ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leaders Pule Mabe and Julius Malema have a lot in common. Both have a taste for the finer things in life. Both were once members, albeit at different times, on the ANC’s volunteer programme, Masupatsela, and both are serving their second term in office since their election in the controversial Mangaung conference in 2008 where a delegate flashed his buttocks to the cameras at the event.
Mabe was elected treasurer and Malema president.
Recently, though, Mabe has been vilified for apparently harbouring hopes of becoming youth league leader should the ANC national disciplinary committee of appeals uphold Malema’s expulsion.
However, Mabe has denied that he has ambitions to succeed Malema, who was found guilty of sowing divisions and bringing the ANC into disrepute.
Malema was subsequently expelled from the ANC but he has since appealed, saying the dismissal was so severe that it shocked him.
Mabe was also charged for barging into a meeting of top ANC officials at Luthuli House in August last year.
President Jacob Zuma was in that meeting. The ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals cleared him.
Mabe is a former journalist for the Mail & Guardian, where he started his journalism career.
From there, he moved on to better things. He joined the government as a spokesman, moved to Metrorail and was, in April 2008, elected ANC Youth League treasurer.
It is this job – which entailed managing the controversial Lembede Investment Holdings, the youth league’s investment arm – and raising funds for the league that threw Mabe, from relative obscurity in journalism, into the limelight.
Interestingly, it is this attempt to raise funds for the league that got Mabe into trouble.
A youth league member from KwaZulu-Natal called party secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa and complained that Mabe was in the province and did not inform them that he was coming.
Magaqa confronted Mabe, asking him what “his business in the province” was.
Mabe’s visit to KwaZulu-Natal was interpreted as his bid to campaign to unseat Malema.
For two years since 1999, Mabe served as deputy president of the SRC at the then Technikon Northern Gauteng (now part of the Tshwane University of Technology), where he studied journalism.
He was also a member of the national executive committee of the SA Technikon Students’ Union.
While studying, Mabe was editor-in-chief of a campus newspaper, TNT Update.
He is the founder of KG Media, a company that publishes Kwela Express, a bi-weekly newspaper distributed free to thousands of Metrorail passengers nationally.
In an interview with a weekend paper, Mabe revealed, reluctantly, that he was driving that de rigueur vehicle of the new elite – a black BMW X5. However, it appears the X5 has since made way for a Mercedes-Benz.
One thing is certain though, the relationship between Malema and Mabe has taken a knock, despite their shared love of finer things in life.
When did you decide that politics was for you?
I joined Masupatsela – the ANC pioneer movement – when I was a pupil at Namakgale Combined Primary School (in Limpopo) because our street was host to most trade unionists and activists in the township.
I found myself following and carrying their bags when they went to meetings until I was introduced to Struggle songs and given minor responsibilities as a pioneer officer of the ANCYL of the Phalaborwa branch in the early 1990s.
If you were not a politician, or an activist, what would you be doing?
Writing stage plays and doing community development work.
Describe yourself in three words?
Loving, caring and peaceful.
What music are you currently listening to?
Afro-jazz, kwaito and local house music.
What is the most extravagant item you have purchased?
A sculpture for my late mom.
When was the happiest day of your life?
When I gave my son, Kgothatso, a name, which will be my lifetime comfort.
What are your views on sport?
Sport keeps people, especially the youth, from trouble.
What or who inspires you?
My late grandmother. She was the first African woman to work at the Phalabora Mining Company in the mid-1960s. She had a strong character and did everything in her power to make sure that we survived.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
In February 1990, on the day Mandela was released, I chanted with an excited crowd at the entrance of Namakgale township
What car do you drive?
Describe your ideal Sunday?
Going to church and reading the Bible to my family.
What are you currently reading?
When was the last time you cried?
When I buried my paternal grandmother, she was the last living link from both my paternal and maternal family.
If you were making a film about your life story, who would you like to play you? Why?
Kenneth Nkosi or Rapulana Seiphemo. Despite the hardships of being born disadvantaged, there has been a lot of good times in my life and these two masters can capture the humour perfectly.
What do you like about living in SA?
There is no country like SA in the world. South Africans are a passionate people and every single day history is made in this great country.
What irritates you about this country?
Those people who moan about their condition and threaten to leave the country as if SA will collapse without them. All of us should be committed to building this country.
Who makes you laugh?
My daughter, Naledi
What are you secretly good at?
You must try my pap and mopani worms one day.
What is the most outrageous thing you have ever done?
Bungee jumping with the love of my life at the Victoria Falls.
Where do you like to holiday?
I grew up at the doorsteps of the Kruger National Park in Phalaborwa and, to this day, I still find the place an excellent location for leisure and connecting with mother nature.
Do you use cash or credit card?
Both. It all depends.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Chinua Achebe, Eskia Mphahlele, Oliver Tambo and Julius Nyerere.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who tried to make a difference in other people’s lives, especially the less fortunate.
What is your greatest fear?
As Mark Antony said: “Cowards die many time before their real death.”
If you could edit your life, what would you change?
You can’t edit a script you did not write because life flows like a river. However, I would have appreciated to see my parents nurture their grandchildren, but we have no control over God’s desire.
I’ve come to make peace with the loss.
Where is paradise for you?
When all the objectives of the Freedom Charter have been attained.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
To be disciplined and focused.
What’s your favourite book?
The Lion and The Jewel by Wole Soyinka.
How do you relax?
By having friends and comrades come over to the house and shoot the breeze.
How do you handle stress?
Stress is a necessary evil, it spurs you on.
What is the most important family value you learnt that you will pass on to your children?
What is your favourite hang-out place?
MacNose in Soshanguve Block K. There are no usual suspects (there) and I can reconnect with my former class and varsity mates.