‘ANC Youth League must choose female leader’

The ANC Youth League will be moving backwards if it fails to produce a female leader, convenor Nonceba Mhlauli said, hinting at her readiness for the structure’s top office. 

Mhlauli was part of a group that emerged out of a yearning among young people in the ruling party to be allowed to determine the future of the youth movement after it was hit by a leadership vacuum. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian to discuss the year ahead for the youth league, Mhlauli, who has been touted as a possible contender for its top position, encouraged the structure to push for a female president. It would be a “serious” regression in the ANC’s politics and gender transformation agenda if that didn’t happen, she added.

“It’s the first time in the structure of YL that it’s led by two women,” Mhlauli said, referring to herself and Joy Maimela being part of a team of young people tasked with taking the youth league to a conference.

“It’s also the first time that you have a structure that is predominantly women. I think that going to a conference that will have an outcome that does not translate to the current status quo will be a regression,” she added.

“I can’t imagine how we would, from being at the moment that we are right now, how this structure led by women can have a different outcome in the conference. It would be very unfortunate if it were to happen. From right now we must build on what we have from our current gender representation.”

Mhlauli is seen as part of a faction loyal to President Cyril Ramaphosa and groomed for the position by the likes of the late Jackson Mthembu. Some in the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) allied to the faction – who spoke to the M&G – are in favour of Mhlauli emerging as leader of the youth league, which was disbanded in 2018 after it failed to elect a new president to succeed Collen Maine. 

After two task teams made up of NEC members failed to take the youth league to conference, the structure installed a younger task team consisting of Mhlauli and Maimela as its coordinator. Maimela is also among those touted as contenders for the youth league’s presidency. Other names include ANC MP Collen Malatji and Sizophila Mkhize. 

Although the task team was mandated by the NEC to take the structure to a conference by the end of March, this is unlikely to happen because the youth league’s branch general meetings have not yet sat. 

But Mhlauli said there was optimism that the youth league would make the deadline. 

“Work is happening, it is not happening as quickly as we want it to but it is happening,” she said, adding that the ANC had asked that the youth league’s task team provide a report on its readiness for conferences to include a venue and other logistics. 

“When we have our task team meeting, we should be able to finalise those finer details, and give the ANC a budget, based on the various quotations we would have received, book venues and in earnest, start the actual logistical arrangement for the process. The organisational process is underway, it’s the logistical process that we need to finalise in the next meeting.” 

The youth league was largely known as a vehicle used by ANC elders for factional battles.

During the days of Julius Malema the structure was instrumental in the ascension of former ANC and South African president Jacob Zuma

The youth league was also criticised for failing to be the voice for young people during the FeesMustFall protests. 

Delivering his January 8 statement on the anniversary of the ANC, Ramaphosa said the youth league must elect leaders who would advocate the interests of young people rather than those looking after their self-interests. He said the league should never regress to its old ways. 

Asked if the youth league would continue as the vehicle for the factional battles of its mother body, Mhlauli said its members now recognised that they deal with issues affecting young South Africans.

“When we have views about what is happening in the ANC, there must be views of the collective and not individual views,” she added.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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