The months of March and April this year, with dark clouds seemingly hovering over us to no end, have emotionally drained the South African nation, particularly the ANC and its Veterans League. For it was during this period that we first lost struggle Veteran Comrade Zola Zembe, followed by Mama Winnie Mandela, then diplomat extraordinaire Ambassador George "Dikgang" Nene, and now our committed, compassionate and dedicated Comrade Zola Skweyiya, who left us on 14 April, three days before his birthday. He would have turned 76 years of age.
Thus, in a short space of time we lost selfless leaders who infinitely cared about the country, its people and their glorious movement, the ANC. These are elders who were a repository of the ANC 's history and traditions.
The four stalwarts mentioned above were always concerned about the downward trajectory of the ANC over the past ten years. They lamented how precipitously their movement had strayed from its strategic objectives. They agonized deeply when witnessing its gradual downward trend and how society was gradually distancing itself from this, their once formidable organization.
Comrade Zola Skweyiya was a member of the ANC Veterans League and became part of the ANC Stalwarts and Veterans who penned an open letter to the ANC, imploring for an immediate intervention to deal with the rot that was systematically devouring their organization and destroying their country from within.
He attended all the convened Stalwarts and Veterans meetings and participated actively in searching for ways in which the stalwarts and veterans could intervene with the view to save their country and their glorious movement from utter and total destruction.
The President of the Veterans League recalls the hours he would confer with Comrade Zola during those critical times:
"At those meetings where at times I would sit next to him and later discuss with him during tea breaks, he would shake his head with dismay and ask rhetorically how it came about that we allowed the movement to stray away from its strategic path of delivering quality basic services to society so as to contribute in our quest to better the lives of the poor." Why, he would ask, are there no repercussions against those who openly squander and steal resources of the country with such impunity, damaging the brand, image and integrity of the movement? Why, he enquired, is the Executive not held to account by the NEC of the ANC and by members of parliament? The patronage that is easily dispensed, he intoned, must be nipped in the bud.
It is the Stalwarts and Veterans who put pressure on our leadership to convene the second Veterans League conference which took place in October 2017. The last conference was held in 2009 when it was established.
The outcome of the 54th ANC national conference in October 2017 ushered a new dawn and gave hope to millions of South Africans that the country and the ANC were on the road to recovery and renewal.
To this end, the president of the ANC and of the country Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa wasted no time and met with the stalwarts and veterans delegation and the Veterans League on 12 March this year.
His was to recognize the role that was played by the stalwarts and veterans and requested that they be part of the ANC Veterans League and play a meaningful and constructive role of building unity in the country and the ANC, thus taking their rightful place as the custodians of the ANC values and traditions.
"Lying in bed at the hospital where he was admitted and watching the news as the meeting was reported, Comrade Zola called me and demanded that I brief him on the outcome of the meeting. Refusing to heed my plea that he rest as everything was in order, he said he was more concerned about its future and how we as the real veterans of the ANC could help in fixing what has been severely damaged. As a parting shot he commanded that I should come to see him as soon as I could."
"A week later I paid him a visit at the hospital and briefed him comprehensively on how the ANC Veterans League was striving to unite all members of society and helping to build structures of the ANC."
Comrade Zola was assured by the Veterans League President that the league will support all initiatives by the current leadership to unite the ANC and society. He was informed that the Veterans League would assist the mother body to rebuild strong and credible branches of the ANC.
Comrade Zola, we as Veterans of the ANC are alive to the fact that you gave the struggle your all. Even during your last hours, your concerns had been how to save this glorious movement and ensure that it delivers on its strategic objectives.
We shall double our efforts and ensure that your movement, the people's movement, returns to its former glory.
As always we are ready to serve and will not disappoint you.
Lala Ngoxolo Boet Zola. Fervently do we implore you to let the Luthuli Detachment members who left before you, know that we will soldier on and will defend the gains of our revolution.
President of the ANC Veterans League