At a briefing held at Luthuli House on Wednesday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe revealed the names of the 22 people selected to the task team that will rebuild the ANC Youth League.
Although lacking in big names, the task team is heavy on technically skilled young people, and this appears to have been deliberate.
The executive of the ANC Youth League, which had grown increasingly critical of President Jacob Zuma over the past two years, was disbanded last month, in what some saw as a purge of those who opposed Zuma during the party’s elective conference.
Zuma later said the executive was disbanded on account of “continued ill-disciplined behaviour that brought the organisation into disrepute on numerous occasions”.
The national task team has been given a mandate to perform an assessment of the youth league, building the league at branch, regional and provincial levels, and preparing for a national conference.
Earlier this year interested individuals were asked to submit their CVs to Luthuli House for consideration for selection to the task team.
Mantashe said the team was selected based on their leadership skills, understanding of the ANC and ANC Youth League and their “reputable character”. He did not elaborate on how the members of the task team were selected.
Recycling Mantashe said the national executive council had avoided selecting members who have been in leadership positions of the ANC Youth League at national level.
“We have avoided massive recycling of the past leadership. We said lets avoid that, it will create problems for us,” he said.
Mantashe also refrained from including youth league members who were now campaigning for the vacant positions.
“We also want to allow space to those who want to stand at the next national conference to do their ground work without the burden of being in the interim structure,” he said.
The task team includes Shaka Sisulu, son of the speaker for Parliament Max Sisulu, a radio presenter, business graduate and founder of a youth-focused nongovernmental organisation, and Braam Hanekom, a refugee rights advocate and the founder of the NGO People against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty. He is also the nephew of Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.
Other memebers Several members are drawn from organisations such as the Young Communist League, South African Students Congress and the South African Youth Council.
The task team will be headed by Mzwandile Masina, who will serve as convenor. Masina is an ANC member from Ekhuruleni, recently named head of the Gauteng Film Commission.
Magasela Mzobe, a youth league member from KwaZulu-Natal and former secretary general of the South African Students Congress, who now works with the provincial health department, will serve as the group’s coordinator.
The task team will work closely with three members of the party’s national executive committee – Mcebisi Skwatsha, David Mahlobo and Pinky Moloi – to fulfill its mandate.
“All three of them are graduates of the ANC Youth League and therefore have a depth of understanding of the youth league,” he said.
One of the issues that the task team would address is the verification of membership.
“[This] will also ensure that we deal with the culture that has crept into the movement of bulk buying of membership in preparation for conferences in order to increase the opportunity for members to be elected,” he said.
Restoring the youth league Deputy secretary general of the ANC Jessie Duarte also said that the task team would also concern itself with restoring the youth league organisationally.
“Our assessment is that at the level of branches throughout the country there are quite strong branches of the youth league, although we need to do proper auditing of those branches. The regions of the youth league and the sub-regions of the youth league will need some attention of the [national task team],” she said.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said the NEC was “clearly trying to develop a neutral technical finding committee that respects the NEC” and that the nature of the makeup of the task team showed an attempt to “depoliticise” the incident
This tactic was “dubious”, he said, as the problems that plagued the youth league for the past few years were merely being deferred.
“The problem [with the youth league] was particularly nasty form of factional politics in which if you were of a particular faction, it was fine to use every method, fair or unfair use of money, chasing opponents out of halls and ignoring court orders. And that’s what’s got to be cleaned up,” he said.
“The obvious question is, is a group of fairly unknown youth league members and middle-ranking NEC members able to sort out that problem? I don’t think it would,” he said.
Still members Analyst Ebrahim Fakir pointed out that while the NEC precluded existing members of the youth league’s executive from the task team, this did not mean they could not hold positions again in future.
“Some of those people may still want to contest the election. Many of them remain members of the youth league,” he said.
He also warned that the task team in itself was unlikely to be able to change the political culture entrenched at the youth league, typified by factionalism, the seeking of personal enrichment and promises of political office down the line.
“No task team no matter how strong and good they are can change the culture of a political party,” he said.
“Political culture is never changed by a blunt instrument like a task team.”
Instead, he said, two changes needed to be addressed before change could be seen in the youth league: a moral and ethical change in the league and the party, and a societal change, which would ensure that social mobility and a decent life can be attained through professional and technical skills, instead of merely through politics. M&G