The ANC Youth League’s claims the organisation would help bring about regime change in Botswana was the last straw for ANC leaders, who are now demanding answers. Winning the battle will not be an easy task on either side, CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.
Some ANC big shots have spent the weekend preparing the coals over which they would like to haul ANC Youth League’s leaders on Monday, while others are standing on the sidelines with buckets of water, ready to douse the flames.
The ANC Youth League’s 35-member national executive committee has been summoned to a meeting with the ANC’s top six officials to answer for their latest sin: Announcing plans to help opposition parties in Botswana defeat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, led by President Ian Khama, in the next elections in 2014.
Both the League and their seniors are likely to come with a few rounds of ammunition, and with ANC leaders divided by an early succession battle ahead of the party’s elective congress next year, some of the ANC’s bullets might not even be directed at the League.
From their side, ANC leaders are set to charge that the Youth League, which party spokesman Jackson Mthembu referred to as “ill-disciplined” last week, had transgressed ANC policies by intending to interfere with the government of another country.
The ruling party had, however, been peeved with the League for a while in the past year or so. First, there was the “storming of the stage” during a closed session of the ANC’s national general council in October last year, where some League members walked up to the stage because they were unhappy about the wording of a resolution around nationalisation (the resolution said the proposals would be researched further before a decision is made).
Calls to discipline the league eventually came to naught after ANC leaders viewed the video recording of the incident and concluded it was too difficult to tell what happened and who to single out for punitive steps.
Then came the Youth League’s elective conference in June and Malema’s campaigning – which, like in the ANC, isn’t called campaigning – for re-election in the run-up. In Malema’s campaign he surprised quite a few people by praising former president Thabo Mbeki as “the best leader South Africa ever had”, ever so gently implying that President Jacob Zuma sucks.
The last time he had compared Zuma with Mbeki, Malema was found guilty of sowing divisions within the ANC and given a suspended sentence. If he were to be found guilty of the same offence again, he’ll be kicked out of the party and, by extension, the League too. Thus he would no longer get to be president.
Some within the ANC might now use this opportunity to gun for Malema on this score too after they had kept quiet in the run-up to the league’s conference out of fear of Malema getting a sympathy vote from those who saw him as a martyr.
Then there is the Botswana issue, which hasn’t exactly been conducive to good diplomatic relations between South Africa and its peaceful and relatively quiet northern neighbour.
The League said it was unhappy that Khama went against African Union decisions with regards to Libya. The kids also rehashed a five-year-old rumour, accusing Botswana of harbouring an American military base, Africom.
Zuma’s international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu said this had caused officials in places like Zimbabwe to ask why the ANC gave the League free rein to make the diplomatically risky comments it did.
She said the League should be disciplined.
The League is expected to argue that ANC policy allowed for solidarity with like-minded parties in other countries, and that the ANC supported the government when it had become involved in conflict-ridden countries to see that another government was put in place.
The league is also likely to bring up Zuma’s stance towards Zimbabwe’s MDC, the country’s former opposition party, now sharing power with Zanu-PF. Zuma’s position towards the party is friendlier than Mbeki’s had been.
It has, incidentally, been reported that the League’s hostility towards Botswana’s government could have been inflamed by Zanu-PF youth leaders who are unhappy about the hard line Khama had taken towards Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
And just to make it very difficult for the ANC to take any steps against it, the League is set to emphasise that the position on Botswana was one taken by the whole of the national executive committee, which would have to be charged as a collective. But if the ANC did so, the league could throw this back in the parent body’s face as undue interference with its autonomy.
Another topic that could arise is that of Malema’s finances, on which newspapers seem to dig out fresh dirt almost every week. City Press on Sunday reported that On-Point Engineers (Pty) Ltd, a company Malema part-owns and which is headed by his former business partner, Lesiba Gwangwa, was directly benefiting from multimillion-rand tenders it helped award.
According to the paper the Limpopo government outsourced essential government services to the company, which then “cashes in” on the Limpopo road tenders it is supposed to manage, with the money from the big profit share flowing into Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust, which owns a stake in On-Point.
In 2009 On-Point was awarded a R51 million tender by Limpopo’s roads and transport department to design, manage and implement road projects in the province through an outfit called the “project management unit”.
Part of On-Point’s contract was to help the department adjudicate and award the road tenders, signing confidential memorandums of understanding according to which not even the national treasury was allowed to know all the details of the contracts (counter to treasury’s requirement for transparency).
It also signed “back-to-back” agreements with successful contractors, giving it a share of between 50% and 90% of the profit of these tenders.
Sports minister and former Youth League leader Fikile Mbalula, who is being backed by the League to become ANC secretary general next year, at a meeting on Thursday night where he shared a stage with Malema, warned the state apparatus should not be used to politically “eliminate” Malema, as had been done against Zuma. His warning came a few days after reports that the Hawks and the South African Revenue services were investigating Malema’s affairs.
So it is difficult to say whether the ANC’s meeting with the League would result in disciplinary action, or whether the young ones would merely be rapped over the knuckles again.
Malema’s punishment following the last disciplinary hearing against him – after he compared Zuma with Mbeki – had never been effected properly, despite Zuma in an interview in October vowing that it would be.
The ANC had, apparently, not yet identified an agency to which Malema should pay the original R10,000 as a “fine”; the easily-inflamed leader’s anger management courses at the University of Johannesburg were laughed off by his fellow leaders, who accompanied him to the hearing and giggled so much in the classroom that they were chased away and asked never to come back (according to the league’s former secretary general, Vuyiswa Tulelo) and the League had interpreted the instruction for Malema to go back to political school in the broadest possible sense, arguing that every party meeting was a political school and charging that Malema had been attending these.
The ANC, of course, also still has the option of sending Malema quietly into political “exile”. During the last disciplinary against him the option of sending him to China for a couple of years for political schooling was discussed, but eventually thrown out.
Loyalties towards individual candidates for the ANC’s top six posts next year are shifting, which could also determine how hot Monday’s meeting would be.
Apart from Mbalula, the league is reported to have its sights on deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to take over from Zuma, while it supports treasurer general Mathews Phosa to stay on (luckily he defended Malema in the past hearing, so the man of the insider numbers is a friend).
It is also reported to support Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who is known to be looking for a different job from the one he has been doing for close on two decades, would stand for ANC chairman (Cosatu yesterday, for good measure, issued a press release saying the party people should not discuss succession so early in the game), while the League seems to have dropped housing minister Tokyo Sexwale as its darling for deputy president or chairman.
Both Motlanthe and Phosa are likely to be at Monday’s meeting, together with Zuma (who dislikes the League, but often appears too scared to say anything, perhaps fearing they would put him under verbal fire and threaten his possible bid for a second term), chairwoman Baleka Mbete, secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who doesn’t suffer the League gladly, and his deputy Thandi Modise, who is a little bit more patient.
Malema’s noise levels had reached desperate proportions again at last Thursday’s meeting, prompting people to speculate that something’s cooking.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu did not answer his phone yesterday. DM
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