The ANC Youth League has refused to comment on criticism handed down to them by President Jacob Zuma on Thursday.
“We won’t be expressing an opinion on anything the ANC president says at this stage,” league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu told the Mail & Guardian.
Zuma said ill-discipline could not be disguised as militancy when he addressed the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa’s (Numsa) national political commission in Johannesburg.
“The energy and innovation of the youth are vital to the ANC, but if you think you are right, pursue the argument correctly within the proper structures,” Zuma said.
Zuma invoked the memory of renowned former youth league leader the late Peter Mokaba as an example of employing militancy with restraint.
“He would spend sleepless nights preparing documents he hoped would change the leadership’s view on something — that’s the way you do it,” he said.
While Zuma accepted South Africa’s youth were vocal based on the problems facing the country, he maintained “they must be disciplined” in attempting to achieve their goals.
The president’s comments come as several league leaders — including president Julius Malema — are facing lengthy suspensions from the ANC after disciplinary charges were laid against them in 2011.
Earlier in February, Malema along with league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and secretary general Sindiso Magaqa argued in mitigation of their suspensions, which were handed down to them by the NDC in November last year.
“We won’t be commenting as judgment is still due to be delivered,” youth league spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy confirmed to the M&G.
The league argued the disciplinary action was politically motivated and intended to supress Malema.
Additionally, they have argued the ruling party has no right to suspend the youth league as it is a body independent from the ANC.
But Zuma moved to quash their claims, arguing the youth body could never be separated from the ANC.
“It is the A-N-C-Youth-League. The youth are meant to help the ANC become what it was supposed to be. It must use its energy and influence the ANC, and not the other way around,” Zuma said.
Malema was suspended for five years, while Shivambu faces a three-year suspension after being found guilty of sowing divisions within the ANC.
Magaqa received an 18-month suspension from the party, which was suspended for three years.
The suspensions relate to comments made by Shivambu about regime change in Botswana as well as insulting a journalist; Magaqa’s suspension is for undermining the authority of Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, while Malema was sentenced for comparing President Jacob Zuma unfavourably to his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
After appealing the judgment, the ruling party’s NDCA upheld the suspensions, but ordered the NDC to hear mitigating arguments from the trio.
The ANC have also been allowed to argue mitigating factors, allegedly arguing for expulsion.
The verdict is due to be delivered soon.