NYDA gets dumb and dumber

ANCYL deputy president Desmond Moela Pretoria. Picture: Thapelo Maphakela
ANCYL deputy president Desmond Moela Pretoria. Picture: Thapelo Maphakela

Short-listed applicants for board positions on the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) have cited strong ANC credentials, among other qualifications, while one even tried to impress MPs with “revolutional [sic] greetings”.

All did so in the hope of getting the nod for a coveted position in the development agency, which costs the country many millions of rands.

In order to strengthen his position, one top applicant, ANC Youth League (ANCYL) Deputy President Desmond Moela, even boasted that he had been mentored by ANC heavyweights Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

The NYDA is the government’s flagship youth development initiative. With an annual budget of R409 million, of which R209 million went to salaries in 2015/16, it has been mired in controversy, and is being perceived by some as the ANCYL’s private bank and employment agency.

The agency’s board positions have been vacant since March last year, when the term of the outgoing board ended.

Since then, the process of appointing a new board got stuck in ANC party politicking. New appointments have seen several stops and starts over the past year.

Following Parliament’s dumbing down of requirements for seats on the seven-person board, for which previously a post-matric qualification was required, 487 applications were processed.

These have now been whittled down to 14 candidates. They will be interviewed on January 25.

Controversially, Parliament has dropped the requirement for a tertiary degree, stating that such an academic qualification was not required by law.

This was after the ANC Youth League applied intense pressure on the parliamentary committee overseeing the process to drop the requirement.

Opposition parties have been opposed to restarting the process, as well as to the scrapping of the academic requirements, saying the latter was evidence that the agency was being used to deploy unqualified youth league members.

“We reject the new date because on many occasions this Parliament was supposed to appoint the NYDA board.

"But because of internal squabbles in the ANC about deployments, this process has been delayed,” said the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu the day before Parliament closed.

On the same day, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu proposed a new deadline for the ad hoc committee to complete its work.

“What this process has shown” is that the development agency is “nothing else but an employment agency for the youth league and alliance partners”, said DA MP Yusuf Cassim.

The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Parliament was in a state of limbo as far as the agency board was concerned, because of the ongoing tensions in the youth league about deployment.

“We cannot go to the interview process with names in our pockets. Requirements are now being lowered because we want to cherry-pick in accordance with who is earmarked,” he said.

But the ANC’s Philemon Mapulane, who co-chairs the ad hoc committee, said the committee abandoned previous processes because it had been faced with “a variety of litigation [processes]”.

“We thought we should err on the side of caution. This time around, we said we should not come up with any requirements that are outside of what the act prescribes. That’s why we decided that the advert should be like that,” Mapulane added.

Seats on the Youth Development Board – which come with an annual pay packet of almost R1.2 million for the executive board chairperson, just over R1.1 million for the deputy chair, and R465 000 per annum for each of the five nonexecutive directors – are highly contested in ANC Youth League leadership ranks, as they are seen as a gateway to business networks.

Control of the agency has also been a cause of conflict between the youth league and the Young Communist League.

Six ANCYL national executive committee members made it into the last 14 – three of them without any post-matric qualification.

(There are other youth league members on the list, but they don’t necessarily serve in the national leadership.)

ANCYL Deputy President Desmond Moela leads the pack of his organisation’s short-listed candidates.

The dumbing down of qualification requirements is understood to have paved the way for Moela, whom the ANCYL wants as chairperson for the multimillion-rand agency board despite his not being in possession of a post-school qualification.

He was disqualified in the earlier round of nomination, leading the ANCYL to insist on the lowering of standards.

In April 2016, a month after the parliamentary committee excluded him for lack of academic qualifications, the youth league national executive took a resolution that he should be included on the board.

Following this resolution, Parliament restarted the recruitment process, without any explanation, and later dropped the requirement for a post-matric qualification.

Moela’s CV submitted to Parliament reveals that the 34-year-old holds a certificate in supply-chain management from Pro-Active College.

According to the college’s website, this is a four-day course. Moela is also expected to complete a national diploma in Public Management through Unisa this year.

His CV reveals involvement in youth development structures and student politics since the age of 10. He currently works as a director for human resources at the Mpumalanga department of education.

Moela described himself as “a trusted member of the ANC” and said that he had been mentored by Mabuza and Mahlobo, among many other senior leaders in government and the ANC.

Moela was nominated by the ANC Youth League secretary-general, Njabulo Nzuza.

Among his interests, Moela listed being an active supporter of Kaizer Chiefs. He also “loves reading the Bible”, it was revealed.

Zandile Myeni’s application letter addressed to the ad-hoc committee started like this: “Receive my revolutional [sic] greetings.”

Myeni is a member of the National Freedom Party (NFP).

Her CV shows that she previously taught economics and business studies at two high schools, albeit for only four months in each school. She also says she taught at two primary schools.

Myeni was picked by NFP MP Sibusio Mncwabe, who stated that Myeni’s CV met the check list requirements and that she possessed knowledge, skills and experience in leadership and “education in the public sector”.

ANC Youth League NEC member Khomotjo Maimela, a chairlift operator at the Glencore Mototolo Mine, also earned a spot in the last 14.

She possesses an NCV Level 4 certificate in Civil Engineering and Building, from the Mopani FET College in Phalaborwa.

She is now allegedly registered for a BA degree in Governance, Public Administration and Development at Unisa.

Also in the running is the outgoing chairperson of the youth development agency, Yershen Pillay, who is also the chairperson of the Young Communist League. But insiders claim he is most likely to lose out to Moela.

Pillay is credited for turning the agency around and slowing down its spendthrift ways.

Kenny Morolong, who was the deputy chairperson of the outgoing youth development board, and who is also an ANCYL member, again made the cut.

Morolong opposed Collen Maine’s election to the League’s presidency in 2015 and remains outside the dominant faction. He was interviewed in March but was dropped because he lacked a post-matric qualification.

This was challenged by Morolong and his lawyer, the former youth league deputy president, Ronald Lamola, and, faced with legal action, Parliament backed down.

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