While those who have called for the disbandment of the ANC Youth League have expressed their dissatisfaction over the list of leaders tasked by its mother body with resuscitating the league, some have welcomed the task team and put their faith in its ability to produce a leadership that will bring an end to fractures in the ANC.
Sifiso Tso Mtsweni, the current National Youth Development Agency chairperson and member of the disbanded league’s national executive committee, described calls for the mother body’s national executive committee (NEC) to review its chosen task team members to lead the league to its 26th national conference as unfair, saying in the history of the league, older comrades have always been selected to assist in putting together a road map toward a national conference.
The ANC’s NEC decided to recall the leadership of the young lions, led by Collen Maine, in July after it failed to hold a national elective conference in September 2018.
They have largely been blamed, by some in the party, of not only being too old to lead the young lions but also of its loss in mass appeal over the years.
Maine’s collective was elected in 2015, the product of a task team following the unprecedented decision by the ANC to disband the league in 2012 following the expulsion of its then-president and now EFF leader Julius Malema.
ANC NEC member Tandi Mahambehlala was appointed convener and head of presidency in the ANC, and Sibongile Besani was appointed as co-ordinator.
Some of the other names on the list of task team members include former leaders Maine, Njabulo Nzuza, Reggie Nkabinde, Dakota Logoete, Zizi Kodwa, Pule Mabe, Ronald Lamola, Faith Muthambi, Lindiwe Zulu, Pinky Kekana, Fikile Mbalula, David Masondo, Desmond Moela, Thandi Moroka, Nomvula Mokonyane, Nathi Mthethwa, Senzo Mchunu, Lulu Johnson, Malusi Gigaba and Febe Potgieter.
“This will always be a subjective issue for me because I am a disbanded party… I’m still going through the hard healing, but I think let’s give them a chance to rebuild the league,” said Mtsweni of the task team.
However, he said the task team, which has been dubbed by some in the league as an “unwise” and “misguided” decision, had to work harder at bringing young people closer and facilitate dialogue on the party’s future in the process of resuscitating the league.
“Beyond this, the youth league, like it or not will never be the same,” added Mtsweni.
“Something different has to emerge, something more sophisticated and more relevant to the youth in this country.”
He said the liberation movement was at a crossroads and the time for decisions on ways to modernise it, attract more professionals, academics and young people involved in policy discourse had come.
Mtsweni also placed the responsibility of saving the ANC, which he described as the “collective inheritance” of South Africans, on its leaders.
“We want the ANC protected, we want to make sure that nobody takes the ANC to the grave with them,” he said.
In weighing in on the bruising battles currently under way in the fractured organisation, he gave context of how young leaders became embedded in factional battles of leaders in the mother body, placing blame on the controversial 2007 Polokwane conference.
“Toward Polokwane a strange culture developed, where the ANC leadership itself started to identify proxies within the youth league leadership that would also form part of their own squabbles, use these young people to fight … probably because of the politics of the time, the president and deputy president at the time, he said referring to the battle between former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.
Mtsweni said this came with the use of money and the league as voices in disputes between different leaders.
This trend, which has completely engulfed the movement is still playing itself out, with many believing the ANC’s current leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, is battling it out with secretary-general Ace Magashule.
“If the ANC goes down, whether through the president or the SG, 10 years from now we won’t have an ANC to inherit. We have a responsibility to ensure whatever happens, the ANC remains,” said Motsweni.
Some ANC leaders, including its youth, have called for electoral reform and more transparent processes in a bid to curb the role money has played in the election of party leaders, this in the backdrop of a belief by some that the upcoming youth league conference set down for February 2020 will fall victim to the politics of money.
Mtsweni, who is one of the many names doing the rounds as a potential youth league president, insisted its NEC had outperformed the loud and much-feared leadership led by Malema.
“In terms of posture, the youth league of Collen would not be anywhere near the youth league of Malema, however, if you were to compare the league of Malema and that of Collen in terms of the advances made – policy shift and so on – it would be my argument that this NEC has been quite a good performer,” said Mtsweni.
He added the league had played a role in making sure some resolutions came to the fore.
“I can tell you now that we have actually implemented 90% of those resolutions; free education has been achieved, it was this generation that won the expropriation of land debate, it won the issue of nationalising the Reserve Bank and most importantly the scrapping of experience on entry level jobs,” he said.
While the current crop did not manage to get its desired 40% of youth representation across ANC structures and government posts, it managed to get 20%, which has resulted in the most youth-filled ANC benches of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures to date.
On his own presidential ambitions, Mtsweni said he had been approached, with some regions and provinces calling on him to avail himself. But it is still early days, as horse-trading continues behind closed doors.