Who's to blame for failed ANCYL conference?

ANC Youth League members. (File, News24)
ANC Youth League members. (File, News24)

The ANC Youth League and its mother body the ANC are pointing fingers at each other, refusing to accept responsibility over another postponed league conference.

The league was expected to hold its 26th national conference next week, yet no accreditation, invitations to delegates, accommodation or even buses have been booked.

Different reasons for yet another failed conference attempt have been given, leaving some members debating if the ANCYL should go to conference after the 2019 general elections or the ANC’s national executive committee should consider disbanding it all over again.

The current crop of leaders, who are often lambasted for failing to rally young people behind the ANC, were elected in 2015 after the party disbanded the league’s executive in 2012.

They were supposed to have handed over the league to new leadership in September.

Media reports have said the ANCYL was not going ahead with its conference because its branches failed to meet the 70% threshold to do so, however outgoing secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza said this was not true.

"We would have met quorum. Three-thousand-one hundred branches are required for a conference and according to records from provincial secretaries it shows that we were at 2 986 last month," said Nzuza to News24.

He said the only reason why new leaders cannot be elected yet was because the ANC refused to pay for their conference.

"The major issue here is the financing of the conference. We were organisationally ready but in terms of logistics, booking venues, the ANC was not forthcoming."

Nzuza said the ANC told the league that its finances were tied up in next month’s January 8 birthday celebrations and the manifesto launch, both of which are happening in KwaZulu-Natal.

Read: Outgoing ANCYL's Nzuza says he is grateful the league had 'not died in our hands'

"The ANC has always been central in the holding of our conference, there is no money from our side," Nzuza said.

But ANC deputy head of organising and acting spokesperson Dakota Legoete, who is also part of a task team appointed to assist the league hold its conference, said none of Nzuza's claims were true.

He said the ANC has never refused to pay for the league’s conference and was instead waiting on the ANCYL so it can assist its "young lions".

"I think the league comrades talking to you need to be honest, in that all the necessary requirements needed before they go to conference have not been met," said Legoete.

"There is no way that we can pay for fruitless expenditure as the ANC, for a conference that is not going to sit," added the acting spokesperson of the governing party.

Legoete told News24 the ANC was still waiting on the youth league to produce a report on its state of readiness, final audit of its branches, discussion documents or even inputs from its members and the public on a number of issues relating to challenges young people were currently facing in South Africa.

Also read: ANC Youth League conference postponed (again)

"We are very clear that this is the preparatory school of the ANC, all of us myself, (Fikile) Mbalula, Zizi (Kodwa) and the late president (Nelson) Mandela, all of us were once ANCYL leaders and that is how we came to lead the ANC… there is no way that the ANC can fail its youth league," he said.

ANCYL president Collen Maine seemed to share the views of the organisation’s mother-body. He told News24 they were currently waiting for the NEC to "express itself" on the matter.

The NEC was expected to deliberate over this issue on Friday, ahead of the national list conference. Both events have since been postponed to next year.

"It's obvious we can’t hold conference, we had been given a deadline of December and we still haven’t met threshold," said the ANCYL president when asked of its current challenges.

Maine, when asked if the numerous postponements and failure to take the league to conference should be seen as he and his executive's inability to lead the organisation, said it was not about them.

"This is not about my leadership but about what is in the best interest of the league itself," he said.

Delays not about the list conference

Both Maine and Nzuza have denied that they were failing to take the league to its conference in the hope to have a say over which young people should be deployed to the national assembly and the provincial legislatures during the list conference.

"If that was the case the congress would sit immediately after the list processes were complete, it would have continued but those are just lies to derail issues," Nzuza said.

He insisted the league had done all it could to secure funding from the ANC, and that it is only reason why it could not hold its elective conference.

The ANCYL secretary said he had even approached institutions of higher learning in a bid to reduce cost but "the ANC said no".

To disband or not disband

While leaders in the league seem divided on why they cannot take its members to conference, some in the organisation have been debating whether it would be best to start from scratch.

Others have blamed the task team led by ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s office to assist getting the league to conference, saying the elders were looking out for their own interests and trying to secure a win for their own preferred candidates.

"The reason those people could not help us is because they are not impartial. They have way to many interests," one ANCYL insider told News24.

Read more: A postponed conference, a new party: what does the future hold?

Another said it was simply not up to the ANCYL to decide whether it should be dissolved or not, while others blamed the 2012 decision for the current challenges its facing.

Nzuza said the decision to disband the league purely because it could not sit for conference would set a bad precedent.

"I do not think it will help the ANC, the premise that it moves on is that when structures are past their term of office they should be disbanded, that sets a dangerous precedent,” observed the league secretary.

"We will have a situation where the ANC after every 3 years disbands its league," he warned.

Legoete when asked about this possibility said it was not yet on the cards.

"For now, we can’t talk disbandment, we can’t talk whatever until we receive the official report of the youth league, till they tell us about their state of readiness for the conference and upon that time the NEC can either decide to strengthen the current youth league or to disband them or whatever," he said.

"That decision lies with the NEC," added Legoete.

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