ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola shifted into damage control mode on Tuesday, as he moved to steer the organisation into calmer waters.
“We are continuing with all of our programmes as well as the struggle for economic freedom and we are confident the youth league will pull through this,” Lamola told the Mail & Guardian.
The man touted to take over the youth league’s presidency should Julius Malema’s expulsion stand, first sprang into action on Monday evening, discounting a confrontational press release issued by league spokesperson Magadelene Moonsamy.
“I, along with our secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, am best positioned to articulate the view of the national executive council. Comrade Malema remains our president and will continue to be until we receive a directive otherwise from our members,” Lamola told the M&G.
The ANC lambasted Shivambu for “attacking” the party’s national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa in a weekend newspaper opinion piece, labelling his comments as “mischievous, disingenuous and smacking of ill-discipline”.
Shivambu questioned Ramaphosa’s motives in upholding the initial suspensions handed down to him and Malema.
Shivambu was suspended for three years and Malema expelled from the ANC after being found guilty of sowing divisions in the ruling party.
The two are currently re-appealing their sentences with Ramaphosa, even though the youth league released a statement on Sunday confirming its decision not to acknowledge the charges against Malema.
Ramaphosa on Tuesday upheld Malema’s suspension relating to his description of President Jacob Zuma’s presidency as a dictatorship.
The NDCA dismissed Malema’s assertion that his constitutional right to freedom of association had been violated through his temporary suspension.
“The NDCA found that the national disciplinary committee (NDC) did not breach the ANC constitution, the rules of natural justice and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.
In Moonsamy’s statement on Monday, she had claimed the ruling party had “once again missed an opportunity” to properly discipline their members but instead chose to “throw insults and attack him as an individual”.
‘Denouncing and disowning
But, barely two hours later, ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola issued a further statement, this time “denouncing and disowning” the one issued by Moonsamy.
Lamola said Shivambu’s comments were made in his personal capacity and did not articulate the official stance of the ANC Youth League.
“We agree with the ANC that the attack on Cyril Ramaphosa’s personal integrity and standing in society was unwarranted and did nothing to advance a comradely political debate,” Lamola said.
Lamola told the M&G that Shivambu had been “reprimanded” for his utterances.
Lamola issued another press release on Tuesday afternoon emphasising the league’s stance to oppose Malema’s temporary suspension and that he will continue as league president — albeit in a toned down manner.
“The ANC Youth League’s national executive council (NEC) resolved that we did not receive an official communication from the ANC with regard to the temporary suspension of the league president and we do not have grounds as a structure of the ANC to ground him from performing his duties. We therefore resolved that he should continue to perform his responsibilities,” read the statement.
Explaining his reasoning for assuming public relations responsibilities for the league, Lamola said decisions relating to media statements depended on the “structures they affect”.
“Comrade Malema can’t clarify issues relating to himself — that is why I stepped in.”
Although Lamola’s actions are conciliatory by nature, they could be interpreted as signs of serious cracks within the leadership of the ANC Youth League beginning to emerge.
The issuing of contradictory press statements is indicative of a possible rift, the M&G learned from well-placed sources within the league.
“It appears to be a serious split in the making. You constantly have differences of opinion but they never show up on public platforms like this,” a senior league member, who requested anonymity said.
The source added that while Lamola is entitled to clarify any position the league takes, his actions were not congruent with a unified leadership collective.
“I don’t understand why [secretary general Sindiso] Magaqa didn’t do so, and why wouldn’t he know what Magdalene [Moonsamy] was doing? It doesn’t indicate unity in the top leadership of the league,” the source said.
Furthermore, these latest developments could be construed as an attempt by Lamola to stamp his authority on the league as acting president, while Malema’s fate is ultimately decided.
After weeks of open hostility by the youth league towards its mother body over disciplinary action against its president, Lamola has effectively offered an olive branch, by remodelling the rhetoric from an organisation stuck between a rock and a hard place.
If the youth league’s leaders continue to be openly confrontational with the ANC, its hopes of a political solution to the charges levelled against their leadership will be dashed.
So far Lamola’s statements have been welcomed by the ANC.
“The last statements released by Comrade Lamola are important as they distance the league from a very un-ANC tendency of attacking party members on public platforms,” spokesperson Keith Khoza told the M&G.
Unofficially though, sources within the ruling party say the ANC is “very pleased” with the latest developments.
“We think they are now moving in the right direction. This shows the league will no longer support a position which is against the ANC leadership,” said the source, who also requested not to be named.
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