South Africa

Mantashe, Malema & the small matter of interpreting the ANC’s constitution

By Greg Nicolson 13 June 2012

Abruptly, Julius Malema is out of the ANC for good. On Monday, the ANC national executive committee decided not to review the case of the disciplined ANC Youth League leaders. And contrary to all the “floor movement” hype, the national elective conference can’t do anything about it, said Gwede Mantashe. By GREG NICOLSON

Fuelled on a diet of Castle Lights, I sat with Malema’s school friends and former comrades in Seshego, discussing the ANC Youth League leader’s options. It was early March and they’d just hiked to his grandmother’s house with a tombstone. Left out of his network of patronage, they were happy he was expelled but knew he was politically astute enough to find a way back into the ANC.

The debate was divided over whether delegates could propose a change at the party’s upcoming policy conference to allow for Malema’s return. They called a friend with expert knowledge of the ANC constitution. The friend said they could not.

No one argued the option of raising the matter at the elective conference in December. Like Malema’s foes, the media and analysts assumed Mangaung was the final event on the timeline in his attempted reinstatement. It would be the next step after the national executive committee decided not to review the fates of Malema and youth leaguers Floyd Shivambu and Sindiso Magaqa on Monday.

The ANC constitution says the conference shall “have the right and power to review, ratify, alter or rescind any decision taken by any of the constituent bodies, units or officials of the ANC”.

But briefing the media after a special NEC meeting on Monday, party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said we won’t have to wait until December – the national conference can’t force a review of the decision to suspend and expel the ANCYL members.

The Youth League had requested the NEC to review the disciplinary action against Malema, Shivambu and Magaqa and there was “open, robust and dispassionate” debate at Monday’s meeting with most members wanting to state their position, said Mantashe.

“After a long deliberation on whether the NEC should use its discretion to review or not review the ruling by the (national disciplinary committee of appeals), overwhelmingly, the NEC agreed that there were no compelling grounds to review the decision,” he said.

Consensus was reached without the need to vote. Mantashe admitted Tokyo Sexwale spoke in favour of a review but President Jacob Zuma spoke only after the matter was concluded.

Tuesday’s press conference was half joke session, half political lecture. Repeatedly asked whether delegates can raise the issues of Malema’s suspension at the national conference, Mantashe replied: “Let me repeat, in the constitution of the ANC, the conference of the ANC doesn’t deal with disciplinary cases. It’s not an appeal board… When it refers to rescinding decisions and reviewing anything the ANC does a lot of work – policy, programmes, structures and many other issues – those go to the conference.”

He said the constitution has a specific clause that deals with disciplinary cases and the matter is “finalised”. Delegates at the national conference are free to raise any issues, said Mantashe, but he called on them to tell anyone pushing for a review of the ANCYL cases that they’re out of order.

Malema’s foes and those tired of the cycle of suspension, expulsion, appeals and reviews might welcome the abrupt end to the saga. But don’t expect to see Juju’s mug on the Daily Maverick opinionista pages just yet (after his sparkling column in City Press a temporary career in the media isn’t out of the question – that’s if he doesn’t go to prison).

As Zuma’s right-hand man, Mantashe has an interest in ending the matter before the ANC’s policy conference this month and its elective conference in December. The sooner the issue’s put to rest the sooner he can get together with the ANCYL to chart a post-Malema leadership – one, he surely hopes, that will be easier to work with.

Mantashe is explaining the rules of a game that hasn’t yet started and in so doing he’s hoping Malema will stop raging against the dying of the light. In other words, he wants to remove one more obstacle to Zuma’s second term.

But after reading the constitution of the ANC, the rules aren’t so clear-cut. It’s hard to argue with the authority of the statement giving power to the national conference to “rescind any decision taken by any of the constituent bodies, units or officials of the ANC”.

Branch members may be unhappy to learn that some decisions and some bodies are off limits. Whether they’re Malema supporters or sworn enemies, Mantashe’s argument that decisions of the NDCA cannot be challenged at Mangaung limits the role of branch members.

The likelihood of the conference leading to Juju’s reinstatement was always relatively low, but now that the members have been told they have no influence on the matter, who knows how they’ll react or what interpretations of the constitution will arise? DM

Read more:
Julius who? ANC ready to rubbish Malema rumours in Mail & Guardian

Photo: ANC’s Gwede Mantashe and Jackson Mthembu (Greg Nicolson/iMaverick)



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