Over the weekend it emerged that the African National Congress (ANC) had reinstated Pule Mabe, who was relieved of his duties as ANC Youth League treasurer by the league’s national executive committee (NEC) last month.
The league itself disputes this latest move, saying its NEC's decision to remove Mabe from his post "still stands". The Gauteng branch of the league says Mabe showed its members a letter from the ANC confirming his reinstatement, amid suggestions that this province would support him in a possible bid to take over the leadership of the league. That position is currently vacant following the expulsion of Julius Malema from the ANC.
There are likely to be motives behind the ANC’s decision to reinstate Mabe. The league’s NEC meeting that saw him removed was a stormy affair, with question marks as to whether or not the correct process was being followed.
Whatever the official explanation behind the move to oust him, it would appear that the core reason was his perceived support for President Jacob Zuma. Many of the other league NEC members claim to support Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in the run-up to the ANC’s leadership conference in Mangaung in December. As a result, they wanted Mabe out.
The person who benefits the most from his re-instatement would be ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
The league has publicly called for his removal at Mangaung, thus a league in chaos would suit his agenda. The re-introduction of Mabe to the league’s national executive would make it much harder for it to achieve any kind of unity, making it very difficult for its leaders to organise against Mantashe and Zuma. At the very least, Mabe would be a disruptive influence. At worse, he would be informing on their activities.
But this is not the league’s only problem. As a result of Malema’s expulsion and the suspension of its secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, it is currently without two of its five elected national officials. And it has not yet been able to hold its planned national general council (NGC).
The problem the league’s leaders now face is that if they hold that conference in the near future — without being able to do the political groundwork first — they run the risk of ending up with an outcome not to their liking.
In other words, at a gathering they cannot fully control, they could be voted out of office. Mabe’s reintroduction increases the risk of this happening. Thus they would want to make sure they have done their groundwork. But the other risk is that the longer they go without holding the NGC, the more Malema’s name fades into the past, and thus, possibly, their power with it.
However, the other risk to the league’s current leaders could be greater. It is that the longer the status quo remains, the harder it will be for the league to regain any influence. As an organisation that claims to be kingmaker in the ANC, the real risk is that by the time it coheres again, it could simply be too late.
This would mean the ANC could go to its Mangaung conference virtually without a youth league. It would be there in name only, but would have no influence — a far cry from its position at Polokwane.
This column first appeared in the Business Day.