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ANC Youth League (ANCYL) trea­surer Reg­gie Nkabinde’s chances of clinch­ing the league’s pres­i­den­tial seat have be­come slim­mer as he may no longer meet the cut-off age to stand for the post if the league’s na­tional con­gress is held later this year, after the gen­eral elec­tions.

Nkabinde’s loom­ing mis­ery opens the door for other con­tenders to emerge – no­tably, Than­dux­olo Sa­belo and Mcebo Dlamini.

The con­fer­ence was set to take place at the end of last year, but the ANC’s high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body, the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, de­cided to post­pone the much-an­tic­i­pated gath­er­ing un­til after the polls to en­able the party to fo­cus all its re­sources on the elec­tion cam­paign.

Na­tional elec­tions will be held some­time in May; the date is yet to be an­nounced.

Nkabinde, who cur­rently serves as the youth league’s trea­surer-gen­eral, had thrown his hat in the ring for the top job, fac­ing off with Sa­belo. The two were later joined by #FeesMustFall ac­tivist Dlamini, who is less known within the struc­tures of the league.

Nkabinde turns 35 in May, which means that if the con­fer­ence does not take place be­fore his birth­day, his youth league mem­ber­ship will lapse, elim­i­nat­ing him from the race.

The youth league’s Con­sti­tu­tion reads as fol­lows: “Mem­bers shall join the ANCYL only once, and mem­ber­ship shall lapse when a per­son turns 35 years old, is ex­pelled fol­low­ing dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings, loses his or her South African cit­i­zen­ship, re­signs from the youth league in writ­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, passes away, and/or if, after an an­nual mem­ber­ship au­dit or re­view, it is found that such a mem­ber has not paid his/her an­nual sub­scrip­tions for up to three months.”

Lob­by­ists from Nkabinde’s cam­paign have told City Press that they are al­ready look­ing at al­ter­na­tive can­di­dates to con­test against Sa­belo.

Among the favourites to be backed is Mpumalanga’s provin­cial sec­re­tary, Pholoso Mbat­sane, who is cur­rently on the Nkabinde slate as sec­re­tary-gen­eral.

Re­spond­ing in writ­ing to ques­tions by City Press, Nkabinde said he would not be bow­ing out of the race, adding that he was un­aware of any de­ci­sion hav­ing been taken re­gard­ing the youth league con­fer­ence be­ing held after elec­tions.

“I am not aware that the con­fer­ence will be sit­ting after May. I have at­tended all meet­ings; I do not re­mem­ber the youth league tak­ing a de­ci­sion of that na­ture. Don’t worry about the age fac­tor; I am a mem­ber of the youth league, so I un­der­stand our Con­sti­tu­tion very well – and I re­spect it, for that mat­ter,” Nkabinde said.

Cur­rent youth league pres­i­dent Collen Maine has come un­der fire since he was elected just months be­fore he turned 35. His age was the butt of many jokes this week, par­tic­u­larly from for­mer youth league pres­i­dent Fik­ile Mbalula.

Mbalula had pre­vi­ously told City Press that he be­lieved that youth league mem­bers needed to choose young lead­ers who could fin­ish their terms be­fore turn­ing 35.

This week, the youth league paid trib­ute to its late for­mer pres­i­dent, Peter Mok­aba, who would have turned 60 on Mon­day. Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa gave the keynote ad­dress, laud­ing the young li­ons in KwaZulu-Natal for pulling off a suc­cess­ful event.

Maine was left red-faced as the hun­dreds who gath­ered were mostly un­in­ter­ested in what he had to say, opt­ing to en­gage in side­line chats while he spoke.

Sup­port­ers of Sa­belo are claim­ing that Ramaphosa’s pres­ence at Mok­aba’s me­mo­rial ser­vice sig­nalled an of­fi­cial en­dorse­ment of his cam­paign. Sa­belo laughed off the claim but said that, if any­thing, the en­dorse­ment was for the good work that the youth league had done in the prov­ince.

“What I can tell you about the rally is that the pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged that the KwaZulu-Natal youth league was do­ing a good job for the ANC, and said he was happy about the work we are do­ing. He also called on other prov­inces to em­u­late what the ANCYL in KwaZulu-Natal is do­ing,” Sa­belo said.

Mbat­sane said he had not yet de­cided whether to con­test for the pres­i­dency but had been asked to stand as sec­re­tary-gen­eral. He de­fended the youth league’s cur­rent lead­ers, say­ing that peo­ple had been “too harsh” on them as they had in­her­ited a chaotic sit­u­a­tion.

Maine’s youth league came into be­ing after the ex­pul­sion of its for­mer pres­i­dent, Julius Malema, a de­ci­sion Mbat­sane be­lieves was the wrong one taken by the mother body. How­ever, he ad­mit­ted that the cur­rent league “could have done more” with their term.

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