Youth league conference falls apart

2014-11-30 15:00

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The ANC Youth League’s “consultative conference” collapsed a day early amid fears of violent disruptions, court action and escalating costs.

Members of the league’s now-disbanded national task team were summoned on Friday morning to the conference venue at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus and told by former convenor Mzwandile Masina that the gathering would not continue for “logistical reasons”.

Insiders told City Press the ANC called off the gathering because there were indications it could degenerate into violence. The conference was originally meant to elect a leadership for the youth league, which has been rudderless since its national executive was disbanded a year ago. The disbandment followed the expulsion of former president Julius Malema and some of his lieutenants a year earlier.

But on Monday, President Jacob Zuma told members of the national task team that the ANC leadership had decided to downgrade it to consultative conference.

Many saw this as a bid by the national leadership to prevent former treasurer Pule Mabe from being elected president.

On Wednesday, Zuma explained to delegates that the decision had been made because he and other leaders foresaw violence.

But the changed mandate did little to ease the tension as delegates insulted each other and jeered national leaders, in particular secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Mantashe is highly unpopular among youth league members, who blame his alleged meddling for much of organisation’s woes.

By the end of the week, leaders feared that the rising tension would boil over into violent conflict. The tension was evident when a Thursday night session held to discuss the organisation ran into the early hours of Friday morning.

ANC Youth League Gauteng secretary Bonisile Modise said the late-night marathon meeting had messed up the Friday sessions. Commissions were due to start at 9am on Friday, but delegates had still not arrived after 10am.

“So the best thing to do was to release delegates and go home,” Modise said.

But another Gauteng delegate said the leaders had deliberately collapsed the conference.

He said there was a strong likelihood that Friday would have seen a repeat of the chair-throwing scenes that characterised provincial conferences that preceded the national gathering.

“The night before [Thursday night], there was a long debate on the organisational report. People who disagreed with the organisational report were told they were bought,” the delegate said.

This angered delegates from, among other areas, Gauteng, who were backing Mabe for the presidency.

“They collapsed it because they were scared to come back. Nobody wanted to adopt the [organisational] report on a factional basis.”

The second delegate said some Mabe supporters might have used the Friday plenary session to push for the age limit to be raised from 35 to 40 to enable him to run when the organisation holds its elective conference next year. He will be 35 then and therefore not eligible.

“If it [the age limit proposal] had passed through commissions and come to plenary, the likelihood of chairs flying was very big,” the delegate said.

The issues that would have been discussed in commissions will now be discussed in the regions and provinces, he said.

An organiser said an additional concern was that running the conference until Saturday at R6?million a day for accommodation and the venue would have been too expensive.

There were also concerns about court action planned by those unhappy about the cancellation of the elections.

The national task team was disbanded on Friday and next year’s elective conference will now be organised by a team comprising the league’s provincial secretaries, chairs, provincial task team leaders and five ANC national executive committee members.

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