Zuma: We can’t disband youth league again

2014-11-27 06:45

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President Jacob Zuma has strongly defended the ANC’s eleventh hour decision to postpone its youth wing’s elective conference, saying it would otherwise have ended up disbanding the league a second time.

Addressing more than 2 000 mostly enthusiastic and supportive delegates at the opening of the league’s “consultative forum” in Soweto last night, Zuma said the ANC learnt that some delegates were coming to the conference purely to disrupt it.

“We said to the [national task team] can we allow you guys to go on and produce the same thing [as during the 2011 conference] and be put in a painful situation to disband you again? Is that what we are looking for?”

In an unusually frank and well-thought-through speech of just over an hour, a thin-looking but upbeat Zuma said there was “very, very, very serious anger” about the postponement of the elective conference until next year.

“We discussed it [the ANC and the national task team] and said that’s not what we want to see, we want to see a wonderful result,” he said.

He said three provinces would not have been represented at the conference because they did not manage to elect leaders in time.

“Now why do we leave them out? Aren’t we starting another problem? So we thought we should take, together with them, a decision for the sake of the movement,” he said.

“We called the chairpersons and secretaries of the ANC mother body to come because we wanted to consult after having the discussion because we knew the decision we must take is the decision that must have the support of the movement.

“As we were discussing this with that leadership, one of the secretaries from one province said ‘in fact when I left my province, the delegation coming here was at my office, and there were two delegations: one group the delegates, the other one not necessarily ... self-appointed delegates,” he said to loud claps and cheers from delegates.

“These delegates told the provincial secretary he should ‘buy a helmet’ because chairs would be flying at the conference,” Zuma said.

He said some people also wanted to interdict the conference from going ahead.

He said leadership elections caused delegates to be “too excited” because they were “owned” by candidates.

He said the decision was taken so that people could take time to reflect on how the league would move forward from here.

“So the decision is correct. You might feel perhaps as an individual, or a group, this is not correct. If that is the case, you are not putting the organisation first, you are putting yourself first and your friends.

“This is the most correct decision. We are here today, we will not be there tomorrow, [but] the ANC will be here. Let us put the ANC first.”

Zuma said when the ANC was faced with challenges, “our action tells us whether we are ANC complete, or quarter or half”.

He urged delegates to “redeem” the ANC and rebuild it from the ground.

Zuma earlier in the speech admitted that the ANC was in trouble and that members of the party’s national executive committee were very concerned about this. He said they discussed it at their recent meeting last weekend.

“The youth league has been shaken but also the mother body has been shaken,” he said.

“We admit that the organisation is in trouble.”

He said if “everything goes wrong with the ANC, everything will go wrong in this country”.

Zuma said the youth league’s conference, the first after the disbandment of its leadership last year following the expulsion of Julius Malema, was an important one.

There were deafening cheers from delegates as Zuma arrived, and it continued for about 10 minutes or more.

Not all the ANC’s leaders were that lucky, however.

The delegates also reserved cheers for former league leader, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, but there were jeers for ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who is seen as the mastermind behind the postponement of the elective conference.

Mantashe is considered to be opposing the election of fraud accused and national executive committee member Pule Mabe, who, judging by the amount of cheers, had the support of most of the delegates to become league leader.

Delegates, especially those from Gauteng, kept shouting his name as people were speaking.

Congress of South African Students president Collen Malatji also had harsh words for the ANC for postponing the elective conference, saying the league should have more autonomy.

Although no bottles – even plastic ones – were allowed in the conference hall, delegates were in the main well-behaved and orderly.

The conference continues today with closed sessions and policy discussions.

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