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Reporter’s notebook: Mantashe on Youth League case, with a hint of Machiavelli

Reporter’s notebook: Mantashe on Youth League case, with a hint of Machiavelli

When ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe speaks, the land shakes – or at least it quivers a little – and everything is fair game, from the Youth League to the media. Curiouser and curiouser.

Gwede Mantashe knows how to look like he’s coming out guns blazing. How to rev it up a bit, to make sure that the tone of the message is carried through. On Tuesday at Liliesleaf Farm it was angry, it was an “ANC national working committee is da boss” message. He delivered it well, in very animated fashion. He even put some Marmite into it. “Anyone,” he thundered “who goes to court before using all the internal processes will be expelled.” In fact, the NWC has drawn up a list of offences for which you can be expelled. In no particular order, they include starting physical fights among ANC members, disrupting conferences and going to court prematurely.

And Mantashe sounds like he means it. At first glance, it sounds like Malema’s enemies are stuffed. There is some hope though, because the NWC has set up a task team to sort out what’s going on in the Youth League. They won’t give us the names of the five members officially, but it’s led by Kgalema Motlanthe. The other names will leak pretty soon.

Poor old Motlanthe. Why is it always him? In a way though, he’s the leader who started all the trouble. It was he who was asked to sort it out last time, in Bloemfontein (that’s “Mangaung” in ANC-speak). And it was he who eventually decided that Julius Malema was the winner there. Beware of the lion cubs you may sow, Mr Deputy President.

Motlanthe and his no-doubt fairly unhappy band have just a week to get to the bottom of the Youth League chaos. They’re going to talk to Malema, his national leadership and then the provincial executive committee of Eastern Cape, that won a court case against its “disbandment” by the Youth League. Then they’ll move on to the curious case of Lehlogonolo Masoga, who told us all a month ago that the ANC would intervene in the Limpopo chaos, only to be expelled soon afterwards.

From where we stand (to use a curious Mantasheism) it looks as if Motlanthe basically has to force them to make peace. No doubt his five-person team includes people representing various factions, those who are against Malema and those who claim to support him (they don’t really, they just want him to weaken Zuma). We can’t see all of those who went against Malema being expelled; a court would simply overturn it, and off we’d go again.

There was a curious moment on Tuesday, when Mantashe was asked if the ANC had let the chaos in the Youth League endure too long. It’s a great question. The answer was no. It was followed by a brief précis on some of the problems the ANC faced after Polokwane, and how the League had to be given space. It set us pondering.

Is it possible Malema may have stumbled into a Mantashean trap? Could Mantashe have sat back deliberately, because he knew the longer the chaos went on, the further across the line Malema went, the weaker he would ultimately be. Let’s put it this way, you don’t hear much about Malema’s campaign to unseat Mantashe these days, do you? Could Mantashe have just let all of this play out, so that the entire country now knows Malema cannot be trusted? All of this has left Malema much weaker. Sometimes when looking at the ANC, it’s best to use the opposite of Occam’s Razor.

So then, when Mantashe sounds as if he’s laying down the law, telling people not to go to court, he’s actually doing the complete opposite. He’s actually saying we’ll sort this out, and not necessarily in Malema’s favour. Perhaps.

Of course, there was plenty to talk about on Tuesday. This was just an hour and a half after a certain well-known former ANC deployee had been sentenced to 15 years and a change of uniform. Mantashe wasn’t going to be drawn much on Selebi. But neither was he going to hold off from attacking either. He went for the media (of course – Ed). His logic is that the media treats ANC people differently to the way it treats everyone else. That when an ANC member goes to jail, everyone talks about the fact that it’s an ANC member, when the member of another organisation goes to jail, no one talks about that group.

It’s always annoying to watch such a clever person sprout such piffle.

Anyway, he also claims that if current journalistic trends are left unchecked, they will kill journalism. He claims to be able to read some stories and work out which faction the journalist is a part of. Hmm. Isn’t that really a concession that it’s ANC members who are using the press? Sounds like it to us.

Of course, the battles over the media will continue. It does look as if we may be at the beginning of the end in the battle for the soul of the Youth League. But only at the beginning of the end. Malema will not give up easily. And neither will his enemies. Pugna continua.

By Stephen Grootes

(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)

Photo: Reuters


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