Senior ANC member Joel Netshitenzhe has warned that the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) is missing out on an opportunity to provide leadership ahead of the party’s national conference.
Instead, it has opted to be “foot soldiers” for a faction.
Speaking on the ANC’s Strategy and Tactics document ahead of the policy conference at the end of this month, Netshitenzhe addressed a packed room of members from the Bavumile Vilakazi zone in Germiston yesterday.
“Young people can act as a lightning rod, especially during a conference when there is an element of being risk averse in organisations.
But it should be a lightning rod that is informed by an understanding of the ideology, the strategy and the tactics of the organisation, and not because they are being unleashed as foot soldiers by some faction or the other,” the ANC national executive committee member said.
“In fact, if there is an opportunity that we are missing, I think this applies even more to the youth league.
"We are in that period that is not much different from the early 1940s, when the Mandelas and the Tambos and others met as leaders of the youth league and challenged the senior leadership of the ANC, and turned the ANC towards militancy.
"The youth league is faced with a similar opportunity, but instead of being the Mandelas and Tambos of our time, they have become foot soldiers of factionalism,” he said, to murmurs of agreement.
Just two weeks ago, Netshitenzhe proposed a motion of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma at the ANCs national executive committee sitting.
This was the second call for Zuma to relinquish his position in seven months.
The senior leader also lamented “gatekeeping” in the youth league, saying that there was no opportunity for the best within the youth league to rise up and take leadership positions in the structure.
He said that many leaders of the #FeesMustFall movement were, in fact, members of the youth league, and that they were the best of what the movement had to offer, but they were not been given a chance.
“Those #FeesMustFall leaders are the Nelson Mandelas and Lilian Ngoyis of our time, but they are not able to rise in the youth league structures.”
Earlier this week, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe also tore into the youth league, calling them “henchmen” who are unleashed on “individual comrades”.
“I think they’ve been told their project is [Cyril] Ramaphosa and Pravin [Gordhan]. Those are not their enemies. They are not enemies of the revolution,” Mantashe said during his address to the National Union of Mineworkers’ central committee meeting.
“They are doing what the ANCYL did to president [Thabo] Mbeki. They did that to me many times; to comrade Kgalema [Motlanthe]. It becomes their trademark to become henchmen unleashed on individual cadres of our movement.”
The youth league, however, is not the only challenge facing the ANC – Netshitenzhe also said corruption and state capture were reasons behind the party’s loss of electoral support last year.
“The performance in the local government elections was not an accident.
"Leaders in metros were punished for sins they had not committed.
"Our research indicates that, if we continue the same way, we will be taught another lesson in 2019, and our people will have no babbalas or regrets about punishing us at the polls.
“Corruption is now fundamental and if we do not go in with a scalpel to remove this rot, the ANC is simply going to die.
"We have seen reports about the emails, an illustration of state capture, but, in reality, that kind of capture cannot happen if there is not at least a minimal element of capture of the ANC.
"Who bankrolls some of the candidates and factions in the conferences that are happening? How beholden do those people become to those who have bank rolled them?” he asked.
He called on the ANC to urgently take up measures to self-correct ahead of its policy and national conferences this year.
To those who were worried that they would limit their careers if they spoke out against the “rot”, Netshitenzhe said: “Ask your comrades in Tshwane and Johannesburg, there is nothing more career limiting than losing elections.”