Poverty stricken MK veteran will vote ANC despite ‘betrayal’

Benson Ntlemo

He is poor, jobless and bitter but former Umkhonto we Sizwe combatant Elijah Shilubane, 61, who lives in a dilapidated one roomed mud hut with his wife and children says he will not abandon the ANC in the upcoming polls.

Shilubane who left the country to join MK in 1977 complains that although he spent his life fighting for liberation, he is now hungry in the land of plenty and most of the people who never lifted a finger to fight the apartheid government are living comfortable lives. Shilubane whose exile name was comrade Atlantic returned to SA in1991.

He never kept a job since he returned and alleges his comrades have been making promises that never materialised.

“Sometimes I blame myself and think I made a wrong turn in life. Maybe if I had done something for myself and not put my country first I would be living a better life now,” he told Mukurukuru Media. While in exile he served in various roles.

He was once a bodyguard of a commander and also at once went to England on a scholarship and he has a diploma in graphic designing.

While in England he was also doing ANC work and was helping in the publications department.

When Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 Shilubane was still in England. But on his visit there Madiba briefed them about the prospects of them coming back home to a new South Africa.

But his main role has been in the frontline of the struggle.

“I am an MK combatant. I was trained to be in the frontline of the struggle. I would have died there but have survived,” he said.

Shilubane says that since he came back he is struggling to survive.

He shares a room with his wife and children.

In 2009 he received a certificate for long service from the department of defence and military veterans.

He registered as a military veteran but has not received a military veterans’ pension.

“They said I made a late application and do not know what it means,” he said.

He also applied to the military veterans department to assist his children with education but this has not borne any fruit.

Shilubane has also written a book that he says is spot on on his exile life but has not yet got a publisher.

With things not going his way, he was asked about the upcoming elections.

“I have been an ANC member for 41 years. Although at times I feel I have wasted my time, there is no other life for me except that of the ANC,” he said.

He said with his printing qualifications he is worried why he cannot get a job.

“The ANC has many offices and if they wanted to they would put me somewhere so I am able to support my family,” he said.

The state has a responsibility under the Military Veterans Act to improve the quality of life of military veterans and their dependents and provide them with benefits such as a military pension, housing, free access to military health services, skills acquisition and education support; job placement; burial support; entrepreneurial support services; and counselling.

However various studies show that many military veterans continue to live in poverty and deplorable conditions.

Last week Sowetan Sunday World reported that struggle veteran Amos Ndwalane was allowed out of his hospital bed for two hours on Friday so that former president Jacob Zuma could hand over a new house in Lamontville, Durban, to him.  The house was built by Durban company Enza Construction, which was approached by KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who had been asked by Zuma to help Struggle veterans who were struggling to make ends meet.

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