"There is no president of the youth league who does not have the ambition of becoming president of the ANC – and it’s going to happen.” These are the words of the “ANC adult’s irritator” and ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Collen Malatji. Born in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, to a teenage mother and a varsity student father, Malatji, 30, has risen to top positions in the ruling party. Radical and outspoken man In his short stint as ANCYL president, the radical and outspoken man has caused serious irritations with the party’s top brass including Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan. “The…
“There is no president of the youth league who does not have the ambition of becoming president of the ANC – and it’s going to happen.”
These are the words of the “ANC adult’s irritator” and ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Collen Malatji.
Born in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, to a teenage mother and a varsity student father, Malatji, 30, has risen to top positions in the ruling party.
Radical and outspoken man
In his short stint as ANCYL president, the radical and outspoken man has caused serious irritations with the party’s top brass including Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan.
“The day the elders like you, there is something wrong because the youth must… hold people accountable. I am doing what I am elected for, that’s why when I’m attacked, the youth stands up because I speak on their behalf.
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“The biggest problem the ANC is faced with is its deployees who are not implementing its resolutions. If they can implement the resolutions of the ANC, there will be no need for another political party to exist because the policies of the ANC can resolve all the problems of this country.
“The problem is we send people who think they are representing themselves and they tell us what to do,” he says.
He will continue being an irritant to the ANC elders
Malatji insists he will continue being an irritant to the ANC elders and no one will kick him out of the party as long as he remains within its constitution and policies.
Malatji is the only child from his mother’s side but the firstborn of four siblings from his father’s side.
He lost his mother at the age of eight. This meant that he had to stay with his grandmother and other family members.
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“I was born from a teenage pregnancy. My mother was in high school and my father was in his first year at varsity.
“I stayed with my grandmother in Tembisa but later moved to KwaNdebele when my mother passed away,” he adds.
“I stayed with my father when I was in Grade 4, I think he was 30 at the time. My father died when I was 18, so I had to run my own life.
“I started living alone then and took responsibility for my life.
“As early as Grade 7, I knew how to cook for myself, iron and had all those skills. I rented out my father’s house and went to live in a back room in Vosloorus. I didn’t want to harass people. I literally raised myself… I had a busy father who was also a politician. He became a leader of a region in Ekurhuleni.”
Because his father was a politician, Malatji was already interested in politics.
“Apart from my father’s influence, I tried soccer and tennis but wasn’t good at that. I started reading books at home and going to meetings of the youth league and the SA Communist Party. So my father handed me over to two people to groom me.”
One of the two is now Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane. “My first introduction to politics was that of the party, but I never invested in it. I invested in Cosas (Congress of South African Students) which is linked to the youth league. I was exposed to politics early so I was young, but leading old people.”
Malatji became the regional secretary of Cosas in Ekurhuleni at 13.
“Because of the different environments I’m from, it has made me stronger and able to lead. I’ve always led everywhere I’ve been. Another thing was that I could write in English because of the exposure to multiracial schools.
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“Cosas was mainly based in township schools, most of them could not write reports or edit, so it was easier for me.
“This gave me a lot of exposure. I led the biggest march to the department of education in Gauteng using trains.”
Malatji was elected president of Cosas in 2013
Malatji was elected president of Cosas in 2013 which also opened many doors for him. He said as president of Cosas, he was earning a lot for a boy his age.
He and the Cosas secretary-general used to draw up their own salaries.
“He is the provincial secretary of the youth league now in North West. We used to design for all of us because we used to have a foundation called Bokamoso which used to fund Cosas. We used to share the money with everyone and we took the biggest, obviously,” he laughs.
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“I was earning about R13 000 and was about 17 or 18 at the time. I had a car and, at some point, I bought myself a Golf 5.
“I bought myself a BMW 125i when I was exiting Cosas. I had already gone to work and that car was my whole salary. That’s where I learned that banks can give you money if you buy a car even if you can’t afford it.”
After matric, Malatji went to the University of Johannesburg to study municipal governance, then studied for a BA in political economy at Wits. “In between, I went to business school and did business management. I also have a senior management service certificate from the School of Governance. I am doing my post-grad diploma in public health.”
Malatji worked in a few government departments
Malatji later went to work in a few government departments.
“My first job was with Panyaza Lesufi at the department of education when he was spokesperson, he was my father’s close friend. He took me in and taught me how to write statements. When he became an MEC he took me again as part of intervention.
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“In 2016, I went to work in Ekurhuleni as an advisor in the city. I was the youngest advisor because I was 21 or 22.
“Then Dr Zweli Mkhize took me to Cogta [department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs] to help with management interventions. I then went to establish myself in business and while I was busy with that, the ANC told me they wanted to deploy me in parliament. You can’t refuse deployment because one day you’ll appear to be arrogant.”
He says some elders in the ANC fear he will become the next Julius Malema as they are both seen as radicals.
“You will find the similarities between me and Julius because the school of thought is the same,” says Malatji.