Maile takes on Juju

2011-05-21 17:21

Gauteng ANC Youth League leader Lebogang Maile has ended months of speculation over whether or not he will challenge Julius Malema for the league’s top job, telling City Press: “I’m running for president.”

Speaking through his chief campaigner, Mzwandile Masina, the 31-year-old Maile said his decision to run would surprise many as it was not in keeping with party principles to challenge a sitting president.

His reasons for doing it was two-fold.

Maile said he had been “lobbied by several structures to stand” and while not all of the league’s branches had finalised their nominations, he said what he was hearing was a “desire for change”.

He said the second issue that informed his decision was that he had been offered an olive branch by Malema earlier this month.

According to both Maile and Masina, who was with him on the night in question, Malema sent two of his righthand men – Pule Mabe, the current treasurer-general of the youth league, and Floyd Shivambu, the league’s spokesperson – on a fact-finding mission a fortnight ago.

They wanted to know if Maile would consider aligning with Malema rather than challenging him for the presidency.

The encounter took place at Neh Club in Sandton on May 8, when Malema brought ANC heavyweights Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane to campaign in Alexandra, the township Maile comes from.

There was method to their madness, Mabe and Shivambu allegedly told Maile. Even though they claimed Malema would win the June election easily, they argued that it would make more sense for him and Maile to join forces so that they could project “a united league in order to mount a powerful challenge in the ANC 2012 elective conference, says Masina.

Maile says he interpreted their comments as “a plan to hijack the ANC”, something he says he cannot do.

Though he didn’t consider Malema’s alleged offer that day, he says now that he has decided to run as there is “no chance of an alignment” with Malema.

“Those comments are taken out of context,” Shivambu said yesterday.

“There was no formal conversation. It was us expressing a belief that there is no political basis for contest when it comes to the presidency of the youth league.

“There was no deal making and no intention to start a deal making process.

“But I did speak to Paul (Mashatile),” he said, “and told him there is no need for Lebogang to stand and he agreed with me.”

Mabe could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Maile’s decision to declare his hand comes at a time when Malema has never looked stronger.

As last week’s campaign for the local elections came to a close, he had emerged as a rising strongman in the ANC after relentless electioneering on his part throughout the country.

Hardly a day went by when he didn’t feature on television, radio or in the media as the new face of the ANC.

His performance during the hate speech trial some weeks back only added to his growing profile.

However, behind the scenes Malema has been busy fighting off his challenger and trying to keep mounting dissent at bay.

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