Only dead fish go with the flow
26 September 2017 14:54 (South Africa)
Politics

Analysis: Youth League's spectacular belly-flop over mundane ANC update

  • Branko Brkic
    branko3048 a ray
    Branko Brkic

    Brkic is the founder and editor of The Daily Maverick.

    He has edited magazines on business and politics, technology, and wildlife. He has also published fiction and non-fiction books, most of them in Serbian. Though he has never pretended to be a reporter, his wide knowledge of politics (especially in America), combined with his experiences in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, gives him an unusual outlook on events in South Africa.

    Despite the vowel-poor surname, he tells anyone who asks that he hails from Hyde Park, Johannesburg, having spent most of his adult life in South Africa.

    Recent columns:

  • Politics
malema disciplinary

Rather unsurprisingly, the ANC Youth League reached a new level of ridiculousness on Monday when it put out a statement attacking the ANC update on the status of Malema’s disciplinary hearing.

The Youth League, like its leader, is much better at emoting than thinking. And its statement taking on the ANC is more evidence of that. On Monday night the Youth League released a statement saying it was “shocked” at the “inconsistency” shown by some ANC officials. At issue was a terse statement released by the ANC. It was a three–paragraph innocuous statement:

“The ANC National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) sat today, 03 May 2010, at ANC Headquarters, Luthuli House, on the disciplinary hearing of the ANC YL President, Cde Julius Malema.

“The NDC has not completed its work today and consequently it will reconvene next week, Tuesday, the 11 May, 2010.

“We also like to confirm that the ANC Treasurer General, cde Mathews Phosa is the representative of cde Julius Malema on his disciplinary hearing.”

Essentially, it was an attempt by the ANC to get journalists to stop phoning its spokespeople to find out what had happened. It was the right thing to do because there’s huge interest in this hearing, and it’s pretty harmless to say it’s going ahead next week.

But the Youth League is scrabbling for any excuse. It’s claiming that the ANC had earlier said disciplinary hearings were an internal matter, and thus was now being two-faced in releasing this statement (capital letters and dodgy grammar by the YL):

ANC YOUTH LEAGUE SHOCKED BY THE ANC COMMUNICATION ON DISCIPLINARY HEARING:

“The African National Congress Youth League is shocked by ANC Statement issued by Spokesperson Jackson Mthembu saying that the Disciplinary Hearing ‘sat today the 3rd of May 2010 and that ANC Treasurer General Matthews Phosa
is a representative of cde Julius Malema on his hearing’.

“The Youth League is shocked because the statement issued by the Officials of the ANC on the 20th of April 2010 unequivocally said, “*IN THIS REGARD, WE WOULD LIKE TO RESTATE THAT ISSUES OF DISCIPLINE IN THE ANC BELONGS TO THE STRUCTURES OF THE ANC AND ARE THEREFORE NOT MATTERS OF THE PUBLIC OR THE MEDIA. ANC OFFICIALS WILL DISCUSS ISSUES OF DISCIPLINE OF ALL MEMBERS INTERNALLY AND WILL NOT ENGAGE ON INTERNAL MATTERS WITH THE MEDIA*”. The statement of ANC officials is still appearing on the opening page of the ANC website and would not be difficult to notice.

“It is quite apparent that there is a certain level of inconsistency and non-compliance with ANC officials’ directives and statements. The ANC Youth League will in this regard urgently contact the leadership of the ANC to understand the reasons why the ANC Spokesperson is defying the directive of ANC Officials. The ANC YL will never be dragged into discussing internal ANC process with the media as we respect decisions of the ANC.”

You would be forgiven for thinking they sound a little desperate here. Making a huge issue out of what is basically a straightforward update. You would be also forgiven for thinking this is all just plain stupid. But it seems the Youth League is after a confrontation at any cost. They want to go full tilt at the ANC itself; they want the big fight, to conflate the issues of Julius Malema with those of the League and, by proxy, all disaffected youth of South Africa.

And this is where it gets complicated. Because when we say “the League” we can’t really say all of its members. What we really mean is the inner circle of top officials - Malema’s kitchen cabinet if you like. They have plenty to lose if Malema’s wings are clipped. And it does look as if they’re fighting as hard as they can.

It’s also important to work out who writes and releases these statements. They tend to come from Floyd Shivambu, one of the League’s spokespeople. He’s very close to Malema, drives a flashy BMW and is about the most abusive and arrogant person in public life in this country at the moment. He’s a tall, strong-looking character who is one of Malema’s staunchest allies. And he’ll be first against the wall when the Limpopo Youth League revolution comes. He’s got a lot to gain by pushing for Malema. And he also has lot to gain by pushing Malema himself.

Key to all of this, well, madness, will be the reaction of the ANC. If we were them, we would just ignore it, and carry on with the disciplinary hearing. But it there's plenty of internal fear being stoked every time the ANC Youth League lashes out.

The disciplinary hearing itself is becoming interesting. Because, again, you’d be forgiven for thinking it seems none of the commissioners wants to be involved. From various reports it seems up to three of them have recused themselves. Susan Shabangu has pulled out because she’s clashed with Malema in the past. Zola Skweyiya has also removed himself because he’s made less-than-flattering comments about Malema in public. And Business Day reports Collins Chabane has also recused himself because the two have tangled in Limpopo politics before. While it’s tempting to say all of these people are looking for any excuse to get out, it’s more likely that Derek Hanekom, the commission chairman, is making sure everything is done by the book. Everything Malema is properly contentious, so it is worth doing the process properly, all the way to the ANC’s disciplinary appeal committee, and finally to the NEC.

Then there’s the confirmation of what we’ve reported previously - Mathews Phosa is representing Malema. Phosa will obviously seriously help Malema in a political way, but at some cost to the internal unity of the ANC. That can’t be fun for President Jacob Zuma. He’s facing the toughest test of his leadership yet, and he’s basically getting done over by one of his own top six. 

As the battle unfolds, it is difficult to see how it’s all going to end. But this much is clear: With deathly hallows circling around him, Zuma will have a tough time staying in power. And day by day, it becomes clearer and clearer that there are now very few people who are putting the long-term needs of the organisation first.  You have to love ANC politics.

By Stephen Grootes

Photo: The Daily Maverick

  • Branko Brkic
    branko3048 a ray
    Branko Brkic

    Brkic is the founder and editor of The Daily Maverick.

    He has edited magazines on business and politics, technology, and wildlife. He has also published fiction and non-fiction books, most of them in Serbian. Though he has never pretended to be a reporter, his wide knowledge of politics (especially in America), combined with his experiences in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, gives him an unusual outlook on events in South Africa.

    Despite the vowel-poor surname, he tells anyone who asks that he hails from Hyde Park, Johannesburg, having spent most of his adult life in South Africa.

    Recent columns:

  • Politics

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