Mbeki gives ANCYL nudge of support after birthday wishes
A week after President Jacob Zuma wrote off ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and his suspended colleagues during a heated meeting of the national executive committee, his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, wrote a letter of thanks to the young lions in what appears to be a vote of confidence in them.
Mbeki celebrated his 70th birthday on Monday, with the ANC Youth League releasing a glowing statement, wishing the former president well on his birthday and lauding Mbeki for his work on the African continent.
The ANC released a seemingly half-hearted statement later that evening, saying that “like all other presidents”, Mbeki dedicated his life to the movement. It failed to highlight any of Mbeki’s achievements during his tenure.
After the youth league wished Mbeki, he returned the favour, writing a letter to his “comrades” to “sincerely” thank them for their “kind and comradely” message.
Given the standoff between the ANC and its youth league that are gunning for Zuma’s removal, the letter is significant in that it can be construed as Mbeki backing the youth league’s campaign to rid the ANC of Zuma and his political cronies.
Mbeki’s letter is a slap in the face for Zuma who has effectively silenced the youth league and banished its leaders from the ANC. It’s also very rare for Mbeki to reach out to anyone in this manner.
Malema’s role model
In the past few months, Mbeki has become the youth league’s blue-eyed leader – with Malema last week saying that the ANC had made a mistake by recalling Mbeki in favour of Zuma.
Last year Malema said that under Zuma’s leadership the African agenda - which Mbeki had gained worldwide respect for for championing - was no longer a priority. This landed Malema into hot water with party bosses.
When Zuma turned 70 in April this year the youth league did not wish him. But in wishing Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on the occasion of his birthday in July last year, they referred to him as “Comrade President”, making their preferred choice of leadership very clear.
In their birthday wish to Mbeki, the youth league drew parallels between their Economic Freedom in our Lifetime campaign, which also calls for massive development of the African economy, as well as the former president’s charge for the renewed development of the continent through the African Renaissance and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
The youth league thanked Mbeki for his “continuing commitment” and his role in working towards the attainment of the Freedom Charter’s demand that “South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war”.
Doing his best
In response Mbeki assured them that he would “try to do my best to pursue all these objectives as an activist for the Renaissance of Africa, in keeping with the historical traditions of our movement, the ANC”.
Since Malema’s troubles started he has attended several public events, including the recent Africa Day lecture by Mbeki.
At the ANC centenary celebrations in Mangaung in January, Malema and Mbeki shared a joke on stage with the photograph of their light-hearted moment going viral.
Malema’s constant comparison of Zuma and Mbeki was one of the main reasons he was charged and eventually dismissed from the ANC.
Zuma is known in ANC circles to be very sensitive about being compared with his political nemesis whom he replaced during the ANC watershed conference in Polokwane in 2007.
In an encouraging tone, Mbeki wrote in his letter that the development of Africa was crucial to eradicating poverty and underdevelopment and to “accomplish various urgent tasks such as youth employment and development”, among others.
On Tuesday, Malema criticised Zuma for “undermining” the youth by not attending the national Youth Day rally and encouraged the youths not to support Zuma for a second term.