Africa, Politics

ANC’s Young Lions defiant on Botswana, choose more enemies to fight

By Carien Du Plessis 3 August 2011

The ANC Youth League’s dust-making machines are in full swing again, ensuring headlines are hogged by everything but Julius Malema’s cash stash. CARIEN DU PLESSIS, too, gets distracted by its latest pronouncements on Botswana and flower power.

Like an attention-hungry child who has managed to raise the ire of a too-lenient parent, the ANC Youth League seems to be revelling in the latest furore it has caused with its plans to help our northern neighbours oust their Botswana Democratic Party-ruled government.

But in Botswana, opposition parties like the Botswana Movement for Democracy, Botswana National Front, and Botswana Congress Party hailed the League’s plans saying they’d love to meet with the youngsters.

The kids also indulged in their staple diet of dissing cabinet ministers, this time one who also happened to be a former youth leader (no, of course not sports minister Fikile Mbalula, but the more demure and dishy public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba).

The League reiterated its attack on Botswana’s government by issuing yet another press release on Tuesday, saying it would not cancel its regime-change plans – yet – and using the opportunity to strike pre-emptively in the League-autonomy debate that is sure to follow, saying the Botswana decision was made by its national executive committee and would stand until changed by the League’s structures. (Some in the League believe the ANC has no right to meddle in its affairs by, for instance, disciplining them or telling them what to do.)

The youngsters also used the opportunity to twist the knife in President Jacob Zuma’s back just a little bit more (the Botswana issue is, of course, nothing more than a veiled attack on Zuma), by speaking derisively about ANC leaders “who associated with imperialist-controlled political parties like the MDC in Zimbabwe and the BDP in Botswana”. Unlike the League’s current darling, former president Thabo Mbeki, Zuma’s stance towards the MDC is friendly.

In its typical, slightly condescending style, the League kicked off its statement saying it was “very disappointed” with the manner in which ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu publicly condemned it and called its Botswana plans “ill-disciplined”.

The wise young owl chicks hooted: “In true ANC tradition, internal discussions and consultations should be exhausted before any public condemnation is made for whatsoever reason. In true principle of organisational democracy, which guide the ANC and its relationship to the ANC Youth League, public condemnation just do not happen, particularly on political issues that require discussions.”

Of course, it was the Youth League which went public with its plans in the first place, following a meeting of its top brass in the national executive committee at the Airport Grande Hotel in Boksburg on Sunday. And since this is a matter of diplomacy where more than the mere opinion of the South African electorate is at stake, the ANC had to respond in kind. Relations with Botswana are, by all accounts, cordial and the government is sure to want to keep them this way. Quiet diplomacy wouldn’t have cut it in this case.

The League in its release reminded the ANC of its own policy of “openly associating with progressive formations” internationally, including freedom movements on the continent. Then the youngsters threw in some ANC resolutions to back their Botswana plans, saying the BDP had an “anti-imperialist” outlook and this was the reason the people of Botswana needed to be liberated.

(Officially, its gripe with Botswana is that the country broke ranks with the AU in supporting an arrest warrant against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. A rumour five years ago that the US wanted to establish a military base there also irked the League. As conspicuous timing as ever it was.)

The ANC leaders close to the MDC and the BDP were the real problem, the League said, adding it was “concerned that strange ideological trends and political relations are being established for convenience, and this has potential to undermine the integrity of the ANC as a National Liberation Movement”. In this sentence there is, of course, a whiff of unhappiness with the Zuma government’s eventual stance towards Libya and Côte d’Ivoire as well.

Mthembu on Tuesday told Daily Maverick the ANC would deal with the League internally, but refused to give details about the processes the party would follow. Some senior leaders have privately said that they’ve had it with the League, but disciplinary action was a tricky issue because some of the leaders which sympathise with Malema. Even if a decision is taken to haul the League before another disciplinary hearing, it would have to be handled carefully because of Malema’s motor-mouth and because of the increasingly toxic political environment in the run-up to the ANC’s elective congress in December 2012.

The ANC’s top leaders have probably already discussed the Botswana issue on Monday. The powerful national working committee met in Luthuli House shortly after the press release condemning the League’s Botswana plans went out. Mthembu, however, refused to say what happened at the meeting.

Meanwhile, in another statement on Tuesday, the League launched a sarcastic attack on Gigaba, who told the American Chamber of Commerce on Monday that the debate on nationalisation was reckless and scaring investors away from SA.

The League expressed mock amazement that “Gigaba who never held a  political view on any issue before, now has the courage to speak about nationalisation of mines, although with wrong approach, vigour and very wrong information”. Without mentioning the i-word, they implied that he might have been inspired to express this opinion because he was speaking to the “AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE” (ANCYL’s shock-horror caps).

It continue its personalised attack, saying: “This generation of the ANC Youth League is the first to firmly place on the agenda of the ANC an economic transformation programme which will change many people’s lives and the political landscape in South Africa. This is unlike some people who led the ANCYL for many years and never had any impact, nor influenced any policy shift, including on youth development. The only thing known about some people is government flowers, which have nothing to do with the National Democratic Revolution and the Freedom Charter.”

(Gigaba was found some years ago to have wrongfully used government money to buy his ex-wife flowers while deputy home affairs minister.)

The League requested a meeting with Gigaba on the matter “because we do not want to loose (sic) patience with people who can still learn a lot”.

Science and technology deputy minister Derek Hanekom expressed his exasperation with the League about the Gigaba attack in a tweet last night: “Oh grow up YL! Look at yourselves rather!” he said.

Hanekom himself was attacked in June after he tweeted that Malema’s calls for land grabs at the League’s congress was not ANC policy. Hanekom heads the ANC committee looking at land redistribution.

It is difficult to predict which way all these new debates and fights will be going. One thing is clear, though: the League’s dust-making machine will be working overtime in the coming days. DM


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Photo: Julius Malema, President of Botswana Ian Khama (Reuters)

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