The uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) says it took a decision not to award non-combatants including Brian Molefe, Dudu Myeni and Hlaudi Motsoeneng at its 55th anniversary ceremony on Thursday night – but not because of internal pressure.

None of the controversial figures attended the event and State Security Minister David Mahlobo spoke on behalf of President Jacob Zuma who was expected to attend, but was unwell.

Mahlobo says the formation of uMkhonto we Sizwe marked a decisive turning point in the political landscape and history of South Africa when the people decided they would not submit to the tyranny of the apartheid regime.

While the evening was meant to honour Motsoeneng, Molefe and Myeni, all three were visibly absent from the gala dinner.

The Military Veterans Association says it decided not to award non-combatants as originally planned, but this was not because of concerns raised within the movement.

Mahlobo said, “It is these combatants who made a significant impact in the operation of uMkhonto we Sizwe, aimed at confronting the enemy inside the country.”

Mahlobo says it’s important that the pain of the families of MKMVA veterans who lost loved ones during apartheid be acknowledged.

“To ensure that the reintegration of former combatants into civilian becomes smooth.”

The awards marked the 55th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the former armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).