South Africa

South Africa

TRAINSPOTTER: ANC Youth League, Maine edition – Fake young fake revolutionaries in fake rage

On Tuesday, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), once the sharp end of the liberation party’s spear, held an ordinary conference. They wanted to share with South Africans some of their conclusions, and thus called a press conference. Welcome to the Third Revolution, in which the ANCYL will lead fight against regime change implemented by agents of the Ruperts and the Oppenheimers. Agent Number One? That would be Julius Malema. What to do with him? Soldiers. By RICHARD POPLAK.

(First published on 27 April 2016)

Science teaches us: the old must always give way to the new

ANCYL Secretary General Njabulo Nzuza

Perhaps I’d been spoiled by a recent interaction with the Democratic Alliance, but by the time ANCYL president Collen Maine and his posse waddled into the Luthuli House press conference centre twenty minutes late, I had grown restless.

Was it worth the wait?

Are you shitting me? Totes worth it, if you’ll forgive the youth speak.

But before we get into the details, some words concerning the vintage of Maine, his Secretary General Njabulo Nzuza, and their homies: this is not a young Youth League. The difference in age between Maine and the actual youth currently transforming this country—I’m referring here to the teenaged Fallists facing off against Nyalas, riot cops and colonial artworks—is about 15 years, which constitutes the lifespan of a whole entire young person. Maine is dubbed Mr 34.9: the league’s age restriction is 35, and while he squeaked in under the wire, Maine still manages to look like a ringer. What’s more, the career of a professional ANC cadre member is defined by consumption, and Maine ‘N Frenz appear to taking that element of the job seriously. This has taken its toll. Maine’s alternate sobriquet, accorded to him by an unloved predecessor, is the “Oros”, which serves as a reference to the beverage brand’s oversized orange pitchman.

We should also note that the Youth-ish League’s executive are the least dangerous looking men in South Africa, an observation that, like Chekov’s pistol, has entered the stories in the first act, and by narrative laws must result in a payoff in the denouement.

Happily, there’s always a payoff with this crew. Sadly, it’s often not the one they intended.

* * *

Luthuli House is Weirdie-Ville these days. There’s a torpour about the joint, a sort of creeping lassitude that suggests End of Days, or at least some severe cuts to the catering budget. Fiction cannot exist here because everything is imaginary, and this fading fairyland is redolent of decadence and ruin. Inside the mise en abyme—defining the mise en abyme—we find the ANCYL, a spin-off institution that completely fell apart after the exorcism of Julius Malema in 2012. It was dragged out of the morgue last year, unsuccessfully defibrillated, and then microwaved into a semblance of re-animation with Collen Maine at the helm.

Why did anyone bother? Well, the ANC needs the youth league and the women’s league to give it the veneer of a revolutionary party, but the elders also demand extreme pliancy. Colin Maine’s crew take pliancy to heretofore unimaginable heights, and they apparently expect the pliancy to be mutual.

“We will thank you in advance for not suggesting things that were not suggested in this press briefing,” urged the spokesman, by way of greeting.

So what was to be suggested? The intention of this gathering was to read out a statement summarising the results of the ANCYL National Executive Committee’s ordinary meeting, which was held from 21 to 23 April. Out of that ordinary session had arisen an extraordinary invocation:

THE THIRD REVOLUTION MUST COMMENCE!

“The third revolution is about the pursuit of equality in the economy by reducing the share of white monopoly capital in the Economy of the country [sic],” explained the statement.

So far as I could tell, the Third Revolution is basically the Economic Freedom Fighters seven cardinal pillars, with some slight tweaks—most of which appear to be spelling mistakes. The ANCYL are now making the revolutionary demand that in a country made up of almost entirely of black people, black people should own most of the stuff. It was all the usual ancient shibboleths: nationalise the mines, nationalise the reserve bank, take Mercedes Benz AMGs from whites in Sandton and give them to branch members in Limpopo. The conceptual problem, however, was that the folks with the power to enact these changes were sitting a few floors above us, using their iPhones to ping-pong money from the British Virgin Islands to Mauritius. And while ANCYL NEC statement acknowledged that everyone except Johann Rupert and the Oppenheimers had gotten dumber and poorer over the course of President Zuma’s administration, President Zuma’s had nothing to do with it.

“London” was to blame.

