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ANCYL, MKVA and Bell Pottinger – Whose Line is it Anyway?


Marianne Thamm has toiled as a journalist / writer / satirist / editor / columnist / author for over 30 years. She has published widely both locally and internationally. It was journalism that chose her and not the other way around. Marianne would have preferred plumbing or upholstering.

Once they were kingmakers, troublemakers, the spirited young lions of the ANC Youth League who pushed, prodded and challenged the party elders. Today, the once illustrious ANCYL is led by a man the country knows as Oros, named after the bloated little mascot who represents a cheap squash packed with artificial colourants and preservatives and which offers no nourishment whatsoever. Emails that form part of the #GuptaLeaks trove have shown how UK PR firm Bell Pottinger hired Gupta guns, have not only usurped the narrative around South Africa’s economy from the ANC itself but have also been feeding words into ANCYL leader Collen Maine’s mealie mouth.

History proves that almost all if not all national liberation and revolutionary movements that do not have autonomous youth formations degenerate into insignificance with the passage of time.” – ANC Youth League Induction Manual, 2011

Comedy is tragedy plus time, but it is too soon yet to make fun of the tragedy that is the ANC Youth League, particularly in this highly significant month during which we celebrate the courage and foresight of the youth of 1976. The above quote taken from the ANCYL Induction Manual 2011 was not quite meant to act as an oracle for what has come to pass here and now in 2017 as the ANC faces one of its darkest moments in its 105-year-old history.

But before we tuck in.

Quick, think of young South African political leaders who immediately spring to mind for their talent, their tenacity, their vision, their fearlessness, their intellect, their grasp of the troubling moment in South African politics.

It is also the Year of OR Tambo, one of the pioneers along with the ANCYL’s first President Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ashby Mda, Duma Nokwe and others, so ponder upon contemporary iterations of these great leaders, thinkers and innovators.

Those who pop out immediately are Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Phumzile van Damme, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Floyd Shivambu, Liezl van der Merwe…

Then there are still the relatively young leaders of the opposition, the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and the EFF’s Julius Malema….

That Collen Maine does not feature is a testimony to just how irrelevant the ANCYL has become except to those (including itself) who still believe it has any clout in the broader political scheme of things. This week, ahead of 16 June commemorations across the country, the league announced its endorsed list of leadership candidates for the ANC.

There were no surprises as the ANCYL revealed it was backing President Zuma’s choice, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, for President with David Mabuza as Deputy President, Ace Magashule as SG, Nathi Mthethwa as National Chair, DSG for monitoring and evaluation, Jessie Duarte, DSG for organising and campaigns, Fikile Mbalula and TG, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

This week it was also revealed how UK PR firm Bell Pottinger and their paymasters, the Gupta family, had written a speech for Maine to deliver at the ANCYL’s National Rally in 2016 and how they had sought to drive the “White Monopoly Capital” narrative through their ANCYL proxies on behalf on the Gupta family.

This is not to say that there is not a problem with global capital – there is, a huge problem, this we know. But it is not the place of a firm – a UK-based group of mercenaries who ply their trade across the world for money – to dictate the direction of South Africa’s political discourse in the manner it has managed to do.

The ANC is so ridden with divisions, factionalism and downright hostility between opposing camps that it can no longer control elements that appear to be in thrall to the Gupta family and their spin doctors.

So much so that Bell Pottinger was able to usurp the ruling party’s role in communicating ANC policy on the country’s economy, accepting around £134,000.86 in total, to come up with slogans and rhetoric like “White Monopoly Capital” and “Economic Transformation” and ensuring that this began to seep into the speeches and language of the ANC through the President’s hapless son, Duduzane.

While the ANCYL functions as an autonomous body with its own constitution, rules and regulations, it must still do so within the overall structures of the ANC and must not be “in conflict with the Constitution and the policies of the ANC”.

Maine, it appears, is so autonomous that he was wide open to Bell Pottinger and the Guptas using him as a walking, talking, mindless billboard for their own capture of the State. Maine’s Youth League is populated by mediocrities who between them do not appear to have even one autonomous or independent thought.

The league’s Induction Manual states, “The ANC Youth League is the political youth organisation of the ANC. It is established from the constitution of the ANC as the youth organ of the ANC, whose main objective is the mobilisation of youth behind the banner and vision (creation of a non racial, non sexist, democratic and prosperous society) of the African national congress.”

Well, kiss that dream goodbye.

And while many night be mistaken for thinking that the MK Veterans Association might in fact comprise a branch of the ANCYL (considering the age of some of these veterans who act as a personal army in defence of Luthuli House and President Zuma) or that the ANCYL should be a part of the MK Veterans Association (considering the rather mature standing of some Youth League members), MKVA President Kebby Maphatsoe too has also been sucking merrily at the Bell Pottinger/Gupta tit.

So much so that Bell Pottinger chief spinster for South Africa, Victoria Geoghegan, wrote an entire statement for Maphatsoe’s outfit. That was after a shorter version was written entirely by Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa. (See in Daily Maverick).

So far it appears as if the ANC – well, at least a sliver of the party buried deep under the sewage – has not been able to emerge and wrestle back its own message from Bell Pottinger and the Guptas.

Nothing anyone who has been linked to the family in real life, and in the emails that have surfaced, can be taken seriously as their own person, speaking their own (for that read the ANC’s) line. When those who have been fingered in the extensive network of state capture open their mouths, it is hard to not think that they are glove puppets for the Guptas and Bell Pottinger. The line-up ranges from Maine, Maphatsoe, Lynne Brown and Malusi Gigaba to a few others who are still left flailing in the political storm.

Their lips move but citizens are not sure of whose line it is anyway. DM


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