finalized and all social partners will sign a cooperation pact before the end of the year. The skills revolution includes formal training in various vocational skills and on the job training in a range of skills from plumbing, boiler making, boatbuilding, construction, and many other skills. It is our hope that you will join this initiative and sign the cooperation pact.

Programme Director, as part of the District Development Model, we are developing the Eastern Seaboard area of our country, starting with the 120 kilometre coastal stretch line between Port St Johns and Margate. This area is constituted by four district of which three (Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, and Harry Gwala) are part of the 10 poorest districts in the country. The fourth targeted district is Ugu, which is in the list of the top 5 unequal districts.

In looking at the endowments which include fertile land, breath-taking landscape and pristine beaches, amongst others, we agreed that the area has high untapped potential. As part of the plans to unlock the potential of the areas, we intend to develop a polycentric and multi nodal African Coastal City. These nodes are to co-exist and collaborate in a resilient and mutually beneficial way.


Obviously, infrastructure is the backbone and catalyst for this development. Whether it is basic services infrastructure such electricity, water and roads; or it is economic infrastructure such as communication, transportation, and distribution networks – all this infrastructure supports the competitiveness of local economies. We believe that the veterans and your Summit can contribute to shaping and delivering this development. For instance, can we begin to identify expertise and companies that are driven by veterans who can take up these future and anticipated projects.

Programme Director for veterans to take up these opportunities we propose that you must also remember the words of Che Guevara who said, “the first duty of a revolutionary is to be educated”. Therefore, I am pleased to see that in the programme there are institutions of skills development and education, for you can only take up these opportunities with the right training and experience. Where we do not have the necessary skills or entities, we can identify veterans or their family members who can participate in the MISA has a bursary scheme for technical disciplines such as Engineering, Town Planning and Construction Management.

These types of skills are critical to MISA. Maybe the officials can assist us in structuring the application process to make provision for Veterans and their immediate families.

Comrades we will need a more detailed and focussed government wide conversation and plan. I therefore urge you to advocate for this through the work delegated to the Deputy President, in relation to military veterans. I for one commit to engage with him and my Cabinet colleagues to ensure that the outcomes of this summit find route throughout our caring government.

However, I also wish to recognise that there has been growing despondency amongst the veterans and all of society. It is for our movement to take charge and implement with courage the resolutions it has taken. It was the 1944 Youth League Manifesto that said: “the critics of Congress attribute the inability of Congress… to advance the national cause in a manner commensurate with the demands of the times, to weaknesses in its organisation and constitution, [and] its erratic policy of yielding to oppression…” The Manifesto also observes that “it is further contended by the critics, that the privileged few who constitute the most vocal elements in Congress strongly resented any curtailment of what they considered their rights…

Just as the Manifesto concluded, we must continue to be activist fighting for the greater good, in the firm belief, knowledge and conviction that our Africa must and will triumph. Anything less would be a great injustice to the glorious and brave throwers of spears who fell in the battle ground.

Jikijela Mkhonto Jikijela!