Tensions between the ANC and its youth league spilled over in Khayelitsha on Friday night, with axed ANCYL leader Julius Malema claiming they were not afraid to continue the fight, and that while juniors should respect seniors, this “must not dictate the policy of an organisation”.
They had been “judged without any consideration”, and were being treated as if “we have leprosy”, he added.
Hundreds of people, wearing the trademark Malema berets, had waited hours for his arrival, clashing with ANC members chanting anti-Malema slogans in response to others declaring “we will turn our backs on Zuma”.
In his address, Malema warned the ANC that many of the party’s successes could be attributed to the youth league.
“In the ’80s there was a time when the ANC was effectively dead, and many leaders won’t admit to this. But it was the youth who got impatient with the older leaders, and this led to the creation of the youth league and the ANC was revived and fought the regime,” he said.
Earlier on Friday the ANC and the youth league clashed over comments by President Jacob Zuma, which the league claimed had pre-judged the outcome of Malema’s disciplinary process. Zuma said at a breakfast in Port Elizabeth that the youth league would have to “move forward”.
“It will have to have a new president that will be able to take the organisation forward. I don’t think it’s a crisis,” he added.
Tensions were evident in Khayelitsha from early on Friday afternoon, when Malema was about two hours late at the Khayelitsha Resource Centre.
Security was tight as police in body armour surrounded the building .
A fracas broke out when a group of ANC supporters arrived, taunting Malema supporters with banners bearing messages such as “Free us from Juju” and “We stand by the NDC decision”.
Although they tried to force their way into the meeting, they were kept out by youth league members.
Youth league member Braam Hanekom got into a confrontation with other league members when he praised Zuma and called for the election of a new youth league leader.
“They do not realise that the youth league is a division of the ANC, and not its own body,” Hanekom said.
“They are calling for the head of Jacob Zuma which is clearly an anti-ANC act. At the same time they are calling for Malema to be reinstated as the head of the youth league. We were kicked out for expressing our opinions by calling for a new leader.”
When he arrived, Malema said it was “good to see so much support for the youth league leadership”.
On his pending appeal against his suspension, he said the league was judged “without any consideration”.
“The ANC charged our leaders before they met them. They don’t know the youth league, or their role. The only time they get to know us is when they see us on TV,” said Malema.
Earlier on Friday, following the Port Elizabeth breakfast, the league said it was “terrified and shocked” at Zuma’s comments, which it claimed undermined “the ANC disciplinary processes, whose integrity and fairness is already under question”.
The league also accused the president of “unduly influencing the members of the national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) to come to a conclusion which he has already announced publicly”.
The ANC countered that it was “disgusted” that the youth league had failed to verify the president’s statements, and had consequently issued a “false and inaccurate” public rebuke, which showed no respect for the ANC leadership.
The ANC said later that Zuma’s comments were in answer to the youth league’s pronouncement that it would not remove its leader, even if the appeals committee upheld his expulsion. Zuma’s response – that “should the NDCA uphold the national disciplinary committee ruling, the ANC Youth League will have to appoint a new president” – was “correct”.
“Therefore the president did not pre-empt the current disciplinary process. If anybody has tried to, it is the ANCYL with their public pronouncements of agitating against the findings,” the ANC said.
Zuma’s comments came two months after ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa said at a Limpopo centenary celebration rally that the party did not have “dustbins for its own comrades”.
Zuma’s public statements on Friday drew a swift response from the youth league, which said he was opening a succession debate.
“President Zuma is opening a succession debate in the ANC Youth League, whose congress is in 2014, yet succession debate and the question of who should succeed the current leadership of the ANC, whose conference is eight months away, is banned,” it said.
The ANC, in turn, slammed the league’s lack of respect.
“The ANC is also concerned about the public rebuke of President Zuma by an ANC structure. This shows no respect for the leadership of the ANC. This tendency seems to be frequent when ANC-aligned structures, particularly the ANCYL, attack the leadership of the ANC in public,” it said, adding that the “tone” of the league’s statement underscored this lack of respect.” - Weekend Argus