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Changing the ANC: The new young blood

2018-02-13 00:52

The new ANC leadership elected in December is peppered with younger faces who hope to instil fresh ideas and energy into the party. City Press spoke to three of the rising stars, who are all new in the national executive committee.
 
DAVID MASONDO

Of the various phases of his turbulent political life, new ANC national executive committee (NEC) member David Masondo speaks most passionately about his short term as Limpopo’s finance MEC.

His government tenure came to an abrupt end in December 2011, when President Jacob Zuma, with the help of Treasury under Pravin Gordhan, placed five of the province’s departments under administration.

The province was broke and on the verge of failing to pay the salaries of civil servants.

Limpopo was then the strong support base of Zuma’s ANC Youth League (ANCYL) nemesis, Julius Malema.

Word quickly spread that the move was Zuma’s way of weakening his opponents ahead of the crucial Mangaung national elective conference in December 2012 – where he stood for re-election.

Zuma’s grip on the ANC ended when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa pipped Zuma’s preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to the post and took over the reins in December last year.

Ramaphosa’s narrow victory at Nasrec marked Masondo’s official return to mainstream politics since he last served as a national leader in the SA Communist Party and its Young Communist League.

“I was effectively the finance MEC for five months and thereafter the Limpopo government was disbanded,” Masondo recalls.

“National Treasury was used to withhold funds due to the provincial government in order to create a cashflow crisis, to justify the disbandment of the provincial government,” he claims.

He was so peeved about the disbandment that he became the lone voice arguing that the legality of Zuma’s decision ought to be tested in court.

“Unfortunately, my view was not supported.”

Six years later, the tables appear to have turned and Masondo finds himself with a new role to play in the ANC’s top brass, while Zuma is at his weakest point and increasingly seen as a lame duck president.

“I have a strong passion for ending unemployment and poverty, particularly among the youth, through industrialisation, land reform and education,” Masondo says about the social programmes close to his heart.

The former Wits University student representative council president says his education and student leadership taught him how to argue his views and present them to different audiences. This is important in winning over South Africans to the ANC’s vision and programmes, he says.

“The current ANC NEC has a good mixture of different generations who possess different experiences in different areas of struggle, such as business, trade unions, youth, education and government.”

However, he says the 2000s generation, which has insightful views about contemporary challenges facing South Africa, is poorly represented on the NEC. The ANC and its youth league have to find a way of working with this generation, he says.

ZINGISWA LOSI

Zingiswa Losi is one of only two active trade unionists in the ANC NEC, but this doesn’t worry her.

A mother to two daughters – one starting her first year at university this year – she continues a long tradition of trade unionists moving into the party to ensure it cares for the working class.

Some of these leaders eventually took up key positions, like party president Cyril Ramaphosa, his deputy David Mabuza and chairperson Gwede Mantashe.

Losi almost got a shot at becoming the governing party’s deputy secretary-general after branch nominations for the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec last year.

Jessie Duarte got the job. But all was not lost.

Losi has to juggle various leadership positions, but this does not rattle her. She is currently the deputy president of Cosatu and was recently elected the first woman president of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council for a five-year term.

The e-toll project in Gauteng, which contributed to the slump in the voter support for the ANC in the 2014 general polls, is one contentious battle Losi is preparing to fight.

The matter was last “dealt with” at the Nedlac early last year.

However, she says that as the ANC prepares to launch its 2019 election campaign around May, it is important that e-tolls be dealt with at a political level.

Cosatu warned Ramaphosa during campaigning that they were not signing a blank cheque for the ANC.

“It’s an issue that we are not prepared to forgo because it affects the working class, in particular the poor.”

Losi’s other areas of focus include labour brokers, insourcing, the national health insurance and the national minimum wage, which is set to be implemented in May.

“With a new dispensation of leadership, I think we have an opportunity to revisit
critical issues that are affecting the working class and poor. We have always argued that if you are not in the ANC structures, how are we going to influence the policy direction of the ANC?”

This is part of the reason she accepted a spot on the party’s highest decision-making structure between conferences.

She was born in Port Elizabeth’s Kwazakhele township and later moved to Ford Village in New Brighton.

She went the army for three years, which she describes as one of her “most challenging times”.

It was a lily white, male-dominated environment where she had to stand during departmental meetings.

Going through all that toughened her, she says.

Losi is confident the ANC will get a two-thirds majority in next year’s elections. Cosatu will make sure of that.

Something significant came out of Nasrec, she says. “There is a breath of fresh air” and “greater change is to come”.

“The hope that South Africans have is so amazing. There is just no way that the ANC can’t have a two-thirds majority. We will be working hard for the ANC, because we have seen that any government ruled by a coalition is bound to fail.”

RONALD LAMOLA

In 2013, Ronald Ozzy Lamola’s political life was all but dead after the ANCYL, which he was deputy president of, was disbanded.

His friends were expelled, cast out into the political wilderness.

Lamola struck a lone figure, arms folded in an almost empty hall in Midrand, after his ambition to become president of a weakened ANCYL in 2015 was frustrated.

He fell short by two votes from the floor to successfully challenge Collen Maine for the post of ANCYL president at the league’s national conference in September that year.

He said the election was a “farce and not credible”.

Maine now leads a much more divided league with a reputation of being “foot soldiers of factions”.

Lamola maintains the disbandment of the youth league was a missed opportunity and led to a climate of fear and young people across the country becoming despondent.

“When you look at it, we may have missed five years of a generation. I think maybe that’s what we need, to create an environment where young people can engage without fear. How do you generate ideas when you are fearful?”

Lamola says he carries the generational mandate of economic freedom on his shoulders.

It was under his and Malema’s leadership that the ANCYL advocated a generational mix, land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of mines and free education.

They made much noise about this, irritating the ANC.

Lamola is ecstatic that these have become party policy resolutions and vows to advocate their implementation.

“I don’t know what took them so long, but they needed to be convinced. The good thing for us is that they are now convinced,” he tells City Press at his modest office in the suburb of Brooklyn, Pretoria, where his law firm is located.

“It’s a reflection that the membership of the ANC expects that a new generation must gradually come into the structures of the ANC and modernise it. That’s how I see my role in the NEC.

“We [younger leaders] are professionals in our own right and we do not see the life in the NEC as a matter of life and death, but as service to the nation.

“By 2022 and 2027, we might no longer be young, we might no longer be relevant, so the ANC must deliberately invest in its youth to safeguard its future.”

He says the ANC should reach out to opposition parties in its bid to have the Constitution amended to realise expropriation of land without compensation.

“It’s an issue for discussion in the NEC on how we must implement this issue. But obviously you need as many partners in Parliament to make it possible. It’s a reality.”

His parents Ernie and Philmon toiled in the sun as farm workers in Komatipoort to put bread on the table for their big family of 10.

Lamola has much to celebrate. His face beams when he talks about his academic achievements, copies of which are neatly tucked away in a black bag in his office.

He already possesses a master’s degree in corporate law and has his eyes set on a doctorate.

Lamola says it will not be easy to abandon his law firm, where he has trained lawyers, for a government deployment. But this will depend on discussions with the ANC president.

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November 18 2018