The cu­ri­ous case of Collen Maine

African Times - - Front Page - MOLEBATSI MASEDI Molebatsi Masedi is a Polok­wane, Lim­popo based pro­po­nent of rad­i­cal so­cio-eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. Tweeter: @ Mole­bat­siMasedi

The oth­er­wise in­vis­i­ble pres­i­dent of the ANC Youth League, Collen Maine, was res­ur­rected this past week at a Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela me­mo­rial ser­vice in Potchef­stroom, North West prov­ince. He chose this som­bre mo­ment to lit­er­ally throw the cat among the pi­geons by re­veal­ing that premier of North West and ANC pro­vin­cial chair­per­son, Supra Mahumapelo, in­tro­duced him to the no­to­ri­ous im­mi­grant Gupta fam­ily.

Maine stunned his au­di­ence, and the coun­try fol­lowed soon as his con­fes­sion en­tered the pub­lic space. The youth leader best known for his ab­sence and si­lence at most cru­cial mo­ments, fi­nally broke his si­lence and an­nounced his pres­ence in the most pro­found way imag­in­able.

Maine was un­known ev­ery­where else ex­cept his North West prov­ince where had a lack­lus­tre po­lit­i­cal life. He also made it into the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil of Premier Supra Mahumapelo after his so­journ to Cape Town as a mem­ber re­spon­si­ble for lo­cal gov­ern­ment and hu­man set­tle­ments.

Where he gained promi­nence was when he would emerge as the re­place­ment for the fire­brand Julius Malema in the lead­er­ship of the ANCYL. Elected un­der the cloud of an al­leged premier league ca­bal of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma sup­port­ing pro­vin­cial pre­miers, Maine was a far cry from the mil­i­tancy as­so­ci­ated with the ANC young lions.

Strug­gle icon Nel­son Man­dela cut his po­lit­i­cal teeth in the ANCYL. Many would fol­low Madiba to the un­ban­ning of po­lit­i­cal par­ties in1990. Prom­i­nent among sub­se­quent young lions was Peter Mok­aba who would be a hard act to fol­low in clar­ity and mil­i­tancy.

His war cries and chants con­tinue to echo in the col­lec­tive mem­ory of the na­tion, years after his death. Fik­ile Mbalula and Julius Malema matched Mok­aba to vary­ing de­grees. In fact, they still do in their adult life through or­a­tory. In be­tween there would be more som­bre and in­tel­lec­tual Lulu John­son and Malusi Gi­gaba. Even among the lat­ter, stan­dards were main­tained.

Mbalula passed the lead­er­ship man­tle to Malema, the high school pupils’ leader from Mok­aba’s home prov­ince of Lim­popo. It didn’t take long be­fore Malema found him­self out in the cold after be­ing ex­pelled from the ANC for ill-dis­ci­pline. He had grown big­ger than the ANC and its league.

Just when the na­tion’s youth was bask­ing in the after glory of Malema’s ten­ure, bang ar­rives Maine at Luthuli house ANC head­quar­ters as the new youth leader after Ekurhu­leni ex­ec­u­tive may­ors Mzwandile Masina’s stint at the helm.

From day one, Maine never cut it as a youth ti­tan. He would be re­mem­bered as a shy and unas­sum­ing not so young per­son. Un­der his ten­ure youth mat­ters dis­ap­peared from fo­cus and treat­ment. No won­der for­mer youth league deputy pres­i­dent Ron­ald Lamola came him Oros after a con­cen­trated or­ange drink pop­u­lar in the 80s. This ob­vi­ously a ref­er­ence to his weight, big as the Oros bot­tle.

The near­est time he came alive and staked a claim to glory was when he brought what re­mained of the ANCYL to back Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s can­di­da­ture for ANC pres­i­dent at NASREC. It was like he had found his lost voice and courage to speak out. He spewed bile against per­ceived op­po­nents like the now pres­i­dent Ramaphosa and had to be reined in and cau­tioned to take it easy on in­sults and in­nu­en­dos.

NASREC came and passed, Maine’s can­di­date lost to Cyril Ramaphosa who emerged as ANC pres­i­dent. Later Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma would be forced out for Ramaphosa to as­cend be­fore his term. At the helm, the new pres­i­dent moved in to re­struc­ture the cabi­net. He dropped some cabi­net mem­bers and brought in new mem­bers.

