ANC seeks to tame Young Lions amid Malema defiance

The ANC says it will “persuade” the youth league to back down on its call to arms to members in defence of its president Julius Malema, stopping just short of threatening to disband the league.

But the ANC says the rejection of Malema’s suspension is tantamount to defying the party’s constitution, and it would be forced to “respond appropriately” to the league’s actions—although it did not explicitly say what this might involve. However, the ANC—whose top six leadership have the power to disband the league—said it would seek to “persuade” its youth wing to cease any actions that “intend to undermine and defy” the ANC constitution.

Suspension rejected
Following a meeting of its national executive committee (NEC) over the weekend, the league on Sunday had issued a statement claiming Malema will continue in his role as president, despite being summarily suspended by the ANC on April 4.

This temporary suspension came into effect while his appeal against his expulsion from the ruling party is under way. Malema was expelled from the ANC at the end of February, following a lengthy disciplinary process which began in August last year.

The suspension prevents Malema from acting in any official capacity as an ANC member, as the president of the youth league or as a member of the Limpopo provincial executive committee.

In an attempt to legitimise claims that Malema is being singled out and disciplined for articulating the views of the league as a whole, a national general council (NGC) has been called. For a legitimate ANCYL NGC to take place, representatives from the majority of all league branches nationally must be present.

According to the article J, section 3 of the ANC Youth League’s recently amended constitution, an NGC can “determine and review policies and programmes” of the organisation.

This means ordinary members will validate the ANC Youth League’s position on disciplinary action against Malema and other leaders.

But nothing is mentioned of voting rights or what is deemed necessary to form a quorum on matters discussed at the NGC.

As of yet, no date has been set for the gathering.

Persuasive tactics
In response to the league’s latest moves, the ANC is playing hardball.

On Sunday evening the ruling party released a statement claiming the league’s NEC has positioned the youth organisation “outside of the ANC constitutionally parameters”.

“The decision to defy the ruling of the NDC is tantamount to defying the constitution of the ANC,” the ANC said.

This effectively translates into the ANC claiming the league is operating outside of the mother body.

However, the ruling party said it would “look at these developments and respond appropriately”.
The ANC also said it would “persuade” its youth wing to cease with their actions that “intend to undermine and defy” the ANC constitution.

With Malema already treading on thin ice, this “persuasion” could result in threats to completely disband the league—a power vested within the ANC’s top six leadership structure.

In it together
Aside from the expelled Malema, league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu is facing a three year suspension from the mother body while secretary general Sindiso Magaqa has been handed a suspended sentence.

Malema, Magaqa and Shivambu were all found guilty of sowing divisions within the ANC. The league leadership has consistently maintained all disciplinary action against Malema is an attempt by the mother body to suppress the youth body’s push for economic freedom.

Youth league policies include the nationalisation of mines as well as the expropriation of land without compensation.

This is the first time the league has confirmed it will indeed defy a directive from the ANC national disciplinary committee concerning action against Malema after previously threatening to do so.

Seeking a political solution
Initial indications from sources within the league are that Malema’s support base will translate into immediate justification of the league’s actions.

“Malema is still our president. Everything he has been doing up until now has been on the platform of the league. He will continue doing so until receiving a directive otherwise from our members,” a league branch member in Soweto told the Mail & Guardian.

In addition to the planned NGC, the league also said it will approach the NEC of the ANC in an attempt to find a political solution to the unfolding melee.

The ruling party’s NEC has the power to overturn any NDC ruling and order the process to start from afresh, should a majority of members on the committee agree to do so.

Forced into radical behaviour
While the youth league said it will never operate independently from the ANC or its constitution, it would seem some league members believe the youth body already has cut itself loose from the mother body.

The leader of a branch in the Eastern Cape told the M&G the league’s current actions were “forced” by the ANC, which has resulted in the league reacting in a “radical manner.”

“We can’t address this [disciplinary process] as anything but an attack on the league. This could be seen as a violation of the ANC constitution but the only way this will be solved is through a political solution within Luthuli House,” said the source, who asked not to be named.

The source also added the ANC has as such left the league with “no choice but drastic action”.

“The ANC has a responsibility to respect the youth league and its processes by at least meeting with us. Even when [former president Thabo] Mbeki was being attacked by the league when we pushed to have him replaced by [President Jacob] Zuma, he never reacted in such a way. Malema is being persecuted,” the Eastern Cape source said.

While the league’s latest moves could be construed as open defiance, it could also be interpreted as a further delaying tactic on the youth body’s part. If Malema can drag out the disciplinary process until the forthcoming elective conference in Mangaung in December, he could conceivably table a motion there to have delegates vote on nullifying all disciplinary charges against him.

As per section 11.3 of the ruling party’s constitution, the conference is granted the power to “review, ratify, alter or rescind” any decision taken by the ANC or its constituent bodies.

But Malema must first ensure his ANC membership survives long enough for him to get to Mangaung, by delaying the process surrounding the appeal of his expulsion. Should that process already be concluded by December, it would be up to other ANC members to take up the cause on his behalf.

“This will not end easily,” a member from the youth league in Mpumalanga, who also requested anonymity, told the M&G. “This is about the economic freedom of all South Africans. We are prepared to fight until the last day of Mangaung.”

For more news and multimedia on ANC Youth League president Julius Malema click here.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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