Wayward subordinates feel the might of the ANC
First to be brought in line was the ANC Youth League, with what one senior league official described as "the final capture".
Another structure that opposed President Jacob Zuma's second term as party president, the Limpopo ANC, has been put on notice that it could be disbanded after consultation processes are completed in two or three weeks. Limpopo premier and provincial chairperson Cassel Mathale could also be facing the axe.
The youth league's national executive committee met on January 26 and 27 to discuss a meeting it had with the ANC's leadership a fortnight ago. The league announced that it was subjecting itself to ANC guidance and reinstating its renegade treasurer Pule Mabe. It said it would no longer go to court to support people accused of corruption, and it would soon fill expelled league president Julius Malema's position.
Last year the league had stood firm in opposition to these positions. But now with a threat to disband them following the ANC's Mangaung conference, the league appears to have capitulated.
League officials say it is now divided between those who want to work with the mother body, those who are still loyal to Malema and those who are opportunistically trying to take advantage of the confusion to position themselves for office should a new leadership be elected at a national general council meeting next month.
Strengthening the organisation
Although league national executive committee members deny that they caved in to demands set out by the ANC elders, last weekend's decisions have given the ruling party's senior leaders what they demanded.
"The national executive committee committed itself to strengthening the organisation and undergoing a thorough review of the areas of concern raised by the national conference and the officials of the ANC," the committee said in a statement.
A committee member, who attended the meeting, said the league's deputy president, Ronald Lamola, had argued strongly in favour of working with the ANC because he feared disbandment. He also motivated for the return of Mabe.
"Lamola submitted because he is worried that he has no base if there is disbandment," said the committee member. "He will then have to go back to Mpumalanga. What he did was submission."
But Lamola refuted suggestions that the league had caved in to the desires of the ANC leaders.
"We have not capitulated in order to save our skins or political careers," he told the Mail & Guardian. "If the ANC decides to disband us we will respect that decision, go back to our branches and be led like everybody else."
He added: "At our national executive committee meeting last weekend, we made our own decisions, independently from the ANC and its national officials."
A decision to reinstate Mabe was first taken on Saturday, but the majority of committee members opted on Sunday to oppose his return, according to a source in the committee. Mabe was removed by a motion of no confidence amid accusations that he was trying to manoeuvre his way into the league's presidency. The league's leadership said members had lost confidence in him.
"They said he must go through the disciplinary process," said the source. "But Lamola said, because we've already made a decision and communicated [it] to some ANC leaders, let's keep it that way. We'll appear disorganised if we changed that decision."
He continued: "It's political management what they did to Pule. Some said he's more dangerous when he's outside because he can go anywhere and address people as he likes."
The league's statement said its committee "acknowledged that no proper process was followed in the removal of Pule and resolved therefore to reinstate him to his position unconditionally".
Mabe said this week that: "The youth league is a structure of the ANC, but it's guided by its own constitution; the league prevailed out of its own collective wisdom."
Meanwhile, it is expected that a provincial task team will be appointed in Limpopo after the disbandment of the current provincial executive. Locals also expect that long-time Malema ally premier Cassel Mathale could be axed. Mathale was not only opposed to Zuma but has also been blamed after several provincial departments had to be rescued by the national government because of poor governance.
The frontrunners to replace Mathale are current national executive committee member and MEC for sport, arts and culture Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba and former health MEC Charles Sekwati.