ANC Succession Debate: How The Youth League Split Over Who’ll Replace Zuma


In as much as the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), with certitude, has been lobbying for a new leader who would take radical measures such as redistribution of land, diffusion of wealth from white elites to black people, awarding free education, as well as limiting the influence of foreign companies; the naked truth remains that the replacement of President Zuma won’t be an easy-peasy.

The ANC Youth League, since its formation in 1944 has been a powerful organ of the ruling party and had played crucial roles in past elections in the party.

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For instance, under the youth league’s last president; Julius Malema, the group was instrumental in forcing out Thabo Mbeki as president and installing Zuma. Made up by 600,000 members, it is safe to say that the league, as always, has a significant voting bloc at the ruling party conference.

Next week, the ANC Youth League’s (ANCYL) national executive committee (NEC) would be meeting in Irene. Though other key issues to be discussed are still unclear, ANCYL spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize confirmed that ANC succession debate would be one of the cardinal issues to be tackled.

Until recently, the league had publicly declared Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as its preferred candidate for the ANC top post. But reliable sources confirmed that some league leaders and provincial structures are now in favour of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa taking over from Zuma.

Ramaphosa, with ease, would be the first choice for many investors; because his business background suggests he will support more pro-business policies than many in the traditionally left-wing ANC.

While Nkosazana who is regarded as a capable technocrat will likely find a spot on the list primarily because of her international exposure.

Nevertheless, some provincial leaders said they choose to sit on the fence until the NEC settle on a favourable candidate.

Limpopo ANCYL secretary Che Selane said: “The resolution of the NEC is going to bind us”.

Away from hunting for the best candidate, the ANCYL in Gauteng is pushing for young blood to be part of the ANC’s top six leaders. The league is lobbying to push up Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba; Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula; and Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa to the top six of the ANC.

Provincial chairperson Matome Chiloane said: “We are pushing for younger leaders. We are going to make contributions at the NEC.”

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While the ANC succession debate is some time away, the ANCYL; especially its leader Collen Maine, has serious managerial responsibility to take up.

Sometime in December 2016, he reiterated that the ANC needs a bold leader to launch a “second revolution” redistributing wealth to black people. Sooner than later – and as expected anyway – he would be required to lead the crop of young blood to ‘peacefully’ elect that bold leader.

Maine speaking to reporters at his office in Tlokwe, Potchefstroom, after his election in 2015

He was elected youth leader unopposed in 2015, three years after Malema was expelled for turning against Zuma.

Most High-profile Career Positions

Collen Maine was once an ANC MP in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), and latterly MEC of local government in North West province.

But one aspect of his political history which is still in dispute is about how he joined the ANC. Maine says he was never a COPE member, but the party disagrees.  The big question is: Did Maine defect from the Congress of the People (COPE) at one stage?

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