The ANC Youth League's national task team will face its biggest test to date on Monday as the ANC decides on its controversial decision to disband the two remaining provincial structures of the league.
Gauteng and the Eastern Cape's provincial executive committees were the last to be disbanded by the clean-up task team.
Both have appealed the decision to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. The mother body is expected to announce its decision later on Monday or on Tuesday morning.
Task team spokesperson Bandile Masuku said the body was anxious because a ruling to overturn their decision would "definitely" undermine the already tenuous credibility of the relatively unknown team.
"We are hoping the decision to disband will stand even after the meeting," he told the Mail & Guardian.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu has refused to comment on the appeals process, calling it an internal matter.
The Gauteng and Eastern Cape branches of the league were considered the strongest and were left standing, while the task team swept out the rest of the league in the country in a series of moves said to be aligned with President Jacob Zuma's interests, and ridding the league of any remaining supporters of ousted leader Julius Malema.
But after much uncertainty, a decision was taken to disband the two provinces earlier this month.
The Eastern Cape was considered to be in the strongest position it's even been in, with all of its regions operating for the first time in its history. Eastern Cape league secretary Mziwonke Ndabeni, who has been active in the league since 1992, was adamant that the province and it regions were healthy. "The Eastern Cape is functional. There are eight regions in the province and all of them are functional, as well as over 715 branches," Ndabeni said.
But relationships with the mother party are still of utmost importance as the ANC is working to get a grip on the league again, and Masuku said this area was weak. "Somehow there is no honest and cordial relationship between the ANC and the Eastern Cape youth league. And they were the most vocal against the appointment of some members of the national task team."
A former member of the youth league national executive committee (NEC) told the M&G that Gauteng was being punished for not being aligned to the correct faction. But Masuku said that wasn't entirely accurate, pointing to structural issues in the province that plagued the rest of the league. "They had vacancies and were struggling to quorate [at meetings]. They were also having divisions which led to the secretary being suspended."
Nonetheless, the province's chair Lebogang Maile is gunning for the position of president, according to several sources, when the youth league is finally rebuilt and fresh elections are held at the end of next year. Maile once went head-to-head with Malema for the position but stood down.
He's not the only one. "Whoever has previously wanted to be president, they're still trying," said one national task team member.
Leadership within the task team
Weekend reports said certain task team members themselves were looking to step into the leadership vacuum come elections, with members Mawethu Rune and Magasela Mzobe names being mentioned.
Former youth league deputy presidents Andile Lungisa and Ronald Lamola are also said to be after the top job and have publicly laid into the task team as part of their campaign. Eastern Cape chairperson Ayanda Matiti is said to be after the league's secretary general post.
The task team, however, is hoping to usher in new blood by holding elections in December when many of the old hopefuls would have passed the 35-year-old mark and not qualify for membership any more.
But one hopeful said off the record that this ploy was likely to fail as the ANC had set down the date for the conference in September next year when he would still be within age.
Masuku, one of 10 national task team leaders who will be past the age limit come the elective conference next year, says the old guard needs to step aside.
"Some of us need to give way for younger generations," he said. "The older generation like us somehow hamper innovation and dynamism. They hamper progress in a way that we tend to be very conservative."
Low-profile youth league members
The task team was appointed in an announcement by the ANC in April, that took even some of the members of the team by surprise. Largely untested within the league leadership structures, the team is made up of low-profile youth league members, albeit ones who have proven themselves in other spheres and structures. This includes Masuku, a qualified doctor and gynaecologist who previously served as South African Student Congress president.
The league's NEC was dissolved in March this year by the ANC NEC, along with Limpopo's branch – Malema's home ground. The task team's members were appointed the following month and announced the disbandment of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape provincial executive committees (PECs) soon after. In June, the North West, Free State and Northern Cape PECs were disbanded. Gauteng and the Eastern Cape were the last to join the list.
The wholesale dissolution of provincial structures has posed a threat to the ANC's campaigning muscle ahead of the 2014 general elections, but was necessary to align the league to Zuma's interests and clean out wide-scale structural rot in the organisation.