Any university student has a sad story to tell about the death of student politics, the inefficiency of modern day SRCs and the general mediocrity of South Africa’s youth politics.
They also harbour strong views about one Julius Malema who is fast becoming a loose cannon. Most urban youths agree that, after watching gallons of bile coming out of the mouths of youth leaders in recent months, it is perhaps high time these yuppie politicians are reigned in.
In the absence of real leadership qualities from youth league leaders, black diamonds are giving Anele Mda of the Congress of the People an ear. Her tongue is more refined but she is far from being a messiah for the country’s flock of youth in search of a shepherd.
Since the mid-90s, the behavior of some of the ANC Youth League motor-mouths did not attract public disgust – at least until the late Peter Mokaba revived the “Kill the boer, kill the farmer” slogan at a time when Madiba was laying the foundation of our democracy.
But it was the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) under the leadership of one Kenny Motshegoa that took the cake with its disrespect of emeritus archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2006.
Believe it not, Cosas summoned the entire country’s media to a press conference when the organisation demanded Tutu to provide it with his sexual history before speaking as an expert on Jacob Zuma’s sexual behavior.
This was in defence of JZ’s dumbest moment so far — during which he had sex with an HIV-positive woman without using a condom. Motshegoa said his organisation will not “allow Tutu to undermine decisions that are taken within constitutional structures of the ANC on the support to be given to Zuma.”
He continued – “His malicious statements to declare that comrade Zuma should withdraw from the race for presidency are illusions without significance or impact to sober South Africans.”
And labelled Tutu an “empty populist who just utters statements to score minor political points, not caring whether they are disgraceful to his offices”.
“We are now not sure of his mental status as it leaves much to taste.
“His public behaviour is reckless and he is a scandalous man who cannot impose his moral views.”
“Howling voices like Tutu, which are not founded on principles, cannot mislead us.
“Does Tutu think he is higher than the court that cleared Zuma, or does he think he has a better moral base than others?”
It was the lowest point in student politics when a boy young enough to be Tutu’s grandson demands Tutu’s sexual history.
The nation was stunned.
No one could do anything to call these misguided empty vessels to order without being accused of being a sell-out, if not labelled a former apartheid spy.
For a short reminder of who Tutu is, apart from being a Nobel Prize Laureate, consider the following;
Financial Mail editor Barney Mthombothi, shocked by former president Thabo Mbeki’s denunciation of the archbishop’s critic of his leadership style, wrote: “Many ANC members understand the wisdom of Tutu’s words, and will disagree with their president.
“They share Tutu’s values because they marched with him against mass removals; they were with him when he threw himself into an angry mob in Duduza to prevent the necklacing of a woman suspected of being a police informer.
“They were with him when he was vilified and hounded by the apartheid state.”
What made Mr Motshegoa think he has a right to disrespect Tutu like that?
Some thought the standards of youth politics had hit rock bottom and would never go lower than that.
Youth leaders led by former Youth League president Fikile Mbalula orchestrated what amounted to a hijacking of an ANC elective conference in Limpopo, turning the highest decision-making forum in the country into a rowdy circus.
It was in that circus that the real election of the head of state happened.
Standards plummeted further at the ANC Youth League’s last elective conference in Mangaung in Bloemfontein this year.
Fisticuffs erupted and youth leaders stripped to expose their bums in front of media cameras.
That conference elected Julius Malema to the league’s top job.
South Africans – both young and old – are again shocked by the loose-cannon that speaks on behalf of Mzansi’s biggest and most influential youth organisation.
His statement that he will lead the league to shoot to kill in support of JZ and in defence of the liberation movement is so far the most misguided statement by a youth leader in liberated South Africa.
Firstly, there is no one to shoot and kill. Most South Africans love this democratic order and would be prepared to die in its defence.
Institutions like the judiciary, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate of Special Operations aka the Scorpions, whose eight-year-long persecution of Zuma boggles the mind, are in fact democratic institutions brought to life by the ANC government.
So, who is Malema going to shoot and kill? Who should be the recipient of this empty threat?
How did these youth leaders get to be so powerful?
Blame it on the ANC culture that discourages ambition for political office. The so-called ANC culture that discourages open campaigning and political ambition as careerism has, in fact, given rise to the influence of the bulldogs.
The power of the youth organisations comes from the fact that leadership contests in the ANC have become vicious in recent times, leading to the contenders grooming what analysts now refer to as vicious political bulldogs.
Mbeki can be credited with starting this culture during fierce leadership tussles with the late SACP secretary general Chris Hani and Cyril Ramaphosa. Mbeki’s bulldogs were legendary. They had a vicious bite. They played a major role in dismantling the Ramaphosa camp.
Their viciousness saw the late safety and security minister Steve Tshwete accusing Ramaphosa, former Gauteng premier Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa of plotting to unseat president Mbeki.
With Madikizela-Mandela, JZ, Tshwete, the late ANC Youth League and firebrand Peter Mokaba, the late KwaZulu-Natal MEC and ANC ideologue scholar Dumisani Makhaye, former defence minister Mosioua Lekota, premier of KZN Sbu Ndebele and former Transkei leader Bantu Holomisa, Mbeki commanded a vicious pack indeed.
Most of Mbeki’s bulldogs, including those who were still puppies at the time, made it into various government positions while others became multi-millionaires over night.
Zuma, “having learned at the feet of the master”, is using the same strategy. It was his bulldogs that tried to undo the legacy of Archbishop Tutu.
Ironically, JZ’s bulldogs, at the height of their paranoia, also claimed someone had placed a R1-million bounty on JZ’s head. While Zuma has a collection of really big and vicious bulldogs, his successful strategy has been to unleash puppies.
Most of them are in the youth league, trade federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party – all being autonomous organisations within the ruling tripartite alliance.
It is already becoming clear that it pays to hunt with the right pack. Hunting with the wrong pack on the other hand will see a lot of Mbeki’s backers being hounded out of office.
Former Youth League president Fikile Mbalula is now lording at Luthuli House as the ANC’s chief of campaigns. He is a member of the ANC national executive committee, a member of its prestigious national working committee and is on a one-way street to greater and finer things.
Zizi Kodwa, the former youth league spokesman is now polishing shoes in the office of the ANC president. It was he who instructed youth league members to beat Zuma critics and intellectual dogs like Professor Njabula Ndebele until their masters and handlers come out in the open.
Nathi Mthethwa, the new safety and security minister went to parliament on a youth league ticket, sat on important parliamentary committees, and recently emerged as the ANC chief whip.
The safety of all of us as citizens is now in his hands – a huge achievement at an early age. It is said it was Mthethwa who stood up during a 2005 national general council – set to decide Zuma’s fate as an ANC deputy president following TM’s decision to boot him out of government – and proposed that Zuma should not resign from his position.
Zuma had volunteered to step down from some of his responsibilities to concentrate on his legal challenges. Some say Mthethwa’s courage saved Zuma from the lions. So, it is clear for all to see that being a poodle that yaps at the feet of the master has its advantages.
The new ANC Youth League leader has already graduated from rural obscurity to living in a northern Jo’burg suburb home and rides the latest Mercedes Benz.
If he keeps this up, chances are that he will end up a member of cabinet one day – one can only hope the ANC we know and love will return political education for young cadres and improve the circulation of Umrhabulo before Malema starts his ascendance.
*This blog first appeared on the Nov/Dec issue of Y Mag
* Checkout my other blogs on Destiny Magazine online – http://blogs.destinyconnect.com/zukile/Default.aspx?2=1