Without Julius Malema leading the charge, the young lions' roar has been reduced to a dejected sigh. Is the ANC Youth League ready to give up on Juju?
On Monday, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) made another attempt to salvage the career of their expelled president Julius Malema, calling on the ruling party to roll back the punishment meted out to Malema and other leaders in a plea that has, perhaps unsurprisingly, fallen on deaf ears.
Appealing to the ANC leadership—directly, in public—suggests that the league’s behind-the-scenes efforts to lobby members of the ruling party’s national executive committee (NEC) to revoke Malema’s expulsion and start the disciplinary process from scratch have been in vain, and that the youth body may even be ready to give up the fight.
And so — at least to journalists used to youth league press conferences brimming with revolutionary rhetoric, defiance and zeal — the league seemed a shadow of its former self, as those of its leaders who remain unexpelled or unsuspended wearily repeated their plea for the ANC to reinstate Malema.
“The [ANCYL’s] NEC calls on the leadership of the ANC to decisively intervene and provide a political solution on the unprecedented outcome of the national disciplinary appeals committee [NDCA] and demand immediate reinstatement of our leaders,” the league’s deputy secretary general, Kenetswe Mosenogi said, reading in muted tones from a prepared statement.
“It would only take one meeting, that’s all,” said deputy president Ronald Lamola. “We would resolve our differences and we would all leave laughing.”
But laughs were in short supply among the youth league’s remaining leaders, whose numbers were further whittled down in a minor purge at its NEC meeting at the weekend. Erstwhile treasurer general Pule Mabe, who apparently had voiced interest in stepping into Malema’s shoes, was instead stripped of title and office after a motion of no confidence was passed.
‘I am not upset’
Mabe, who is thought to have enjoyed the support of Luthuli House, later told the Mail & Guardian that while he accepts the passing of the NEC’s motion of no confidence, the league’s membership will need to rubberstamp the decision.
“I am not upset, organisational situations like this happen all the time,” Mabe said. “We will wait until the national general conference to see if this decision is ratified by our members.”
He was reserved in his support for the ousted leaders of the league, however, preferring instead to affirm the goals of the league as a whole.
“I support the overall struggle for economic freedom, because until that is achieved our political freedom means nothing,” said Mabe.
Malema was expelled from the ruling party in February after being found guilty of sowing divisions and bringing the ANC into disrepute. The expulsion was upheld by the party’s disciplinary appeals committee in April.
His spokesperson Floyd Shivambu was also suspended for three years, while league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa was handed a one-year suspension.
The league is sticking to its argument that the trio are being politically persecuted by their adversaries within the ANC, singled out for articulating policies adopted by the youth body as a whole.
“We call on all structures of the ANC to work side by side with the youth league to challenge what is a gravely unfortunate action, of using discipline to deal with differences of opinion on a political matter and a blatant attempt to suppress and silence the views of young people,” Mosenogi said on Monday.
Accordingly, the league has renewed its call for the matter to be settled amicably through what it says should be a “political solution”.
The league also confirmed it would still host a NGC in the coming weeks to presumably ratify the removal of Mabe from office — and gauge membership support for their moves to defend Malema.
It seems the ANC remains decidedly uninterested in playing along.
“The ANC has conducted a disciplinary procedure that has drawn to a close and we respect the outcome of that process,” party spokesperson Keith Khoza told the M&G.
We NEC nothin’ yet
Dropping its bid to have the NEC order the disciplinary process to be held again suggests the league is doubtful of its support among the ANC’s decision-making body.
While support has been evident for Malema among some of the ANC’s top brass, initial indications show he would struggle to put together sufficient numbers to have the decision returned to the NDC.
“In terms of party processes they’ve reached a dead end. The NEC will not find in their favour and the disciplinary hearing is finalised—they are done,” a source within the party close to the disciplinary process that unfolded against the trio told the M&G.
The source, who wished to remain anonymous, added that the ANC would be unwilling to have their disciplinary processes undermined through a political solution.
“If they went this route they would face great difficulty. It would set a bad precedent and open the door for similar things like that in the future.”
All their basis are belong to ... whom?
Eusebius Mckaiser, political and social analyst at the Wits Centre for Ethics, agreed, saying there was “no basis” for success in the league’s quest for a political solution.
“They are just asking for this thing to go away. Asking for a political solution is in itself undermining the ANC constitution,” Mckaiser said.
For the moment the league remains behind their expelled president, but it would be difficult to see this support continue; Mabe’s removal from office could be the first real sign of splinters emerging within the youth body’s leadership.
The NGC will be a stern test of whether the league’s broader membership can muster the energy, determination and courage — which has so far eluded the young lions’ leftover leadership — to carry on fighting the vicious political battle that continues to play itself out in public.