Student activist Mcebo Dlamini believes his 2015 Facebook comments about admiring Adolf Hitler will not stand in his way of becoming the next president of the ANC Youth League.
Dlamini announced last week that he would contest the league’s leadership race, going head-to-head with KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo and outgoing treasurer general Reggie Nkabinde.
A former University of the Witwatersrand student representative council president, Dlamini shot to prominence in 2015 when he sparked outrage with a Facebook post about his admiration for the dictator and claimed “every white person” had an element of Hitler in them.
His fitness to lead the league has been questioned because of those comments.
Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian this week: “Forget about that thing — we are now here. You can’t be taking us back to years ago. Those things were said in their own context and you have never heard us saying those things again.
“There were people who were uncomfortable with that and they blew this whole thing out of proportion. And until today we are still waiting to have a meeting with them. So forget about that thing.” Dlamini was removed as SRC leader because of his comments, but resurfaced months later as a leader of the #FeesMustFall movement.
Although he has solidified his place as a student leader, he’s at a disadvantage in the league, where he’ll be up against longer-serving opponents Nkabinde and Sabelo.
But Dlamini dismissed this: “The youth league has a stance it has taken that says graduates from university must not be asked those ridiculous things of work experience.
“Where were we supposed to take those credentials of leading branches when we were in class pursuing academic excellence?”
Should he be elected, Dlamini said he would focus on strengthening the league’s visibility among the youth and representing their needs.
Recently the league has been accused of being preoccupied with the ANC’s factional battles instead of representing young people.
Sabelo agreed that the league had been sidetracked by its focus on ANC issues and was willing to take some blame for this. In the lead-up to the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec in December, he had been a loyal supporter of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s faction and was the first league leader to endorse her.
“People will have to judge me on the work I’ve done in KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] and what we have done to make the youth league relevant. And everybody agrees that the youth league has held the fort.”
The league will have to repair itself in time for the 2019 national elections to contend with the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command, which has made notable inroads in tertiary institutions.
The Student Command has won SRC
elections at the University of Johannesburg, the University of Cape Town and the former ANC strongholds of the University of Zululand and the Durban University of Technology.
But it surrendered its control of the universities of Limpopo and the Witwatersrand SRCs to the ANC-aligned Progressive Youth Movement.
Sabelo and Dlamini agreed that the EFF’s success was a cause for concern, but believed the league could win over young voters if it elected the right leadership and renewed itself.
“I am worried; I can’t lie to you and say I am not worried,” Dlamini said. “We need to do some self-introspection.”
Sabelo added: “The situation at some of the tertiary institutions is a cause for worry … Some of the students have given us a warning by saying: ‘Sort out your problems because we love the ANC, but if you continue having problems we will have no choice but to stay away.’ ”