As the ANC Youth League decides on a strategy ahead of its leaders’ disciplinary hearing, the organisation is divided between defiance and compliance – and not everyone is squarely behind their leader, Julius Malema. CARIEN DU PLESSIS deciphers.
When the young lions gathered on Sunday to plot a battle plan following the charges slapped on their president Julius Malema, the leaders from at least one province were absent.
Eastern Cape Youth League leader Ayanda Matiti on Monday told Daily Maverick that the province’s leadership did not attend the meeting, where members of the league’s national executive committee – which includes provincial leaders – decided that the League would rally behind Malema and seek an “urgent meeting” with the ANC.
“We did give our reasons for not attending, but I cannot discuss that (with the media) outside the structures. We didn’t just stay away,” Matiti said.
An anti-Malema source in the ANC Youth League, however, said the Eastern Cape Youth League had good relations with their seniors in the ANC in the province, which have aligned themselves with President Jacob Zuma.
“(Sunday’s) meeting was called to undermine the ANC,” he said.
Malema and his followers have in recent years been critical of Zuma and they have been pushing for Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to replace ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
Also, in the run-up to the League’s elective conference in June, the Eastern Cape had hoped to strike a deal with Malema’s camp to nominate Matiti as League secretary-general, but Matiti couldn’t get enough support from the floor during the nominations process.
Those around him speculate that he felt betrayed by Malema’s people and in the true spirit of tit-for-tat, now thinks twice before he supports Malema.
A report on Monday said the League has resolved to bus thousands of supporters into Joburg CBD next Tuesday when Malema’s case comes before the ANC’s national disciplinary committee, but the League’s Gauteng leader Lebogang Maile said this wasn’t true.
“We didn’t take such a decision. We can never march on the ANC,” he said.
Gauteng’s young lions are expected to confer this week to discuss what they, as the “host province” to Malema’s case, will do, if anything.
A source close to the League said some felt Malema should defy the hearing because they believed the charges were part of a political conspiracy by Zuma’s supporters to neutralise the vocal Malema before the ANC’s conference in Mangaung next year, so that Zuma’s second term could be secured.
Others felt that he should subject himself to the discipline of the ANC, and in this way take the moral high ground. But they fear that this meant he would then be forced to go along with whatever punishment the elders meted out, and at worst, that could mean expulsion or a suspension from the party.
This would put Malema out of the political picture for at least the duration of the punishment.
Malema and his spokesman Floyd Shivambu were charged on Friday for bringing the ANC into disrepute with their utterances on wanting to help effect regime change in Botswana, and for sowing divisions within the party.
Their fellow leaders, deputy president Ronald Lamola, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa and treasurer Pule Mabe, are also expected to be charged soon.
By Monday night, the ANC had not yet responded to the League’s request for an urgent meeting, and ANC spokespeople could not be reached to confirm.
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza earlier said the party was likely to have a press conference on Tuesday.
The ANC’s top 90 leaders spent their weekend locked in an unusual marathon four-day national executive committee meeting, which ended well after 9pm on Monday night after a similarly late end the night before.
Asked whether the meeting went on so long because it was “very tense and difficult”, as has been reported from the gathering, a national executive committee member simply remarked wryly: “No, we just had no time limits on speakers”. (An organisation that caters for politicians should surely know better.)
The meeting had no agenda, but Zuma in an open letter on Friday declared that its purpose was to thrash out issues like internal ANC discipline, the character of the organisation, and how to make the ANC more attractive to South Africans, including those from other race groups (whom ANC leaders have said were put off voting for the party by Malema’s pre-election rhetoric).
The party is likely to want to do a proper stock-take of where it is, ahead of its centenary in January next year, but some of these discussions were also likely to have been initiated by elders in the organisation who believed Malema’s League was morally derailing the party.
While the older generation joined the ANC at a time when it meant selflessness and a risk to one’s own life, and where no individual was allowed to be bigger than the party, some of their juniors are now pushing for change. They argue that politics is now also a career with monetary rewards, although in the ANC, it’s of course always important to remain humble and in touch with the impoverished masses.
Meanwhile the law enforcement agencies are also on Malema’s case, with the Hawks having confirmed over the weekend that they are investigating corruption charges against Malema for his business dealings through his Ratanang family trust and its shareholdings in On-Point Engineering, which has business dealings with Limpopo’s government.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has also re-opened her investigation into the tender processes in the province. DM
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