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THE BIG READ: ANC plays political soccer but without a rule book

Sibongakonke Shoba | 2013-04-03 00:43:43.0
Former ANC Youth League leaders: From left, deputy secretary-general Kenetswe Mosenogi, vice-president Ronald Lamola, president Julius Malema and secretary-general Sindiswa Magaqa, shortly after their suspension
Image by: TSHEKO KABASIA

It has been almost eight years since Jimmy Tau left Orlando Pirates to join their arch rivals, Kaizer Chiefs.

That his star continued to rise at his current club has made Pirates supporters resent him, and so strong is that dislike that they sing "Limene-mene uJimmy Tau" (Jimmy Tau is a sell-out) whenever the two giants meet for the famous Soweto derby.

You might wonder why we are telling the Tau story.

Well, Tau is one of the young role models the ANC is considering appointing to the team that will lead the ANC Youth League until its next conference. The league's national executive committee was disbanded two weeks ago.

Other names that have been suggested include Cheese Kids founder Shaka Sisulu (the grandson of struggle stalwarts Walter and Albertina Sisulu) and former South African Students' Congress leader Lazola Ndamase.

At face value, the diverse youth leadership, representing different sectors of society, appears sound.

But it is doomed to fail.

The ANC's thinking is obvious.

It has set its sights on attracting the youth vote to the party and wants to move away from the boisterous and sometimes empty rhetoric of the likes of Julius Malema. After all, the 2014 elections will be fought over the so-called "born-frees", who will be voting for the first time.

But parachuting in leaders has never worked.

In fact, appointing a team from within the ANC Youth League's ranks would make more sense - given that its provincial structures were not disbanded along with its national executive committee.

Now it seems the provincial structures would be expected to take direction and guidance from the likes of Tau (if he makes the final list). Unlike the national task team - which will be appointed by ANC leaders - the provinces are elected structures.

And some of those provincial structures are led by Malema types.

One doubts they'll want to take orders from political infants.

It doesn't help that Tau is nursing a season-long injury and is currently out of circulation. But that is another story for another day.

A clash between the league-elected provincial leaders and the ANC-appointed team is almost inevitable.

So Tau and Sisulu (if appointed) might have to consider disbanding all provincial executive councils and replacing them with hand-picked teams if they want to have a smooth term. Tau holds an honours degree in marketing, and Sisulu is a Gordon Institute of Business Science graduate. Ndamase is Cosatu's head of political education and holds a degree in public management and governance. Their CVs are impressive.

This exercise by the ANC exposes the ruling party's hypocrisy. Common sense dictates that a clean-up should be from the top down, not the bottom up. Also, the ANC elects leaders whose conduct is questionable, which makes a mockery of its plans to serve as the youth league's moral guardian.

The likes of Humphrey Mmemezi and Mirriam Sekgabutla - the former Limpopo MEC who was recently arrested by the Hawks - are examples of the disappointing calibre of ANC leaders.

A particularly interesting case is that of one of its 264 MPs, Phindisile Xaba. Popularly known as MaMkhize, she has never made a single statement to the National Assembly during her four years in parliament .

You might remember her as President Jacob Zuma's number one cheerleader during his rape trial. She was famous for dancing outside the Johannesburg High Court while brandishing a wooden replica of an AK-47.

For her loyalty she was rewarded with an R800 000-a-year salary as an MP. Her track record in the ANC is unknown but she made it to the final list of MPs ahead of tried and tested cadres.

One would have expected that a ruling party that is serious about cleaning up its image would start by sweeping out the likes of Mmemezi and Sekgabutla and replacing them with reliable leaders who can be trusted by "all sectors of society".

After all, the youth league mirrors its mother body. The ANC does not attract all sectors - if anything, it had lost the minority vote in the last election.

If the move to "renew" the league is sincere and just the beginning of cleaning up the party as a whole, then the ANC deserves the benefit of the doubt.

The first sign of whether this is the case will be the list of proposed public representatives to the provincial and national legislature after next year's general election.

One hopes that in future the ANC appoints leaders who are achievers, not deceivers. For only then would a die-hard Pirates fan be convinced by Tau to join the ANC and its youth league.

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