Saturday, September 10, 2011

Several ANC Provincial Structures Refuse to Act Against Youth League Protesters

Provinces refuse to act on youth league protesters



President Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe are facing resistance from some provincial leaders to the demand that they discipline the protesters who trashed central Johannesburg and tried to march to Luthuli House in support of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema last week.

ANC insiders said that while the majority of ANC provincial structures had condemned the violent protests by ANC Youth League members, some were unhappy about Luthuli House's handling of the misconduct case against Malema and other ANCYL officials.

As a result, certain ANC provinces are now understood to be refusing to comply with instructions from party headquarters to take action against those involved in the protests.

This week, Gauteng and Limpopo publicly defied Luthuli House's instruction to act against youth league members in their respective provinces.

Their response comes a week after the Mail & Guardian reported that the decision to charge Malema had divided the ANC's top six officials, with Zuma and Mantashe in favour of the charges and deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, treasurer general Mathews Phosa, deputy secretary general Thandi Modise and chairperson Baleka Mbete less enthusiastic.

Only the Eastern Cape and the North West have so far indicated that they will discipline the youth league members involved in the protests.

At least six provinces said there were not prepared to take any action against youth league members, with Western Cape and Free State vowing to strengthen political schools to prepare youth league members as future ANC leaders. Other provinces that said they will not haul their members before a disciplinary committee are; Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape.

"This [political education] is the issue we should all focus on. No sufficient attention was given to political education in the ANC. The DA takes its youth to universities. The ANC need to establish its own political school," said Western Cape provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile.

ANC leaders sympathetic to Malema insist that the charges against the ANCYL leaders are a strategy by Zuma and Mantashe to weaken the league ahead of the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung.

Finding a solution

ANCYL members have indicated that they would prefer Zuma and Mantashe to be replaced by Motlanthe and Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula as president and secretary general respectively.

Some provincial ANC leaders believe that the party's national leadership could have spared the ANC the embarrassment caused by the protests, in which rioters hurled bricks at police and journalists and burned an ANC flag and T-shirts bearing President Zuma's picture.

Several attempts by senior ANC leaders and party structures, such as the party's veterans' league and the (provincial) chairperson's forum, to find a political solution to the standoff between the ANC and the league were unsuccessful, as Zuma and Mantashe stood firm on their decision to discipline Malema and other league officials.

The M&G understands that as tension between the ANC and the ANCYL reached boiling point a few weeks ago over the league's call for regime change in Botswana, the chairperson's forum, led by Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, intervened unsuccessfully to defuse the tension.

According to ANC sources the forum convened an urgent meeting at which it discussed possible political solutions to break the impasse. At the meeting Malema, who was invited to attend, was advised to apologise to the ANC.

This week Mashatile confirmed that the chairpersons' forum had met to discuss the standoff between the ANC and the youth league and that the forum had advised the league to withdraw its statement on Botswana.

However, he rejected claims that it had tried to persuade the ANC's national leadership to find a political solution to the misconduct charges against the league's leaders.

"I have seen in the newspapers that there are attempts to find a political solution," Mashatile said. "In our meeting we raised concerns about what was perceived to be a standoff between the ANC and ANCYL.

"We were briefed by Julius [Malema]. We concluded that it is not correct to have a standoff. We said they [the ANC Youth League] should withdraw their statement [on regime change in Botswana]. We felt it's not right and that they should apologise to the ANC through the secretary general's office.

"There were no charges then, so we did not discuss whether a political solution was needed at that point. Our view is that we respect the leadership's decision."

Damage to ANCYL's image

Mashatile also confirmed to the M&G that the Gauteng provincial executive committee had approached Luthuli House to raise concerns about the likely damage to the ANC's image caused by the youth league's protest against Malema's disciplinary process.

"We were very concerned. We thought it was important to ask the ANC to engage the youth league. Ours was to say, 'engage one another', we did not say they must stop the DC," he said.

"We did not need a situation in which there was going to be a lot of youth league members in the streets protesting against the ANC. We thought it was unprecedented to have ANC structures coming to Luthuli to protest against the ANC. We thought political discussion could defuse the situation."

The ANC in Gauteng said the key principle informing the provincial executive committee's concerns was the emerging tendency of certain ANC members across the country to resort to violent protest, to disrupt ANC meetings and to forcibly occupy and burn down ANC offices and symbols as a way of challenging organisational decisions and processes.

The provincial leaders urged Luthuli House to be consistent in dealing with "these corrosive practices at all levels, without fear or favour".

"The ANC Gauteng provincial leadership is also concerned about the fact that the Johannesburg CBD is brought to a standstill too many times a month by illegal marches and violent protest by civil society organisations and some trade unions [that] have no respect for the rule of law," said ANC provincial secretary David Makhura.

ANC Mpumalanga chairperson David Mabuza said he knew about the chairpersons' meeting but had not attended as he had prior engagements.

As a result, he was not privy to what was discussed regarding the forum's decision to approach Zuma and Mantashe about dropping the charges against Malema and his four colleagues.

"[As] ANC chairpersons, we do meet from time to time and discuss issues of common interest such as our challenges in respective provinces. That specific meeting [about the youth league], I was not able to attend.

"But the fact of the matter is that there is a disciplinary hearing in progress at the moment and it would be incorrect for me to comment on the hearing," said Mabuza.

A source close to KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Zweli Mkhize said he had attended the meeting and was in favour of resolving the dispute internally. Mkhize's spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said: "Zweli Mkhize prefers not to comment on these issues."

ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said that while the provincial executive committee condemned the violent protest by ANCYL members it would prefer Luthuli House, rather than provincial structures, to act against those involved.

Limpopo ANC chairperson Cassel Mathale confirmed that the abovementioned chairpersons' meeting had taken place, but denied that the leaders discussed a "political solution".

"We had a discussion about the youth league, but no one had been charged or was appearing before a disciplinary committee at the time. There couldn't have been such proposals because there was no DC," he said.

Mathale said the province was not planning to intervene while DC process is underway.

"The ANC has taken a decision to refer the matter of the officials of the youth league to a disciplinary committee and we cannot intervene," he said.

The Limpopo ANC announced this week that it would not charge any youth league members, in spite of allegations that the majority of the protesters came from the province and had brought stones with them. A spokesperson said matters of discipline were a national competence.

North West chairperson Supra Mahumapelo said he was unable to attend the meeting, but knew about it. "I didn't attend, so I cannot talk about the discussions that took place," he said.

He said that he was, however, briefed on its outcome.

Mahumapelo said the North West had heeded Luthuli House's call to take action against unruly members. "We have identified some in the papers and are finalising the appropriate action," he said.

However, North West ANC secretary Kabelo Mataboge told the M&G this week that the provincial executive committee did not support the decision to discipline ANCYL members.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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