And what a fantastic job the League did of trashing its image even more in Grahamstown on Saturday. Earlier in the week, spokesman Floyd Shivambu emailed personal invitations to all major media houses and the host city’s local newspaper, Grocott’s Mail, cordially inviting them to observe the conference. Some of the journalists even arrived at the gate with copies of the invitation in hand – but to no avail. Secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo personally came out to tell those at the gate in a rather smiley patronising tone that as Shivambu is the national spokesman he had no right to invite anyone to a provincial conference.
Tulelo’s attitude insinuated that if we were naive enough to accept an invitation from the national spokesman to a provincial event then perhaps we deserved to be left outside with the riff-raff.
As conference registration ended in the early hours of Saturday morning, the programme was postponed to 1pm, which meant that a cavalcade of four Mercs, two Range Rovers and a lone Audi finally arrived just before 3pm.
Photo: Secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo personally came out to tell media at the gate that they are not welcome.
Tight security at the entrance to the indoor sports centre grounds not only barred entry to all media, but also to a group of about 30 ANCYL delegates who happened to be opposed to president Julius Malema and his personal provincial protégé Ayanda Matiti. Security prevented the singing and dancing supporters of Andile Lungisa from entering because they did not have identification documents to support their accreditation tags. Strangely, this problem did not affect any of Matiti’s supporters.
Keeping journalists outside the grounds after having specifically invited them to attend the conference is one really dumb way of annoying the media and ensuring hostile coverage. However, to leave the exasperated journalists outside together with a bunch of enraged members who had not slept all night is as close to a perfect storm in image self-destruction as you can get. For hours on end all journalists heard was how evil the Malema/Matiti axis really was. Every one of their faults and wrongdoings was repeated again and again to reporters who were hungry for dirt.
After hours of taking pictures of each other and disaffected delegates from Amathole, bored journalists were suddenly jerked back into action with the sight of about half a dozen security men carrying a kicking and wriggling Simpiwe Mayekiso out of the conference venue. He lost his accreditation card and one of his training shoes in the melee so Mayekiso hopped from group to group explaining what had happened to him in the centre.
He said Malema had just told the 300-odd delegates that his conference was going to go ahead whether anyone liked it or not. Malema was obviously referring to the two previous conferences that failed before they got off the ground and the court injunction that prevented a third from taking place.
Mayekiso then stood up and said Malema should not describe the gathering as “his” conference because it belonged to all the delegates present at the meeting. Malema took the impertinence as a cue to summon security to throw Mayekiso out of the hall.
Mayekiso was unceremoniously carried out of the hall through the grounds and physically chucked out of the gate in full view of at least 10 reporters and photographers. Another spokesman Paseka Letsatsi then decided it was time to completely destroy any shred of credibility the ANCYL might still have had. He said to the very people who had just witnessed Mayekiso being thrown out, that he had “not been kicked out… he was only taken outside to cool off”.
One day, we would like to find out what the ANCYL does, if anything, besides stage farcical conferences. This one continues on Sunday and it appears that Malema finally will have managed to strong-arm the “trouble-making” province into his column.
(Steven Lang is the editor of Grocott’s Mail)
Photos: Steven Lang
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