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.