I SPEND a decade on Robben Island, fight an epic political battle against a friend turned nemesis and survive corruption charges and a rape trial, only to be undermined by a bunch of township ragamuffins and country bumpkins in what is supposedly my youth league?
This is probably what President Jacob Zuma has been thinking since his faux pax during a televised breakfast event in Port Elizabeth on Friday. In fact, I think his thoughts about the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and its former president (ultimately), Julius Malema, are much more colourful than the insipid ones above. Because this column is read by the finest among us, I will say nothing indelicate or indecorous.
Let me update those of you who were overseas last week. On Friday, Zuma gave some sage advice to the youth league about how it should respond to the decision of the appeals committee of the ANC to uphold Malema’s expulsion.
To be fair to Zuma, given the fact that Malema’s appeal has not been heard yet, he did not use these exact words. All he did was to use words to this effect by advising the league to look for a new president since the current one has come to the end of the disciplinary road.
It is still not clear whether he has youth league treasurer Pule Mabe in mind. To say that the league was incensed by Zuma’s friendly advice is not a credible understatement. Its deputy president, Ronald Lamola, said the league would seek the wise counsel of other ANC leaders about whether there would be any point in going ahead with the appeal after Zuma had made such a disturbingly prophetic statement.
Youth league secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa made some angry noises when he and I were interviewed on radio, but I still don’t know what he was saying.
The response of the not-so-young lions climaxed (platonically) when, in Cape Town of all places, Malema in effect accused the ANC of being a dictatorship. Before I forget, the ANC, through its deeply wounded spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, expressed what to me sounded like disgust with the hyperbole of its errant youth wing.
My objective assessment of the situation — despite rumours that are being spread by some among us that I am on the payroll of an ANC billionaire — both Zuma and his youth league are taking us for a ride.
Since the ANC’s disciplinary process has not run its course yet, Zuma’s statement was improper.
But it is quite rich of the youth league to cry foul when it was the league, a few weeks ago, that preempted the outcome of the ANC’s disciplinary process by declaring in unambiguous terms that Malema would remain in his position irrespective of what the ANC decided.
What we have now is just the further escalation of tensions between the youth league and its father body. Since the tensions are partly about a clash between distinction (factionalism) and cohesion, Zuma and his former storm troopers must be careful not to find themselves being undermined by another tension – the tension between sectional (factional) interests and organisational interests.
Ostensibly, the disciplinary process is about the enhancement of party cohesion.
In reality, however, the disciplinary process is the sideshow and internal ANC battles are the main attraction. If I am correct, the tension between the factional and the organisational will play itself out inside both the youth league and the ANC.
In other words, Zuma and the youth league must not think that it is only the external dynamic — the battle between Zuma and a faction in the youth league — that will determine the outcome of the disagreement between the league and the ANC. The possibility is that it will cause divisions in both.
Malema and Zuma must remember that there is a limit to the willingness of politicians to sacrifice their careers for another.
Furthermore, Malema must remember that the fall of one politician is an opportunity for others.
But Zuma must not forget that most of those who opposed him in Polokwane will be in Mangaung.
• Matshiqi is senior research associate at the Centre for Policy Studies.
Article source: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=167731