ANC chairperson in KZN Sihle Zikalala slammed the ANCYL, calling the Youth League 'disrespectful' to the party's leadership. Picture: Independent Media

Durban – The culture of disrespect that is now entrenched in the ANC Youth League can be traced back to the behaviour of ANC members leading to the Polokwane conference in 2007.

This is according to ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala, who added that the fierce contestation between President Jacob Zuma and his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was allowed to get out of hand.

Zikalala said in the 90s, youth league members had high regard for the leadership of the party, but that was “completely” eroded by the 2007 conference.

“Going to that conference, we saw a number of challenges which have never been seen before in the ANC,” he said.

Zikalala said as Zuma and Mbeki supporters were campaigning they forgot about the interests of the ANC.

“We saw members of the ANC burning the T-shirts of the then president of the ANC (Mbeki). We saw members of the ANC leaving (the) reburial of the stalwart of the ANC when the then president was addressing them.”

He was referring to an incident where Zuma supporters walked out of Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg while Mbeki was delivering a speech during the reburial of SACP stalwart Moses Mabhida in November 2006.

He said the current leadership and members of the youth league were still young in 2007, thus did not know much about the ANC.

“When they arrived in the ANC, it was no longer the ANC of the ‘90s. They are people who know that it was a culture in the ANC to disrupt. They know that it was a culture of the ANC to be rude to the leadership,” said Zikalala.

Leading up to the Polokwane conference, the youth league under the leadership of Julius Malema, who is now the EFF leader, was vigorously campaigning for Zuma.

Zikalala said the way Zuma’s campaign was conducted was a mistake because it brought about a culture of disrespect.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has twice called the youth league leadership in the province to order after it had insisted on pronouncing the African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as the preferred leader to succeed Zuma, despite the ANC putting a lid on the succession debate.

KZN youth league secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo said he was not aware of what Zikalala was talking about.

“I am sure he was not referring to us,” he said.

He said they were called into order about succession they were not accused of being disrespectful.

He said when they were asked to desist from the succession debate, which was putting the ANC into a difficult position, they complied. “There is nowhere we have been disrespectful. We are definitely different from that (Malema leadership).”

The Mercury