‘Premier League’ could face a back­lash

Three pre­miers are pulling the strings now, but may find them­selves out of favour in two years’ time

CityPress - - News - HLENGIWE NH­LA­BATHI and SETUMO STONE news@city­press.co.za

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.

PHOTO: LUCKY NXUMALO

WELL DONE Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma con­grat­u­lates Collen Maine on his elec­tion as the new pres­i­dent of the ANC Youth League

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