The emergence of a new pecking order in the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has set the wheels in motion for the province to take back its kingmaker status in the party.And it is the province’s ANC Youth League – not the seniors – that is calling the shots. The young lions came out on top at this weekend’s ANC provincial elective conference, with three of their top picks bagging the top five spots.The newly elected secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, deputy secretary Sipho Hlomuka and chairperson Sihle Zikalala are all products of the youth league. Their elevation heralds a change of order.The other two to get the nod for the top five are Nomusa Dube-Ncube, who was elected uncontested as treasurer, and Mike Mabuyakhulu, who beat Premier Willies Mchunu for the deputy chairperson position.The Young Turks ousted the old guard who were calling for the status quo of the doomed 2015 conference to remain. That faction includes Mchunu, former secretary Super Zuma and eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, all staunch allies of former president Jacob Zuma.The youth league victory is a result of a concerted nationwide push within the ANC for young leaders to occupy key positions in the party.In a no-holds-barred address to delegates on the eve of conference on Wednesday, Ntuli talked about KwaZulu-Natal’s ambitions ahead of the ANC’s next elective conference in 2022.“I want to assure you of the youth league that are here, what makes KwaZulu-Natal a force to be reckoned with is our unity. If we want to have an impact and elect a president of our choice from our own province, we must be united,” Ntuli said to rapturous applause.“Once you have made a decision that you are going to commit to that direction you must not deviate from that. I know we who are in the leadership of the ANC and might be lucky to be elected [in the future], what we will avoid at all costs is a situation where we allow differences that compromise KwaZulu-Natal as happened in 2017. “If we are not united, the people we propose for leadership will not be taken seriously. Once we take a decision you must look in that direction, you must be loyal in its execution.”Ntuli’s supporters were aggrieved with the opening address made by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule on Thursday evening in which he said young leaders should be patient and allow themselves to be “guided” and “nurtured”. They accused him of seeking to “decampaign” Ntuli. Responding to Magashule’s comments, ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula rallied behind the youth. “I think the next president of the ANC will come from the age group of the fifties, for once,” said Mbalula, before quickly pointing out that he, personally, was not ambitious.“Not me, personally, but I think the next ANC president must come from that crop. That’s my ambition and, if the youth league is driving that agenda, look, I’m 100% behind them. But it does not mean that we must be ageist and start talking about cropping out old people.”He said the youth league should “fight for what is right” and “must not be apologetic and threatened by the ANC leadership about fighting for the centrality of the youth”.He told the City Press on the sidelines of the conference: “The voters out there and the leadership are getting younger, so it is the responsibility of the youth league to dynamise the ANC.”“As young people emerge, they emerge to work together with the old people and that is in line with [the] character or the principle of continuity and change. It's not that you have young people only, but you have some of us who are old. To be 45 is a bit advance[d]. But you have others who are in the organization and they are old. Therefore, the old are working with the young ones," said Zikalala.“The plan of the ANC is to maximize unity, to ensure that the ANC becomes more effective in issues of the community and therefore we will have that drive that positions the ANC in a manner that is outward looking than dealing with internal issues,” he said.This weekend’s conference places Gumede, who is also the chairperson of the powerful eThekwini region, in an untenable position. She will be fighting for her survival in the lead up to the eThekwini regional conference in December.During her welcoming address as the host region, Gumede preached unity. “The whole nation is looking forward to a united KwaZulu-Natal. Our people are tired of our fights. As delegates let us avoid being part of squabbles and factions. We don’t want to go back to the era of divisions. It was the worst period and we learnt our lessons.”Lobbyists of the “status quo” faction said the emergence of the youth league’s agenda was a blow for Gumede as her political future was now in limbo.City Press understands that there were numerous attempts to reconcile the youth league and “status quo” faction, with the latter group suggesting that Ntuli take up the position of deputy chairperson and leave Super Zuma in place as secretary. But Ntuli’s lobbyists were confident of their numbers and rejected the overture.In his pre-conference address, a fiery Ntuli called time on the old-guard’s reign. In what appeared to be a veiled attack on Gumede, Mchunu and Zuma, the former provincial spokesperson launched a scathing attack on those he said were using state resources to hold ANC members to ransom.He said some eThekwini delegates had been threatened with their livelihoods should they align themselves with him.“They are fearful to confront the status quo because the generals and commanders of the status quo also command the resources of the state. We can’t allow that. We can’t allow a leadership of the ANC that is followed because it can offer something. A new leadership might not be willing to safeguard my chaos. What we are going to have to do, if we are to defend our revolution, is to refuse to defend chaos.”“We have been mandated and instructed by true national leadership on the address of the president, Cyril Ramaphosa, that our attention must be on the election campaign. So this conference directed us to swiftly move and concentrate on what we do in relation to the election campaign,” said Zikalala.