After a protracted battle that threatened to divide the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), the ANC Youth League deputy president this week withdrew from Parliament’s interviews for the National Youth Development Agency board, for the “sake of unity”.
Young Communist League chairperson Yershen Pillay is now the most senior candidate applying for the position and is tipped to win it despite the nomination of five other youth league national executive committee members.
Desmond Moela was tipped to replace the incumbent NYDA chairperson Pillay after being nominated by the youth league.
“It was a decision taken for the sake of unity. It’s important that we unite PYA structures because we are driving one agenda. We are from one family,” said Moela.
The PYA is the youth structures of the tripartite alliance, student bodies South African Students Congress (Sasco) and the Congress of South African Students.
But the league’s NEC member and the former chairperson of Sasco in Gauteng, Ndumiso Mokako, is understood to be the ANC’s preferred candidate.
The contest for the development agency’s top job — which comes with control of a R409-million budget — led to a public spat between the top leadership of the youth and communist leagues and accusations that the two organisations were fighting over the budget. In the last financial year, more than half the budget was spent on salaries.
Pillay has been chair of the development agency for three years. Moela planned to run for the post for the first time, without holding a degree qualification. His nomination caused an uproar when the interview process had to be restarted this year.
This is after Parliament’s ad hoc portfolio committee on the development agency’s board dropped the requirement for a degree. Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu objected to the process being restarted, accusing the ANC of infighting over deployments to the board.
Moela said he regretted the spat between the two youth leagues. “It’s not wrong for us to have different views but that doesn’t mean we must be enemies.”
Youth league spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said: “In a quest to calm down what is perceived as real competition with Yershen, we assigned him [Moela] to a more strategic role. We want him as deputy to co-ordinate policy contributions that we will put forward to the national policy conference of the ANC.”
Moela’s withdrawal is also understood to be in preparation for his possible deployment to a senior position in government.
The communist league had warned that it would withdraw Pillay’s nomination if he failed to secure a second term. Communist league secretary Mluleki Dlelanga said, now that Moela has withdrawn, the rest of the youth league should accept “that, for now, Yershen is the only capable leader”.
On Wednesday the EFF asked National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete to halt the interviews until “the spirit and letter of the law has been complied with”.
“We believe that the process undertaken thus far is not only unlawful, but based on irrationality inspired by narrow partisanship,” said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Nldozi.