“Does the ANC even need ‘kingmakers” ?
The ANC Disciplinary hearing ruling has been made, the ANCYL President Julius S. Malema, along with the other 5 ANCYL Executive members are suspended all to varying degrees. Yet the focus is on Malema, the recommendation of the DC constituting it’s ruling on the charges calls for a 5 year suspension of Malema.
Whilst opinions, analysis and commentary some in grave conflict (which bodes well for public intellectuals to disagree), is liberally shared and others who bitterly makes the disciplinary hearing out to be a kangaroo court, my contemplation vacillates on what this disciplinary hearing means for the now accepted ‘kingmaker’ status of the ANCYL.
The history of the ANC in it’s near 100 years of existence does not attests to at anytime an entire sitting executive of the Youth League leadership suspended. That by itself is new and a precedent in organizational context. Yet much as that may be the case, I am less concerned with that and will rather postulate the biggest blessing or curse this hearing in my books brought is the challenge of the ANCYL as ‘kingmaker’ of ANC presidents. The history in particular the recent history has seen a phenomenon in which the youth and women’s leagues became the ordained ‘kingmakers’ of presidents in ANC embrace and as outflow of that South African presidency.
We all know that it was the critical role the combination of the two decorated and venerated leagues that have primarily determined the presidency and recall of a Mbeki. The Youth League under the late Peter Mokaba leadership steered the way for a Thabo Mbeki election and ultimately presidency. Yet in 2007 when Zuma was elected it was the same Youth League under a Fikile Mbalula (now Minister of Sport) and the Women’s League who influenced if not directed such outcome of a Zuma election into an ANC presidency. Much credit is often given to Tripartite members yet in the final analysis it was the combination of the respective Leagues who pulled it off for Zuma.
This is exactly the reason why many of us could not understand Mbeki’s defense to stand in 2007 at Polokwane, for it was precisely the fact that he failed to appreciate the reality that both these Leagues had already endorsed Zuma as the preferred candidate. Mbeki stood, as he readily explained many times because there was a nomination, fair could be the answer, yet such is not historically conscious of the reality of such ‘kingmakers’ who already shared their choice for a new leader.
Needless to say it was the Youth League under a newly elected almost unknown leader Julius Malema who prophesied the end of Mbeki in late September 2008 as president of the Republic of South Africa, when he famously declared “He, Mbeki will not serve longer than this week” if I am correct he swore that this his prophesy shall come to pass.
When I argue the curse of this exaggerated ‘kingmaker’ status it is to raise the challenge it directly presents that such status in which the highest bidder could literally buy and influence this constituency less by policy but by any means necessary to vote for him or her in a display of celebrated individualism and less concerned with the organizational well-being.
This ‘kingmaker’ status we have been told can be bought by the right amount, assets, shares etc. Tripartite leaders such as Vavi and Nzimande have been warning that votes are for sale, and can be bought by those who have fat cheque books.
Perhaps the blessing of this ruling is that it perhaps begins the process to rectify the abuse of the very constituency in ‘kingmaker’ status context as a commodity, and to remove such status, that often lends itself to factionalism that informs a jostling for power and office. Leaders in the ANC in seniority have often fostered this misguided ‘kingmaker’ status of particularly the ANCYL, perhaps less of a Women’s League and now recently the Veterans League.
Yet now we stand at this historic for some yet challenging for us occasion in which the executive of the ANCYL chief ‘kingmaker’ was charged and found guilty by a duly constituted disciplinary hearing informed by the ANC constitution. Such hearing has made its findings known and such findings attest to a recommendation of suspension of the entire executive and to larger degree a Malema who as we already know was found guilty before of similar misdemeanor, the face of such charge sheet and his faithful lieutenant Floyd Shivambu who I have long time held needs to get proper training on public relations, to serve as ANCYL spokesman.
My contention, is does this ruling in any sense remotely even perhaps leave the ANCYL forever diminished in power as a “kingmaker” ? This means can the case be made that the ANCYL kingmaker status has suffered severely because of this ruling ?
At another level is the “kingmaker” status only immanent in South African presidency? Does it prove irrelevant if the ANC president was not to be the next National or South African President. I guess I am asking was the kingmaker status a critical practice in the elongated history of the ANC? Or does such only find impetus and meaning in SA presidency embrace?
If such has no real bearing at what critical point in the illustrious history of the ANC did this “kingmaker’ status erupt and came to being? In fact does the ANC even need this exaggerated claimed kingmaker status as praxis ?
Having asked these questions, I shall venture to argue that today’s disciplinary hearing ruling has ask a question is the Youth League’s status as ‘kingmaker’ an invincible one? I shall contend this ruling has said the Youth league is nothing but a Youth League and the mother body will not be directed by the youth when such child proves rebellious, disrespectful, and divisive.
Perhaps the other part of the Malema legacy resonates in this that under his stewardship the powers of a ‘king maker status has been diminished. I know there will be those who will caution me on rushing to this conclusion, they would advocate the Youth league, can exist and prove just as much a challenge without a Juju, the reality is the Youth missed the chance to organize themselves devoid of individualism and hopelessly waited to late to begin to let more members speak as the last 2 months attests.
They have made a tactical error in attacking an individual from the vestiges of individualism. They have allowed the economic redress debate (a real and not going away issue) be consummated in the utterances of an individual namely Malema who has made a litany of blunders that have led to this ruling. Notwithstanding the fact that Malema has constitutional recourse and that such process may prove protracted and may ultimately only stand at Mangaung as the final authority, this ruling has done damage as anticipated and it will be difficult for Malema to make a comeback from such.
My question therefore is will we see through and because of this a new type of ‘kingmaker’ emerging in the ANC, or will the ‘kingmaker’ status thing to which many have endeared themselves informed by their rightful political ambitions forever prove a thing of the past?
I shall go one step further and ask what are the implications for those who have pinned their hopes on the diminished ‘kingmaker’, that have been reduced today perhaps to its rightful size. SAFM carries as to be expected a defiant Malema, yet I have said before these are not out of strength but out of weakness for it sounds only befitting for Malema at this time to pronounce as he does, for he is moving into the sunset of political careerism at the speed of light. Malema calls the real leaders of the ANC to now stand up and be counted, it sounded more like, can those who have been in my corner please make known their views, or are you leaving me hanging to dry alone.
I have asked these questions for it is clear, that today’s findings prove watershed in context and as someone said a rubicon that the ANC had to cross if it had any hope of being seen as organization held together by the conviction of values informed by vision and actualized in discipline.
I have deliberately not dealt here with my understanding of what today means for the economic redress debate which some clearly hope will die with Malema, such I shall attempt shortly. Yet the ‘kingmaker’ status is tonight not so effervescent as it used to be before the ruling of the disciplinary hearing in which suspension was the order of the day. Let us not forget that Malema like all others have recourse and as we have heard from a vocal and defiant Malema, they will appeal.
Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine
Independent Observer, author of “Tradewinds are Blowing”