The ANC Youth League is set to tone down its rhetoric against President Jacob Zuma and, in return, some ANC leaders have promised they will oppose attempts to disband it.
ANC national executive committee (NEC) members are divided over whether to dissolve the league's leadership. Strong debate is expected next Friday when the newly elected committee meets for the first time to discuss the party's operations.
Last month's national congress deferred the proposed disbandment of the league's NEC to the party's highest decision-making structure. With the current 80-member committee consisting largely of Zuma's supporters, the league will need to lobby hard to get the ANC to give it another chance.
League deputy president Ronald Lamola this week told the M&G Online that the league was preparing to fill vacant positions as soon as possible. By agreeing to fill these positions, it is in effect bowing to pressure to dump its expelled leader Julius Malema, who they had been refusing to replace.
A member of the League's NEC told the Mail & Guardian that it had deliberately toned down its rhetoric against the mother body to avoid being kicked out.
"The strategy is to remain calm and focus on the programmes of the youth league. If we did not keep quiet, we would have long been gone," the member said.
Special national general council
It is understood that some senior league leaders, including Lamola, met Zuma in Mangaung and assured him of their support.
"We told him [Zuma] that we supported Kgalema Motlanthe before the elections, but now that Zuma was elected by the majority the league will throw its support behind him," he said.
He added that league officials have lobbied a number of NEC members, who have assured them that they will not dissolve the league's committee.
"They don't want us to be dissolved. The mood is to engage us and take us to the national general council where we can elect the new president and treasurer general."
The league is expected to convene a special national general council soon to deal with its future, given its defeat on the Malema matter in Mangaung.
The frontrunners for the league's presidency are Lamola and the league's head of international relations, Abner Mosaase.
Malema last year criticised Lamola saying he had sold out after Lamola announced that the youth league would support the leadership that emerged out of Mangaung even if it was Zuma.
Malema and Lamola initially fell out after the youth league distanced itself from supporting Malema in his court case.
Two NEC members who spoke to the M&G this week, Ace Magashule and Billy Masetlha, called for "tough action" to be taken against the league's leadership because its structures had become dysfunctional, particularly since the expulsion of Malema and the two-year suspension of secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.
Free State chairperson Ace Magashule said tough action was needed because even the league's provincial structures had collapsed. The ANC leadership "must not be afraid to act" when action is required.
"The state of the youth league is a cause for concern. I think there is a need for tougher action. Where there is a need for action it must happen."
Magashule said the majority of NEC members at last month's conference favoured the disbandment of the league's leadership.
At the Mangaung conference, the youth league led a failed campaign to replace Zuma with his former deputy Motlanthe.
"Disbanding will not be the cause for disunity. The structures of the youth league are not there. You need a team throughout the country to re-establish the structures of the league," said Magashule.
NEC member Billy Masetlha also called for "strong action" against the league.
Rebuilding the league
"We need to do a serious review [of] the youth league." Masetlha said, adding that it should be run in line with ANC policy. "It can't be that the youth league continues to function as a cabal."
New NEC member and suspended youth league treasurer Pule Mabe said the league was missing the point of why it had been established.
"The youth league is a necessary vehicle for nurturing young revolutionaries. Everyone must feel that they can become members without owing allegiance to any leader. We need a youth league that is devoid of patronage.
"We need all our structures to be united as we go to the 2014 elections, including the youth league. As to what happens to the youth league remains [a] subject of discussion."
Some, however, such as KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, who defended the league at Mangaung, believe it should be saved.
Zikalala said the league "has got challenges, but instead of disbanding it, the NEC of the ANC must work with the youth league to rebuild the league".
In a recent interview with SABC News, however, Zuma could not hide his impatience with the league. He said it should not think that being allowed to be "vibrant" and "robust" means that it can "bully the ANC and bully everybody and misdirect the energy and the vibrancy as it has been evident in the recent past. That's what is not going to be acceptable.
"I'm hoping that in the period leading up to now, the current youth league membership and those who are in the NEC must have realised the kind of difficulties they've put this organisation into," Zuma said.