There are many ways to keep yourself in power in a “democratic” organisation. You can convince the people they’ve “never had it so good”, you can create enemies out of thin air and then mobilise the stormtroopers to harass innocent people or just spin your way out of trouble. Or you can forget about all of it, and just steal outright.
Is that what Julius Malema is now doing? The battle for the “Soul of the ANC Youth League” is hotting up, the stakes are high and it’s time to throw every weapon you have into the fray. In the national league’s case, and by that we mean the national leaders of the league as opposed to any of the provincial leaders who sometimes appear to be involved in a completely different organisation, this means controlling the provincial conferences. Making sure they vote the “right” way.
We’ve said it many times before, when it comes to conferences and elections, it’s all about accreditation. He who controls that, wins. So it’s a pretty transparent tactic of Malema and co. to force the league’s Eastern Cape branch to hold its conference this weekend. They have access to the resources to make it happen quickly and they’re betting that the “disbanded” provincial executive committee does not. They’re pushing out their boat early as well, with secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo’s saying “anyone found to be stopping someone from participating in the conference will face disciplinary action”. Really? Isn’t that Malema-ese for making sure that the right people aren’t allowed in? But what she’s really saying is that Malema has created enough members who back him to be pretty confident they can out-vote the other delegates who manage to get in somehow.
But all of this really ignores what is becoming the rather large elephant in the room, the issue of the ANC’s “intervention”. Eastern Cape PEC says it expects the national league to “abide” by the ANC’s intervention. Tulelo says the league can “accept” advice from the ANC, but doesn’t have to abide by it. She’s being polite. If Malema himself had been asked the question, he would probably have questioned the parentage of anyone who tried to tell him what to do.
Either Gwede Mantashe really can’t tell Malema what to do, and the ANC’s top six (Mantashe, Zuma, Mbete, Motlanthe, Modise and Phosa) are so divided on this they would rather watch chaos unfold and the end of the league as we used to know it, or someone’s playing a long waiting game. Mantashe’s a strategic thinker, so he might well be waiting for some well-placed trap to be sprung. But we may have to face the fact that the ANC is now so divided on the Malema issue, it can’t act – as embarrassing as that may be.
Our prediction for this weekend: Chaos. Almighty, terrible, awesome chaos. Of the type we’ve seen so often before with Youth League conferences. But on a whole new scale. Because this is the battle royale for the soul of the league. If Malema’s deputy, Andile Lungisa loses this one, he’s gone. Malema will stand triumphant. But if Lungisa wins here, Malema will have been publicly vanquished, and that is something a politician like him simply cannot allow to happen.
In the meantime, his allies are going to sniff out enemies. Malema was not at yesterday’s press conference. But in thought and style he was. Pule Mabe, the league’s treasurer, is not even afraid to use his physical presence in an intimidating manner. He’s large-featured, with an imposing way about him. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to take him too seriously when he blames us, reporters and journalists, for “sowing discord” in the league. He claims we’re responsible for what’s happening because we “phone people and ask them if they’re going to court…we are calling you to order, you are undermining our authority”. I know, that last quote is really quite something. So, Mabe, it’s all the fault of journalists? It’s got nothing to do with the leadership of the league? Or the behaviour of your esteemed leader? Or the chaos and discord that is plaguing the organisation? Nope, it is all entirely the media’s fault.
It’s a real indication of how the league likes to create enemies. It’s also a reflection of the mood of politicians towards the media at the moment. Quite possibly, by coming out so strongly against the media, the Youth League leadership is now seen to be buying a favour or two for the ANC proper.
But never mind all of that. For now, if you’re a police officer on duty in Grahamstown this weekend, you might want to be well-prepared. If you’re a journalist, enjoy it. And if you’re a Youth League member and you give a fig for democracy and future of your organisation, good luck to you. Chances are you will not be having the best of times.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)
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