‘Premier League’ could face a backlash
Three premiers are pulling the strings now, but may find themselves out of favour in two years’ time
Fresh from two spectacular victories in which they engineered the election of the ANC Women’s League and ANC Youth League (ANCYL) presidents, the informal group known as the Premier League could face a backlash ahead of the party’s national general council (NGC) next month. The group’s preferred candidate, the little-known North West MEC of local government and human settlements, Collen Maine, was elected unopposed as league president on Friday night.
The big push for him to get elected came from the three premiers who are part of the Premier League: David Mabuza of Mpumalanga, North West’s Supra Mahumapelo and the Free State’s Ace Magashule. The three also chair the ANC in their provinces. It is believed that their plan is to entrench themselves as leaders or kingmakers for 2017, when the ANC will elect President Jacob’s Zuma’s successor.
Mahumapelo was seen on stage at the congress in a celebratory mood shortly after Maine’s unopposed nomination.
But ANC leaders are warning that, despite the group’s power, events this year would have no bearing on influencing who would be elected as the new leadership of the country.
Former youth league president and national executive committee (NEC) member Malusi Gigaba told City Press, without mentioning any names, that those pulling the strings now might find themselves irrelevant and out of favour in two years’ time.
“The 2017 national conference is still far away. To influence the youth league to elect a leadership in the hope that it will support you in 2017 might be a very nice medium- to long-term investment” he said.
Gigaba said “decisions change all the time” in politics.
“By the time we get to 2017, you might not be a factor or your people might no longer have the influence you had wished they would have, because the social and political base of the ANCYL keeps changing as more young people learn about politics,” he said.
Another NEC member welcomed the fact that the existence of the Premier League was out in the open, as many were realising the “danger” it was posing to the ANC.
The NEC member said even those who had initially dismissed the impact of the Premier League had realised this “new tendency” had to be nipped in the bud.
“It takes time to deal with something like this, but I believe it will not go beyond the NGC congress.
“The NGC will have to pronounce very strongly against it. It has to be curtailed because all these leaders want power and full control of the mass organisation that is the ANC.
“It is a dangerous move; it’s more about self-interest than good,” he said.
A youth league lobbyist said the Premier League’s campaign was “unsustainable” and predicted that the group would experience a serious backlash at the ANC’s NGC next month.
The source mentioned that other premiers were opposed to the machinations of the Premier League.
The source said there were also growing concerns in ANC circles that the lobby group was conducting its activities brazenly and in a manner that suggested it had the blessing of senior party leaders such as Zuma.
News of the backlash came as the SA Communist Party’s central committee resolved at the weekend to “intensify” the fight against “attempts at factional, corrupt and corporate capture of our movement”.
In a barb believed to be aimed at the Premier League, members of the party said these “divisive” activities included “the use of money to buy votes and the stifling of internal democratic processes”.
Former youth league president Fikile Mbalula, who was the convener of the congress, said that although senior leaders were allowed to take an interest in the affairs of its youth wing, “there is no Premier League that is bigger than the ANC”.
“ANC leaders from all walks of life will have particular choices, not mandated by the ANC.
“What is problematic is to coin concepts that are basically funny [and] laughable, like the Premier League,” he said.
Zuma said during his speech at the league congress yesterday that factionalism had to be eliminated from the ANC because “it diverts cadres from their important work of building the ANC and the country”.
During a radio interview this week, Mahumapelo denied the existence of the Premier League.
He said the relationship between North West, Mpumalanga and the Free State was founded on the fact that the three provinces were the biggest producers of maize in South Africa.
However, he said that, as the leader of the ANC in the province, it would be irresponsible of him not to take an interest in the affairs of the ANC Women’s League and the youth league.
“If I did not do that, I might as well pack my bags and quit politics,” said Mahumapelo.
Magashule has previously told City Press he had no interest in becoming a national leader of the ANC in 2017.
The outcomes of the youth league congress this weekend suggested that the Premier League had successfully captured five – three provinces and both leagues – of the ANC’s 11 structures. It now also has half of KwaZulu-Natal. Maine, relatively unknown at national level before the congress, snatched the position from such luminaries as former youth league deputy president Ronald Lamola and former league treasurer Pule Mabe, who is also an ANC NEC member, in a dramatic Friday night.
Lamola, who fell short of two votes from the floor to contest Maine, later told the congress that the election process was a “farce and not credible”.
His supporters asked for a recount of his votes, but this was turned down.
Mabe was also nominated as president at the congress on Friday, but could not obtain the 25% minimum support from delegates for his name to be included on the ballot paper.
A delegate supporting Lamola told the congress’ plenary session that the elections agency was merely “processing a list of candidates given to you by the premiers”.
Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Julius Malema celebrated and made fun of Maine’s victory on Twitter.
He said he would leave Maine to EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi while he took care of Zuma.
“The future looks bright, we have no challenge at all,” tweeted Malema, who is famously also a former president of the youth league.
Unlike the other youth league presidential hopefuls, Maine went into the race with the advantage of being the only presidential candidate who was nominated for the post by his home province, where he is the provincial chairperson of the youth league.
WELL DONE President Jacob Zuma congratulates Collen Maine on his election as the new president of the ANC Youth League