The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) is planning a fightback against the so-called “hostile left takeover” of the ANC and has developed a plan to weaken ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe — who also serves as the chairperson of the South African Communist Party (SACP).
The league is disappointed with the way in which President Jacob Zuma handled the public spat between ANC and SACP members, ANCYL insiders say. The brawling reached a crescendo when delegates at December’s SACP special congress in Polokwane booed ANCYL president Julius Malema off the stage.
“Zuma is not leading the organisation as we expected him to,” a youth league insider told the Mail & Guardian. “He is not protecting the organisation from the left, because he has debts to pay with them. When he needed support after he was fired, he just accepted help from everyone, and now he is paying for that.”
The insider was quick to point out that this did not mean the league wanted to unseat Zuma — but rather that it wants him to play a decisive leadership role.
Zuma made only vague statements about the unity of the alliance at the ANC’s birthday celebrations in Kimberley last weekend, where it was clear that tensions between Malema and the SACP have not been resolved. Master of ceremonies Fikile Mbalula, the deputy police minister, had to ask the rebel SACP attendees to stop singing struggle songs so that the birthday cake could be cut.
He also asked ANC members who received the party’s annual awards to put away banners reading “Hands Off Our Youth League President!” while they were on stage receiving trophies.
Given Zuma’s perceived lack of decisive action, the league has decided to take matters into its own hands and “take the ANC back”. At the same time it will promote Mbalula, its choice for ANC secretary general in 2012.
The plan takes aim at Mantashe, whom league insiders say has divided loyalties because of his dual SACP and ANC roles. “The first step is to weaken him, to make sure that the avenues through which he can build support [are] closed down,” said one insider.
At branch level, the ANCYL has already started warning ordinary ANC members of the “rooi gevaar”, urging them to ensure that Mantashe is not returned as secretary general.
“We will make sure he does not get opportunities to speak at branch meetings,” one league leader told the M&G.
“He has access to branches because at the end of the day he audits them to check whether they are allowed to go to [the 2012 elective] conference.
“But we will make sure that our delegates go there. Even the communists in the branches will be isolated.”
Step two will be to continue to attack Mantashe’s dual role in the ANC and SACP by claiming that it is untenable for a modern organisation such as the ANC to have a leader with other responsibilities as well.
“We will make sure that people keep that in the back of their minds all the time,” the ANCYL leader said.
Prominent communists such as SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande will not receive invitations to speak at branches. “We will not invite them. Even in my branch, I will make sure they don’t come here,” an ANCYL branch chairperson in Gauteng told the M&G.
While denouncing Mantashe, the league will promote Mbalula, showing how he has risen to power within the ANC and government in a short time and has managed to make the ANC more youth-friendly, modern and forward-looking, insiders say.
“People know Mbalula and know that he came through the ANC ranks. Even if he is young, he represents the real ANC.”
Some in the ANCYL suggest the league is quietly acknowledging that former president Thabo Mbeki’s strategy of keeping the communists “in their place” obviated the “hostile takeover by the left” that some in the ANC now fear.
The ANC’s national general council is due to take place in September, and it is here that the youth league’s push to nationalise mines will be discussed.
Although the general council has the power to revisit leadership positions, the league will bide its time until the 2012 conference before formally putting up its candidate.