League banks on the era of young leaders

2012-04-14 15:52

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has warned the ANC Youth League would collapse and cause confusion if it insisted on calling itself a kingmaker.

“If you are going out there as a kingmaker and saying the next president is so and so, actually you are sowing seeds for resistance, even if you come with good ideas,” Mantashe told City Press in an interview this week.

Youth league president Julius Malema on Thursday appealed his expulsion from the ANC, while yesterday he was due to hand in papers to ask for a review of his recent suspension and gagging.

Malema was charged with sowing division in the party after unfavourably comparing President Jacob Zuma with his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.

If his expulsion is upheld it could weaken the league’s push to oust Zuma. But it could also give the youngsters an incentive to fight for a change of party leadership so that Malema could be reinstated.

The League is at the forefront of a push for generational change in line with the global trend toward younger leaders.

Mantashe said the league only got the right to vote at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, but he warned that king-making pride came before a fall.

“But if you go around and say ‘stop thinking, the kingmakers have now arrived’, you are going to be surprised because you are bringing something that is not in the ANC’s tradition.”

Mantashe also rubbished the youth league’s demands for a generational mix in the ANC’s leadership, saying this wasn’t “artificially managed”.

Mantashe is 69 years old. Some of the most successful members of government are new generation and include Sports minister Fikile Mbalula, Public Enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba and the deputy minister of communications Stella Ndabeni.

The league has been pushing its former leader, Mbalula, as a candidate for Mantashe’s position under the banner of generational mix.

Since campaigning successfully for Zuma to be elected ANC president in 2007 and lobbying for Mbeki to be removed from the presidency, the league has claimed the title of kingmaker.

City Press polled the opinion of former league leaders on this.

Lulu Johnson said the league explicitly claiming the title was something new.

In his time “we were kingmakers, but we did not crown ourselves. We were convincing through arguments, but not threatening, as is currently the case,” he said.

But former Eastern Cape youth league leader Andile Nkuhlu disagreed. He said the ANC needed leaders who could understand the current challenges.

The role of the youth league is to “radicalise the ANC. This is what earned the league the title of a kingmaker,” he said.

“That’s why even at the height of the Polokwane campaigns there was no attempt to muzzle the youth league.” The league at its conference last year boasted an audited membership of 366 000, less than half the one million membership of its mother body.

Malema urged young people to join ANC branches and ensure that they get to the ANC’s Mangaung conference to vote for the league’s choice of leader.

ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise, perceived to be sympathetic to Malema, said at a centenary lecture on Tuesday in Potchefstroom that ANC leaders should nurture the youth.

“When Nelson Mandela was being persuaded to stay longer, he said: ‘I had forgotten how it feels to be 18. The ANC must be led by someone else whose brain is fresher than mine’,” she said.

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