Mabe’s ‘Blue La­bel’ bid for Youth League


AMONG the high­lights of Pule Mabe’s short ca­reer as a jour­nal­ist was in­ter­view­ing a young Julius Malema and Malusi Gi­gaba.

Now Mabe wants to fol­low in the foot­steps of both men by be­com­ing the pres­i­dent of the once-pow­er­ful ANC Youth League.

It has been a long jour­ney for Mabe since his days as a trainee jour­nal­ist at the Mail & Guardian in 2001.

To­day he is counted among South Africa’s youngest in­flu­en­tial politi­cians, largely be­cause of his mem­ber­ship of the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. He is 34.

He is also a me­dia mogul in the mak­ing, with his KG Me­dia pub­lish­ing com­pany own­ing a news­pa­per dis­trib­uted free by his for­mer em­ployer, Metro­rail, to train pas­sen­gers.

Mabe is also in­volved in the prop­erty busi­ness.

De­spite his re­cent ar­rest on charges of fraud, theft and money laun­der­ing, the flam­boy­ant Mabe has emerged as the favourite in a race to fill the post left va­cant when Malema was kicked out of the ANC.

To be elected to the post pre­vi­ously held by such po­lit­i­cal lu­mi­nar­ies as Nel­son Man­dela and Peter Mok­aba, Mabe would have to beat off stiff com­pe­ti­tion from the likes of for­mer Youth League deputy pres­i­dent Ron­ald Lamola.

The Youth League, which has been mori­bund since Malema’s ex­pul­sion in 2010, holds its elec­tive na­tional con­fer­ence next month.

With all in­di­ca­tors point­ing to a Mabe vic­tory, his de­trac­tors have been work­ing over­time to per­suade Youth League branches not to nom­i­nate him.

Chief among his al­leged short­com­ings is his age. To be a mem­ber of the Youth League and be elected to its lead­er­ship one has to be 35 or un­der.

Mabe’s portly frame, his fa­cial fea­tures and the fact that he has been ac­tive in youth pol­i­tics for much of the past two decades are used to jus­tify claims that he has fal­si­fied his age.

But in­de­pen­dent sources, in­clud­ing a prin­ci­pal at Lepato High School, from which Mabe ma­tric­u­lated in 1997, con­firm that he was born on March 19 1980.

Mabe this week told the Sun­day Times that those ques­tion­ing his age have “se­lec­tive mem­o­ries”.

“When I was elected to the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the ANC in 2012 I was hailed and praised by ev­ery­body as the youngest NEC mem­ber, at 32. Two years down the line, peo­ple have for­got­ten.”

A smart dresser who, like Malema, prefers fancy cloth­ing la­bels, he has of­ten been ac­cused of us­ing money to lure po­lit­i­cal sup­port.

His de­trac­tors say this be­gan when he was na­tional trea­surer of Malema’s Youth League.

“He buys votes. He car­ries cash around,” said one for­mer Mabe ally. FAIR-WEATHER FRIEND? Pule Mabe, set to take over ANC Youth League

Another claimed that his chauf­feured Mercedes-Benz is of­ten full of whisky bot­tles, which he car­ries to en­ter­tain prospec­tive sup­port­ers.

“If you are not in a strate­gic po­si­tion, but you sup­port him, he’ll give you a bot­tle of Black La­bel. If you are in a strate­gic po­si­tion, you get a 15 year-old, and if you are ‘ex­tremely strate­gic’ you get the Blue La­bel.

“If you don’t sup­port him you don’t get any whisky,” said the for­mer Youth League leader, who de­clined to be named.

But Mabe laughs all of this off: “I don’t even drink al­co­hol.”

He said claims of him abus­ing money em­anate from when he was Youth League na­tional trea­surer.

“When I give you money to travel, am I buy­ing you? I was trea­surer of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. It was my duty to raise funds for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

He sees noth­ing wrong with be­ing chauf­feured around, say­ing his driv­ers are of­ten “fel­low com­rades” who “vol­un­teer” to drive him.

The most se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal ac­cu­sa­tion lev­elled against Mabe is that he is a “po­lit­i­cal chameleon” who would do any­thing for power.

Although he was one of Malema’s most trusted lieu­tenants when the Youth League went to war with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, Mabe is now one of the pres­i­dent’s great­est fans.

He owes his ANC NEC seat to be­ing one of Zuma’s strong­est cam­paign­ers ahead of the ANC’s Man­gaung con­fer­ence in 2012.

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