It’s not like we expected ANCYL president Julius Malema to slink away quietly in the dead of the night after the national disciplinary committee of the ANC issued a suspension of his membership sentence. At his comeback press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Malema was his vintage self: defiant as ever. In his appeal, he will attempt to switch gears on the ANC appeals committee by arguing against the NDC itself, rather than the charges that were brought against him. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
If you’ve read the poem Charge of the Light Brigade by Lord Tennyson, or are at all familiar with Comical Ali, you’ll know what’s coming next.
This is a tale of bravado in the face of impending doom.
When we left off, Malema and the other ANC Youth League top leaders had just been handed the most burning slap in the face by the ANC national disciplinary committee. Malema was suspended from the ANC and the ANCYL for five years, the other leaders had the sword of Damocles hung above their heads, and the spokesman Floyd Shivambu was suspended for three years.
On Wednesday afternoon, the inevitable ANCYL reply to the NDC hearing outcomes finally took place. Over the weekend the youth league’s national executive committee had met to “chart a way forward”, and now we finally know what it is.
Basically, they are going all in. The fact that ANCYL secretary general Sindiso Magaqa didn’t apologise to Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday, as ordered, was a sign of things to come.
There was clearly no intention of appealing for a mitigation of sentence. The ANCYL leaders will appear before the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) with the intention of rubbishing the NDC and the so-called ANC National Officials. It is a last-ditch strategy, if you will. It is all, or nothing. If it fails, the ANCYL will have succeeded in alienating large swathes of the ANC national executive committee and possibly even ordinary branch members. That will make a review before the NEC or the national conference extremely unlikely to succeed.
The ANCYL did a very curious thing – after pooh-pooing the NDC ruling, and then announcing their intention to appeal the ruling (which would have sufficed as far as the media was concerned), Malema went on to introduce the heads of argument that they will use before the appeals committee. At least, that is what is sounded like.
There are nine heads of argument:
Once again, the subtext to all of this is the autonomy of the ANC Youth League. In the ruling, the NDC made it very clear that the ANCYL is not an autonomous body when it comes to disciplinary hearings. If the ANC decides that you are out, if means that you are out of the ANCYL too.
The appeals panel will now have to consider whether the ANCYL is allowed to modify a clause in its constitution dealing with the matter of autonomy.
In fact, it appeared throughout that Malema was slightly worried that he will go down in history as the ANCYL leader who cost the league any appearance of autonomy.
“This entire thing [NDC ruling] reduces us to a desk. We will be told to fetch water for the elders. The ANC Youth League is not a desk,” Malema said. “Resigning is not an option. I must be fired. If we resign, there will be no ANC Youth League. They must chase all the leaders out because if I leave, they will continue with the programme of action. I will never lead an organisation that is toothless.”
The suspended ANCYL president continued: “Only the wilfully blind can believe that this matter is purely about discipline and is not intended to settle political scores or to stifle debate, as is specifically prohibited by Rule 25.2 of the ANC constitution,” he said. “Our principal aim is therefore to bring home the reality that the solution to these political problems does not lie in the NDC but in a proper political solution which must be sought as between the complainants and the respondents.”
That could be a minor concession on Malema’s part – which isn’t to say he doesn’t trust the appeals process, he quickly countered – but is more likely to be him preparing the ground for the martyr role he will inevitably assume once he is truly out of the organisation. Even though he is subjecting himself to the ANC’s disciplinary process, he will be able to (unjustifiably) argue that his offer for a political settlement was rejected, proving that he was the victim of a witch-hunt.
He seems aware of his vulnerability. When asked about rumours that ANCYL members have started jockeying for the position that he is on the cusp of vacating, Malema said, “You can’t take it away from people that when there is a possibility of the president of the youth league being suspended or removed, they think of a possible solution. The membership of the youth league should be offered an opportunity to offer such solutions.”
Malema also said that ANC spokesmen had jumped the gun by saying that all ANC leaders welcomed the ruling of the NDC. “Does that mean we are wasting our time [by appealing to the NDCA]? Are they not ANC leaders as well? Does this mean that the outcomes of that hearing are predetermined as well?”
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said that the ANCYL had quoted his statement issued on Monday out of context in order to reach such a conclusion about it. That particular statement was responding to weekend reports that the ANC’s NEC was divided on the ruling. “You cannot have ANC NEC that distances itself from the work of one of its subsets [the NDC is a subcommittee of the NEC],” Mthembu said to Daily Maverick. “In fact, the NEC will welcome the outcomes of the totality of the hearings, including the NDC and the NDCA. But the NEC is also cognisant of the fact that any member has the right to appeal. And we mentioned that in the statement as well.”
It may not be a waste of time, but the ANCYL definitely showed its hand at the press conference.
The ANC has since responded to the ANCYL’s statement by welcoming its intention to appeal the ruling, but also by pouring cold water on some of the arguments the ANCYL tabled. In the statement, Jackson Mthembu said that his comments and those by the secretary general of the ANC were of no consequence to the NDC ruling as they were never raised in the hearing, and neither the SG nor the spokesman are sitting NDC members.
The statement said, “The outcome and the entire NDC process was never meant to settle scores, this was proven by the charges that all the affected members were charged on. The onus is on them as they approach the NDCA to prove how they did not violate the ANC constitution and policies as per the charges. At no stage were these ANC members charged for calling for economic freedom in their lifetime and neither were they charged for calling for nationalisation and land grabs without compensation. Any insinuation that the charges brought against them as well as the outcomes thereof were ‘political’ is therefore without any substance.”
What Malema and the other ANCYL leaders have done is they have gone into the appeals process –which they intend to formalise before 24 November – horns blaring.
Mthembu wrote, “Some of the issues raised by the Youth League are issues that they need to take to the appeal process and make those arguments there.”