ANC Youth League: Purge or clean slate?

Convener of the ANCYL National Task Team Mzwandile Masina (left) and Magasela Mzobe, coordinator of the National Task Team briefed the media on Tuesday. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

Convener of the ANCYL National Task Team Mzwandile Masina (left) and Magasela Mzobe, coordinator of the National Task Team briefed the media on Tuesday. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

Mzwandile Masina, convenor of the ANC Youth League's national task team (NTT), presented a unified front, saying that the league's provincial leaders had "reconfirmed their acceptance" of the ANC's decision to disband its executive.

Masina was speaking at a press briefing held at Luthuli House, days after the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) met with the provincial chairpersons and secretaries of the youth league to discuss the way forward for the party's youth wing.

He pointed to Rule 12.2.5 of the ANC Constitution, which states that "the NEC shall oversee the work of the ANC Veterans' League, the ANC Women's League and the ANC Youth League" and said that the task team had a constitutional mandate from the mother party to carry out its work.

Masina said the task team's primary responsibility would be to "systematically rebuild the ANCYL through ensuring strong, quality branches and structures" and that it would also assist the ANC in campaigning for the 2014 elections.

He did not give any time frames for when the task team would complete it's working, saying only that it did not want to rush the process.

Since the youth league was disbanded, concerns have been raised that it would become simply another desk at Luthuli House, uncritical of the mother party.

But Masina denied that the youth league was being muzzled and said it will continue to function as an autonomous body, with its own constitution within the overall structure of the ANC.

"There is no intention by the ANC Youth League NTT to tame young lions from engaging. To the contrary, young lions should continue articulating their positions with firmness and vigour if we are to take the struggle forward.

"Members of the ANC Youth League should, however, note that ill discipline, factionalism and gate-keeping will not be tolerated," he said.

National coordinator Magasela Mzobe, meanwhile, denied that there was any pro-Malema faction remaining in the youth league.

"All members responsible for the provinces' leadership in the branches are pro-youth league rather than pro-Malema. All provinces have committed to work with us," he said.

"There's no one who has said they belong to a Malema faction or a Malema youth league, and reject this one. As far as we're aware, we're accepted by our members."

The youth league's NEC was disbanded in mid-March, in what was widely believed to have been a purge of Malema supporters and those who had backed the anti-Zuma faction at the party's elective conference in Mangaung.

In the weeks since the party named the members of the task team mandated to revamp the youth league, rumours about whether the task team would continue the purge have swirled.

Masina and Masezole refused to be drawn on whether it had plans to disband any of the branches of the youth league, with Masina saying the process was not about disbanding branches but about discovering weaknesses and rebuilding the structures so that branches can become more effective.

"If a region or structure is found to be weak we'll have to rebuild that structure so it's up to the task," said Masina.

Members of the NTT will spend next week travelling around the country to visit branches and regions where the youth league is active.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga was dismissive of the NTT's role.

"The NTT is a huge PR exercise machine, to make everything look like it's coming from within the youth league branches when it's actually coming from above," he said.

Mathekga said it was clear that the ANC was merely trying to regain hegemony of the national leadership at branch level.

"They just want to send a message to anyone who doesn't want to toe the line that [they] will be dealing with you," said Mathekga.

"At this point there is no recourse for any recalcitrant member or deviant to say 'Our branch has not agreed to that.' What we've seen happening is national leadership making a decision and saying everyone has agreed.
It makes it difficult for anyone to even have a discussion."

Political analyst Karima Brown, however, said that the restructuring now being done by the NTT was not indicative of a purge but of a group righting itself and implementing a decision of the national conference of the ANC.

"The youth league under Julius Malema were experts at purging," she said.

"How do you account for an unopposed election in [June 2011] when not a single [position] was contested? There was a purge campaign preceding the national conference."

Brown was referring to the unopposed election of Malema and the youth league's entire top leadership in 2011, in an election widely considered to have been a rigged election.

She added that part of the reason that Malema and his allies lost out at Mangaung was because they had refused to accept that the constitution of the ANC applied to them.

During the disciplinary hearing, which lead to his eventual expulsion from the ANC, Malema repeatedly argued that elements of the party's constitution were unreasonable and that he should not be bound by them.

Brown said Masina's comments on Tuesday emphasised that the NTT had been given a mandate to carry out the restructuring by the senior leadership of the ANC and by the party's constitution.

"What the NTT is saying is that they have the constitutional weight of the [ANC] behind them and the process is continuing," she said.

"The previous league leadership refused to accept that the constitution of the ANC applied to them and that was the crux of the matter.

"It's a very important point because that is why the previous leadership couldn't be rehabilitated and taken back into the ANC," she said.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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