Check it: “We note that the imperialist forces that attacked Iraq and brought it war and poverty are now tirelessly fighting BRICKS countries”—the ANCYL have apparently invited Kazakhstan to join the fake Goldman Sachs-created acronym—“[and] we note that they are relentless in their quest to continue to be the worlds super power and they will stop at nothing. These are the imperialist forces that killed Gaddafi because of his attempts to create the United Nations of Africa. Their agenda is simple to maintain their international standing as the worlds super power. They are hard at work trying to destabilize our country they must be exposed and the security services must now act on these forces as a matter of urgency [big-ass all-encompassing sic].”

At this point, the vapidity started to exert a gravitational pull, and I felt that I was slowly being atomized and sucked toward a vast black hole that existed within the Secretary General’s brain. It occurred to me that these not-so-young men constituted the future of the African National Congress, that they functioned as a barometer of the political class that constituted Jacob Zuma’s legacy. A party that had over its century-plus existence served as a home for John Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Sol Plaatje, J.T. Gumede, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki, Joel Netshitenzhe, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo and Nelson Freaking Mandela has produced—Collen Maine! It’s almost as if Maine was sewn together by Dr Frankenzuma in a Luthuli House basement laboratory, bits and pieces of other idiots raised as a singular flesh and blood monument to the stupidity and avariciousness that have become the hallmarks of his tenure. Zuma isn’t a fool, which is why he loathes intelligence—hates the “clever blacks” and the educated humans that former ANC leaders once believed would constitute the majority of this country’s people.

Stupid is as stupid isn’t—dumb, Jacob Zuma believes, does not constitute a threat. For the most part, he’s right.

* * *

And so, if the ANCYL was in the old days the foundry for radical intellectual thought, it was now a workshop for eating overpriced hamburgers and spewing incoherent bullshit, the upshot of which being that everything bad in this country happens because the Ruperts and Oppenheimers are desirous of regime change. (The Guptas do not, sadly, play a role in this multiverse, and went unmentioned for the duration of the press conference.)

Here was some of the logic on display:

  1. If you accepted as sound the recent Constitutional Court judgment, which ruled that President Zuma had violated his oath of office regarding the Nkandla debacle, then you had to accept the outcome of Judge Seriti’s arms deal commission—because judges!
  2. The opposition tub-thump the Con Court judgment, and wanted something similar from the Seriti report, because they want to “grab our three big metros” and win elections—because regime change!
  3. The private security industry in this country did not emerge to fill a policing vacuum, but to institute regime change—because London!
  4. And, of course, the call by Julius Malema of the EFF to remove the Zuma administration at the barrel of a gun (perhaps the emptiest threat to have been uttered in this country, given that the EFF are roughly in the same fighting shape as the ANCYL) was scripted by London—because regime change!

That tens of millions of South Africans currently share a regime change agenda with a luxury goods salesman and former diamond monopolists does not seem to have occurred to Maine N Tha Boyz. When it does occur to them, the country might find itself in a bit of trouble. Because Maine had an idea for how best to deal with Malema and company.

“As the ANCYL, we have never called for civil war”—the ANCYL was, of course, created to call for civil war—“and we’ve said we’ll go head to head with the EFF, because treason can never be used to campaign. We call on the government to unleash soldiers on the EFF,” he said. “We are not armed like the EFF. We must rely on state machinery.”

“State machinery.”

Now there’s a tidy term. Should the ANCYL’s state machinery meet the EFF’s hard hats (provided courtesy of London, apparently), there will not be much of a contest.

Fight, Produce, Learn. So goes the tagline of this once august wing of the ANC. These days, they fight for tenders, produce nothing, and learn even less. If you want to understand the scale of the rot eating away at the ANC from the inside, the ANCYL is a good place to start.

These fake young with their fake anger will, however, be eaten by the real young with their real rage. I’m not sure whether it’s a law of science, but it’s a rule of thumb for revolutionary politics: the really pissed off end up carrying the day. Although the ANCYL managed to endorse free education, their Third Revolution will do nothing to stave off the real revolutions sweeping through communities and universities across this country.

These lumbering, old-young political hacks are hood ornaments for a dead political party. The young-young, of course, know this. Which is why the state machinery, when it’s done dealing with an opposition politician and his Ché Guevara posturing, will need to turn its attention to the real revolution the Third Revolution is trying to preempt. This is the Youth League that may have thrown Minister for Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande under the bus at the behest of their political master, but they had no words of support for genuine radicalism. The women bearing their breasts in order to battle rape culture at places of higher learning? On this, the ANCYL uttered not a peep.

Which means that in the real world, outside of Luthuli House, these dudes are irrelevant, and irrelevance these days is not a great play. This is no country for old men pretending to be young.

Oros, you see, is gonna get drank. DM

Photo: Collen Maine (Simphiwe Nkwali / Sunday Times)

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