The ANC Youth League Is Dead. Can It Ever Revive?

Collen Maine, and Julius Malema

Recent events at Luthuli House, the headquarters of the African National Congress (ANC), have highlighted that the ANC Youth League remains completely lost and rudderless. This is not only a severe indictment against the league’s leadership after Julius Malema, but may point to the reason why youth continue to enjoy such muted influence in the ruling party.

Last week, a small group of ANC Youth League members, reportedly from KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, campaigned outside Luthuli House, calling for the mother body to disband the league’s leadership structure, and for a new conference to be called. This is no small thing, and goes back to the manner in which the ANC expelled the former ANCYL president Julius Malema and his cohort in 2012.

The complaints of this faction are pretty straightforward: the national executive of the ANCYL has failed to bring the league to conference, as it is mandated to. They also say that they are far beyond the 35-year age limit imposed within the league. They are therefore calling on the ANC to take over the administration of the body, and run a national conference so new leadership may be elected.

Of course, it goes without saying that the Youth League should not be in a position where the sitting NEC has long since overstayed its mandated period. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, one of the protesting cabal leaders Ntuthuko Makhombothi outlined the extent of the leadership’s administration. It is apparently unable to even call its own meetings, let alone run the league. The organisation has also been struggling to settle debts, some of which date back to court cases lost by the Malema leadership before he was expelled. (Sadly for the protesters, the ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said that the mother body would not be disbanding the current ANCYL leadership…)

What the leadership of the league seem to have done is to angle for good positions for themselves in the incoming government: the president Collen Maine and deputy president Desmond Moela are now members of parliament, and the secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza is now deputy minister of home affairs in Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet. At a real crisis point in the organisation, the leadership is instead distracted with public service.

To add to this stew: it would seem that the league’s leadership can’t agree to a view that the national conference is in September.

The frustrations of the factions that want the Maine leadership out is completely understandable. It must be galling to see the leadership that collapsed a once-vibrant organisation rewarded with plush government jobs. The conference cannot come soon enough – but ironically, thanks to the way that Malema was expelled, in which an ANC-appointed task team ran the league for a while, the ruling party needs to be careful so as not to undermine the new ANCYL leadership by appearing to compromise its independence.

A compromised Youth League cannot turn the party’s losses amongst the youth into wins anytime soon. The ANC can’t interfere, and further compromise the league in coming years. So the disgruntled have to wait for this current, questionable leadership to do its duty and organise a conference.

In the meantime, the Economic Freedom Fighters are streaking ahead…

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons