Mbalula can’t say if Malema will be back

2012-09-29 14:16

On the eve of the ANC opening its leadership nominations, Carien du Plessis spoke to Sports Minister and former ANC Youth League leader Fikile Mbalula about the run-up to the party’s elective congress in Mangaung in December.

Do you think the ANC’s nominations should have opened earlier?
The debate has ensued and the horses have bolted.

People are doing all sorts of indications, sign language indicating change, and indicating the second term, not even the status quo. Nobody has called us to order.

We must have a decent debate and people must learn to persuade each other.

If you make leadership debates a taboo and you discuss it underground, that is when all the wrong people will rise to the occasion and will be elected on the basis of numbers.

It could be that out of a process of a debate and a nominations process we don’t have another school winning against the other, that we have a process to the point where there is no necessity to contest at all.

But that cannot arise on its own.

Nominations are opening on Monday. Are two months too short for a debate?
I can’t say whether the time is too short.

I am not a technocrat, but as a member of the ANC I know that these debates have long started. So people have made up their minds.

The open process is just for them to espouse their choices and the proper politics. And in this instance may the politics win, not the slates.

But this is a most welcome period in which branches of the organisation – this is their time to basically voice formally what they think about leadership and make their scrutiny of leaders of the movement.

The ANCYL has resolved to nominate you for secretary-general. Did they speak too early and out of turn?
The youth league is an organisation, it is not a branch. At its congress it can take any decision and they took a decision in their congress.

I understand that they have to influence structures of the ANC in order for it to become a decision of the ANC.

Their congress took a decision with full understanding that the nominations’ process is not open. Now it’s open, they can test their views with others in ANC structures.

But will you be able to turn down the youth league’s call?
The youth league has not approached me formally to stand, but my position on this matter is very clear.

It is not for me to make that choice on where I want to be. It is un-ANC and I am not going to be the first to break that record.

If others want to do it, let them do it.

I will seek advice from my peers and from the veterans if I am approached about that particular issue (by branches).

I will also measure as to whether if I’m ready for that position. Until then it’s hasta la victoria siempre (“until victory, always”).


Do you think it is foolish to contest an incumbent secretary-general like Gwede Mantashe?

I don’t want to speak about the machinations of contestation and whether or not a position can be contested or not.

The lobbying process in the organisation is exciting yet tenuous.

I am not lobbying for anything. Those who are lobbying are the ones that must be engaged about it.

I’m not a type of person who is a Johnny-come-lately who thinks leadership is everything and if you don’t get it, that’s the end of life. That’s not the case.

I understand this and I understand that I don’t choose for myself.

As much as there are people who love me, there are those who actually don’t like me.

As much as there are others who see potential in me, there are those who don’t see it. And there are those who see it not in the near future but in the longer term, and I’m very much alive to that.

All I know is that I’m ready to serve, and that is the point. So to me leadership is not alpha and omega.

The war is over, we are in a democratic process; this is a democratic debate and this is our ANC.

Let the masses speak. Don’t talk about guns in an era of peace, and in an era of war, you are nowhere to be found.

Do you think the ideal would be a compromise on leadership in Mangaung instead of a contest?

I don’t subscribe to a tendency of convenience of issues. I subscribe to a unity of purpose.

Unity is paramount. Unity is key to the survival of our struggles and the survival of the ANC.

The purpose of unity is brought out of robustness.

It is not called upon out of convenience because convenience has not unified any organisation, especially a revolutionary party like the ANC.

But convenience has actually killed most political parties because it has blinded us from our own weaknesses.

We must engage in a robust political process and exhaust organisational democracy to the last.

It is not a foregone conclusion that things will remain the way they are unless they run the ANC in other ways that we don’t know.

Do you think Zuma has been doing a good job and do you think he should continue as president of the country?

President Zuma was not put there by me, as much as I championed the cause.

He is my president, I will defend him till the end in Mangaung.

I will never actually say the president who leads us is basically a weakness, but the president won’t be immune from scrutiny and public debate about his ability to lead us in the ANC.

And it will be debated by branches. It is not my call.

Do you think the expulsion and suspension of ANCYL members has weakened the league?
I think for young people the experience of being expelled is traumatic so they have to be imbued with the understanding that having people expelled in the organisation or suspended is not the end of the road.

We, too, have never been exposed to that in history. It is the first time that this has happened in the youth league with its autonomy and all that.

But it is part and parcel of history now.

The league will account to (their) congress about what happened; that their leadership in the middle of their term was subjected to a disciplinary hearing and their (ANC) leadership expelled them.

That was part of the tragedy that faced them in the term of office so they have got to soldier on.

Do you think Julius Malema will be back in our lifetime?

I cannot make that determination.

Unfortunately I’m not a witch-doctor or a fortune-teller who can say.

What I know is that he is an expelled member of the ANC. I don’t know (if he will come back). But in politics, everything is possible.

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