Fate had favoured Maine at NASREC, he was elected into the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Long past his sell-by date as a youth, he would have to make way for new blood in the or­gan­i­sa­tion many cred­ited him with its mori­bund state. Op­tions for him were limited to the back bench in ei­ther the Na­tional As­sem­bly or the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces. He had al­legedly out of favour with his bene­fac­tor, Mahumapelo and there wouldn’t be any pa­tron­age from that end. If he was lucky he would scrape his to a back bench seat in Cape Town.

In what could be seen as a pre­emp­tive strike to spare him­self from limbo, Maine and some in his lead­er­ship struc­ture where fight­ing for Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa at­ten­tion and time. Their ef­forts had al­legedly been thwarted by the young peo­ple who sup­ported the pres­i­dent in his bid for high of­fice. The Ramaphosa youth were re­ported to have said there was no need for such a meet­ing. Na­tional du­ties beck­oned their man and not pleas from des­per­ate out touch lead­ers.

As the plot of Maine’s cu­ri­ous case thick­ened, he was re­ported to have apol­o­gised to Ramaphosa for his mis­placed sup­port for Dlamini-Zuma. That ap­peared to be low­est of the low to which he could de­scend to crawl.

As it were, more was to come.

In the balmy North West af­ter­noon in the sorghum town of Potchef­stroom, Maine made a star­tling con­fes­sion dur­ing his ad­dress at the late Mama Win­nie Madik­izela Man­dela Me­mo­rial Ser­vice. He said un­like Madik­ize­laMan­dela, he went to meet the Gupta fam­ily at their Sax­on­hold com­pound in Jo­han­nes­burg. He was not taken there by the ob­vi­ous cul­prit, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. He tells his au­di­ence it is Premier and ANC North West pro­vin­cial chair­per­son, Supra Mahumapelo who led him to slaugh­ter.

The na­tion nearly choked in its lunch meals at Maine’s con­fes­sion that af­ter­noon.

As would be ex­pected of such con­fes­sions, it lit the coun­try. There was no mid­dle road, it was an ei­ther or mo­ment for the ANC and the coun­try. Those who had been gun­ning for Mahumapelo and other Ramaphosa new deal de­nial­ists, wel­comed the con­fes­sion and its prospects to get rid of the North West premier.

On the other hand new deal de­nial­ists like ANCYL deputy na­tional sec­re­tary Thandi Mo­raka called her pres­i­dent a sell-out of note. First it was Dlamini-Zuma and now it is Mahumapelo. The ANC in the North West said Maine must own up to his sins.

As for Mahumapelo, he said reck­less driv­ers who cause ac­ci­dents on the roads must never blame the driv­ing school for in­tro­duc­ing them to driv­ing.

Since his con­fes­sion in Potchef­stroom, Maine hasn’t been seen or heard in pub­lic, in­clud­ing at Mama Win­nie’s fu­neral. As if driv­ing the nail into his cof­fin and the cur­rent youth league, it was its for­mer pres­i­dent Fik­ile Mbalula who spoke on be­half the youth.

As Maine dis­ap­peared from pub­lic gaze, Malema just about took all the ANC thun­der dur­ing his ad­dress at the packed Or­lando sta­dium. Ev­ery speaker from Mbalula, Man­tashe and to Ramaphosa had to re­spond and ac­knowl­edge Malema. Malema’s shadow loomed large over the gi­ant sta­dium.

For now it is not clear whether Maine will ever reap­pear from his self-im­posed hi­ber­na­tion. Or re­turn only to take his seat at the State Cap­ture en­quiry for a fuller con­fes­sion on how an im­mi­grant fam­ily cap­tured the South African state un­der their watch and with their full co­op­er­a­tion and will­ing­ness. The state is said to have been at the beck and call of the Gup­tas. They even ap­pointed min­is­ters, at least as leg­end goes.

As the coun­try mulls the cu­ri­ous case of Collen Maine, it is not clear whether the ANCYL of Malema, Mbalula and Man­dela will be res­ur­rected. Ramaphosa and his team na­tion­ally and ev­ery­where in the coun­try have their jobs cut for them.

As for Maine, aretse. He may just have to wait for Mama Win­nie Madik­ize­laMan­dela’s sig­nal on where to jump.

Pic­ture: Le­bo­gang Mak­wela/ Vis­ual Buzz S

ANC Youth League, Collen Maine.

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