Not entirely omniscient
20 December 2014 06:54 (South Africa)
Opinionista Gushwell Brooks

The ANC Youth League, toothless dog with laryngitis

  • Gushwell Brooks
Floyd Shivambu endeared himself to South Africans recently when he proved that his vocabulary is not only limited to the f-word. A column recently authored by him and published by the Mail & Guardian showed the value of the expensive Wits education he received. He was, after all, one of its SRC presidents.

I gasped as I read the piece that called for our president to answer questions around allegations of a corrupt relationship between himself and the convicted Schabir Shaik. His logic was flawless, his writing impeccable and in essence excellent, but for his unnecessary to display disdain for the opposition and its leader. He eloquently reminded us of the fact that President Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial was set aside due to gossip surrounding the timing of the charges and not the lack of evidence or any other compelling reason for validly not pursuing prosecution.

His writing enthralled me and, like so many South Africans, I felt the need for justice to be done surge throughout my body. But then an epiphany struck, most likely due to the fact that at the time I was reading the portion in which he lambastes Helen Zille and her party for not settling political disputes through the courts. It was an unfortunate distraction on his part and it caused me to wonder: “Where was Floyd and the rest of the ANC Youth League at the time when these charges were instituted and eventually dropped?”

I then remembered that he was the spokesman for the organisation that most vocally rallied behind our current president, saying things like Thabo Mbeki must go and they will kill and die for Zuma. What Floyd had done, by letting my mind wonder and thus allowing me to think for myself, was cure me from our nation’s temporary amnesia and remind me of the backing the ANCYL so verbosely gave our current president.

Like them, anyone could make the mistake of congratulating himself once Mbeki was recalled at Polokwane, charges were dropped against Zuma and he became president at our last election. From theirs and the rest of South Africa’s perspective they seemed to have the most powerful position in the republic, that of kingmaker. They then dared to dream even bigger. For when Zuma stopped singing Mshini ‘wam, donned a suit and tie and started talking grown-up politics, he lost favour with his radical political squires.

Now, they want to repeat history and do the same thing they did during and after Polokwane: they wish to crown the new ANC king. Rallying behind Kgalema Motlanthe is their plan of attack. Apart from employing Floyd’s prowess as a gifted columnist, calling for Zuma to follow Motlanthe’s noble example through openly asking for his name to be cleared by judicial processes, they went on to proudly wear T-shirts that shout “Kgalema for President”. They also referred to Zuma’s term as a dictatorship and hailed the old devil, Mbeki, as being so much better than the man that now occupies office. Motlanthe is smart though, he recognises that the dog that once mauled Mbeki is now toothless and barely barks.

Tuesday saw the ANC top six call for an unexpected press conference to address and clarify their stance on a few issues. Apart from chastising Julius for his most recent ranting, the message clearly delivered by Motlanthe was: “If I am vying for the presidency at Mangaung, I’m not riding your bandwagon!”

It is a big statement to claim that a vocal group such as the embattled, technically expelled ANCYL leadership has no bite, let alone bark, but let me substantiate. Most obvious is the fact that Floyd, Julius and the rest of their top brass have been either expelled or suspended. No one, but for an obvious idiot, would want their internal political battles fought by those relegated beyond the periphery of party structures. Expulsion means you are no longer recognised as a member of the party and thus you should not have a voice. Logic implies that the positions they currently occupy are a mere formality because the writing is ultimately on the wall for them. They are about as influential as Helen Zille in relation to the succession debate.

This means their lobbying can take two forms. One, their bidding and support for their first choice as president proceeds covertly through those with whom they still have an allegiance: names like Fikile Mbalula and Tokyo Sexwale spring to mind. Mathews Phosa, despite being present at Julius’s public address at Wits and his previous public support, showed solidarity with President Zuma on Tuesday, in the full glare of television cameras, so he can no longer be counted as part of this band of infamy. This specific vehicle of political sway is unfortunately a wounded submarine, doomed to spend an eternity on the ocean floor.

It is therefore doubtful that it would profit anyone to continue the Malema agenda within top party structures because those who did found themselves as the pariahs of the ANC's official fold. These party members had their fingers burned, particularly when they showed open support for Malema and defiance of Zuma during the ANCYL disciplinary processes. Instead of continuing the fight, the smart ones among them are attempting to reconstruct their damaged political careers.

Strategy two, which is even more ill-fated than strategy one, is take this thing public, but in an ugly way. This strategy has been played for some time now, to the point that it saw the ANCYL leadership being purged in one swift gesture. Now Julius is doing what he does best: scream and shout from the tops of the hills. And Floyd has joined the fray, wooing us with his eloquence in print.

The problem is that they might just convince the majority of us mere mortals, but they are not convincing those that count, the Titans within the offices of Luthuli House. The ruling party does not decide policy or settle the succession debate because of what appears in the press. If this were the case Gauteng residents would not have to worry about E-tolls and the media would not be asking us to wear black on Tuesdays in response to the Secrecy Bill.

Whether Floyd’s prose is convincing to the rest of South Africa is yet to be determined. How much gravitas can you place with individuals and their organisation, which does a complete about-turn and bites its own tail?

The sanctions passed to the ANCYL leadership serve as a warning for those within party ranks who wish to openly defy Zuma and the strong support network he has built around himself. Mbeki alienated his own, preferring to rather surround himself with those who were eager to please – remember Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka? So those in opposition will not necessarily make waves and it appears Zuma will need a strong tsunami to unseat him. That tsunami is not his opposition from within the party, but rather the external dark cloud of pending charges. DM


  • Gushwell Brooks
gushwell brooks for DM

Gushwell F. Brooks is an LLB graduate from the University of the Witwatersrand. He did not go on to become an attorney, but much rather entered the corporate rat race. After slaving away for years, he found his new life as a talk show host for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk.

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