ANCYL will not be used as a 'pocket knife' to fight factional battles says Nonceba Mhlauli

Nonceba Mhlauli, newly appointed ANC Youth League convener
Nonceba Mhlauli, newly appointed ANC Youth League convener

Newly appointed ANC Youth League convener Nonceba Mhlauli says the league has been used by leaders in its mother body as a “pocket knife” in their battles.

Mhlauli spoke strongly against ANC leaders using the party's youth wing to fight their factional battles.

“The youth league has for long been used as a pocket knife in the factional battles of the mother body and that's why there is such a high contestation for the youth league, precisely because some view it as a pocket knife that they can pull out any time they are fighting each other.

“And we need to guard against that, we need to jealousy guard against that because if we allow that, the organisation is not going to live up to its purpose. It is no secret that there are different opinions and perspectives and it would be naive of us to think that as members of the youth some do not have views about what is happening. But what is important is for us to guard against us not fulfilling because we are playing politics of bishops,” said Mhlauli.

She said the youth league she is leading should not be there to represent a certain ANC faction but it must be one that is going to serve the youth of SA.

“If we do not guard it jealousy, it's gonna become another youth league that will be a pocket knife and that's something that we cannot afford to happen. The stakes are too high, young people are just destitute right now. Young people are despondent,” said Mhlauli.

She said the organisation could not afford to involve itself in fights that have nothing to do with young people.

Mhlauli gained national prominence when she was appointed as ANC caucus spokesperson when the late Jackson Mthembu was the party's chief whip in parliament.

She later moved with Mthembu to be his spokesperson when he was appointed as minister in the presidency. She took the spotlight during the Covid-19 virtual briefings when some jokingly referred to her as “the voice of God” due to her role in reading media questions sent via WhatsApp.

Many associated her with the faction supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa but when asked if she was a Ramaphosa “plant” in the organisation, Mhlauli denied this, saying she would work hard to shake that tag.

“I am a member of the youth league and I am a member of the ANC, it's unfortunate that that's the perception but it also means that we have a lot of work to do to change these perceptions. I think that is what we are committed to do. We are committed to change the perception of who belongs to who, because that does not serve the interests of any young person in SA,” said Mhlauli.

She said when the structure met with Ramaphosa and the ANC officials, he told them not to allow the elders to meddle in the affairs of the youth league.

The youth league has been in a state of shambles since 2012 when it disbanded its leadership, led by Julius Malema.

Since then, it put together a task team led by Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and it later elected Collen Maine who was labelled “Mr 34.9”, owing to the fact that he was fast approaching 35, a cut-off age to qualify for the position.

During his tenure, the ANCYL lost its spark, constantly being overshadowed by the controversy of Malema and his newly founded EFF.

His leadership was then disbanded after it failed to hold a conference when its term ended, ushering in a national task team, led by Tandi Mahambehla, much to the disappointment of young YL members like Mhlauli who went on to label the grouping “the eldership”, owing to the advanced age of its members.

But Mhlauli believes the woes of the ANCYL date back to 2008 where the party's conference in the Free State collapsed, leading to scenes of members showing their buttocks.  

At the time Mhlauli was a 17-year-old ANCYL member studying at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.

“In the Eastern Cape there were two conferences that collapsed, there was a provincial conference where chairs were flying ... and that conference collapsed and after that there were two factions that held two different conferences. One was held in East London, one was held in Grahamstown and there was a dispute about which one was legitimate,” said Mhlauli.

She said her branch was disbanded for refusing to choose sides, a phenomenon happening across the country. In Limpopo, Malema's leadership disbanded the provincial ANCYL structure, which was led by Lehlogonolo Masoga. Masoga was eventually expelled from the ANCYL for taking the party to court.

“So the internal problems of the Youth League predates the removal of [Malema and his leadership], that is my argument. The internal conflict of the youth league, in my view, was as a result of extreme factionalism and that sort of cultish leadership where if you disagree, you get disbanded,” said Mhlauli.


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