Having a party with the state

2011-09-17 00:00

THE National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) wants to show that it is acting decisively to tackle youth unemployment. Its latest scheme is a nationwide series of road shows, targeting jobless graduates.

So, what’s the plan? Extra training? Imparting interview skills? Nah!

The NYDA will physically collect from the graduates their CVs, then enter them into its database to match them with existing government jobs at local, provincial and national government departments. Not a single new job created and plenty of money and effort squandered.

All, however, to be expected from the agency that has been derisively dubbed the ANC Youth League’s employment bureau. The NYDA was created in 2009 through the Frankenstein-like merger of the notoriously profligate Youth Commission and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, which had frittered away about a billion or so rands doing, um, very little.

The NYDA has a three-year budget of R1,22 billion, but wants “at least” R600 million a year more. Well, overheads are high, with the lavish salaries to the many ANC cadres that it keeps in sushi and Breitling watches.

Its CEO — who was the ANCYL’s deputy secretary-general until June — earns R1,8 million annually. Executive chair Andile Lungisa — the former ANCYL deputy president — scrapes by on R800 000 a year. Most of the 63 members of its provincial advisory boards were also drawn from the ANCYL and a provincial chairperson’s salary edges on three-quarters of a million.

Although set up by President Jacob Zuma’s administration, the NYDA is proving to be less than grateful . The agency’s increasingly militant rhetoric is a reflection of the symbiotic relationship between the NYDA and the ANCYL.

A government that provides sheltered state employment for its office bearers will eventually be faced with the usurpment of state structures to fight party-political battles. This is what is happening, as ANCYL president Julius Malema marshals agencies like the NYDA in his battle to oust Zuma.

Last month, Lungisa caused a kerfuffle by threatening to make South Africa “ungovernable” with street protests over youth unemployment, and warning a nervous group of Black Management Forum executives that “if there is a cheese in your fridge [the protestors] are going to take it”.

The problem with South Africa, according to Lungisa, is that it has the “weakest leadership ever” on the continent, and it is dominated by a “Stellenbosch Mafia” of wealthy white families who object to nationalisation.

Lungisa, predictably, claims he was misquoted. He was merely promising that the NYDA would support peaceful ANCYL protests.

More recently, the NYDA and the Department of Trade and Industry ministry chose to co-host a conference on gender issues and “structural oppression” with the ANCYL.

Such erosions of the boundary between state and party have become so commonplace as to go unnoticed. It is, however, a serious problem when a senior public servant feels free to bad-mouth the nation’s leader, threaten insurrection and mobilise a state agency in support of a political party’s agenda. If unchecked, this is a step along the path to a military coup d’état.

But in response to this week’s call by the Democratic Alliance for disciplinary action against Lungisa, Zuma hedged that it all depends on whether Lungisa made the statement in his capacity as NYDA chair, or as an ordinary ANC member. This is classic Zuma, the equivocation of an embattled president who does not want to fight on two fronts.

At one stage, Lungisa was the man who Zuma supporters had backed to unseat an out-of-favour Malema in the ANCYL elections this year. Not only did Lungisa fail to do so — Malema was elected unopposed — but Malema appears to have induced him to switch sides.

Despite being neither young, nor a graduate, nor as yet unemployed, Zuma might want to keep his own CV updated and at hand.


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