On the ANCYL with Shaka Sisulu

Lee Molefi

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In April 2012, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) faced an uncertain future when Julius Malema was expelled as president of the organisation under a cloud of divisions within the ANC and a R4 million court case that loomed with the threat of liquidation. Just months later, Malema’s expulsion was followed by the disbandment of the ANCYL’s entire National Executive […]

In April 2012, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) faced an uncertain future when Julius Malema was expelled as president of the organisation under a cloud of divisions within the ANC and a R4 million court case that loomed with the threat of liquidation. Just months later, Malema’s expulsion was followed by the disbandment of the ANCYL’s entire National Executive Committee (NEC). Today, after three years spent in relative political and structural obscurity, the ANCYL has begun to show signs of renewal as it nears its first elective conference in six years this September. The League’s new-found sense of promise stems from the reconstructive work of a 40-man interim leadership committee called the ANCYL National Task Team (NTT). The NTT – consisting of 22 core members – was appointed by the ANC NEC in April 2013 to effectively draw the organisation out of the valley of the shadow of Julius Malema. On Friday, Lee Molefi spoke to respected personality and businessman Shaka Sisulu – also a member of the 40-person ANCYL NTT – about the ANCYL’s recent troubles and the party’s fast-approaching future complexion.

Live VIP: Has the ANCYL’s liquidation court case been resolved?

Shaka Sisulu: Yes. The League owed money to an organisation that had managed an elective conference in 2008. The league entered into an agreement for the elective conference and hadn’t concluded payment when they opted to take the matter to court. We’ve now settled that issue and resolved that matter out of court.

LV: Why did the ANC NEC appoint the National Task Team?

SS: With the expulsion of the former president of the ANCYL, it was seen that some of the problems (surrounding the organisation) related to the former president – who had started to define himself and the ANCYL outside of the ANC – it was found that these problems were not an individual’s responsibility but the collective responsibility of the leaders that were elected with him at the time. They then dissolved the leadership structure following a debate at NEC-level. Once that leadership structure was dissolved, a new or temporary one had to be put in place. That’s how we ended up with the current NTT.

LV: How many members does the NTT consist of?

SS: There are 22 appointed members by the ANC NEC and 18 representatives of the provinces. 40 in total.

LV: Can you confirm that the ANCYL’s elective conference will take place on the weekend of September 26-27 2014? SS: Those are the dates we are pursuing.

LV: There are rumours of camps and factions developing in view of the elective conference. Who are the front-runners for the presidency of the ANCYL?

SS: In an open democratic organisation, elective contestation is the norm and to be expected. There will always be a level of contestation and its difficult to say who the frontrunner is because the dynamics change over a long time. At the end of the day, because the conference is about policy as well as new leadership, there’s going to be obvious contestation between eligible candidates. I’m excited that members of the league will get to exercise their democratic right in a peaceful and disciplined manner and I’m looking forward to it.

LV: Who are the nominated candidates?

SS: The nomination process hasn’t begun yet so I can’t say that there’s anyone in particularly been nominated. There’s always talk but talk is cheap, let’s see what happens first when we open the nomination process and secondly when we go to conference.

Shaka Sisulu File Photo: City Press

LV: Have the past three years been the most difficult in the ANCYL’s history?

SS: No I don’t think so. I think it’s been difficult but it’s not necessarily been the most difficult time.

LV: Will the ANCYL culture of having strong leaders that incite rigorous debate continue in this next cycle of leadership or is the ANC now weary of how such a set up?

SS: Students of ANC politics will know that there will always be an ebb and flow. Like an accordion, it (the ANCYL leadership) gets very close to the ANC then pulls away and so forth – it’s the nature of the beast, as it should be. What tends to happen is that young leaders will inevitable say they want a leadership that’s more radical and appoint a leadership that’s distant from the ANC. Then rise up and say no, we don’t define ourselves out of the ANC. It’s been that way since the formation of the ANCYL.

LV: Do you anticipate that the ANCYL presidency, like in the recent cases of Fikile Mblalula and Julius Malema, will continue to influence the race for leadership of the ANC in 2017?

SS: In a way it will because there’s delegates and numbers it represents. The ANCYL sends delegates to the ANC conference. ANCYL branches will be participating in those debates. The issue sas tyo whether the ANCYL will become the kingmaker remains t be seen. In thew past 5 years it was assumed that the ANCYL was strong yet wasn’t able to bring about the policy changes it wanted at the last NGC (National General Conference) of the ANC and it wasn’t able to change the leadership to be the one it wanted at Mangaung so  it remains to be seen.

LV: What are some of the ANCYL’s main challenges?

SS: Many people outside the ANCYL don’t tend to have an appreciation for what the ANCYL is and what it contributes to society. So many people tend to be very hands-off when it comes to the ANCYL. Whereas if more people got involved and actively built constituencies and worked within the structures and so on would have a much better chance at influencing what the ANCYL looks and sounds, the only role most play now is of commentator. We need more participation. Everything else is systemic.

LV: What does the ANCYL’s future look like?

SS: In terms of the context and polemic of the youth league, it will follow those that have a greater share in the youth league. So, the ANCYL is going to sound resoundingly black. It’s going to speak about resoundingly poor, black issues and not necessarily Indian or white issues –  that is until you have white participation and Indian participation. I recognise that its difficult for those minorities to want to participate if the space doesn’t seem to be welcoming, so I hope that the new leadership takes that under consideration and finds a way to open the space a little bit more for those minorities – I think that’s important.

LV: In terms of the greater ANC & ANCYL political strategy, is the new leadership gearing up to do battle with the EFF? 

SS: The political dynamics in South Africa will always be considered in the elective conference. Everything that’s happening in the political space will be of consideration when we go to conference.


The ANC Youth League will hold an elective conference  on the weekend of September 25-27 2014 to appoint the organisation’s first permanent leadership structure since Julius Malema was elected as its president in 2008. Stay with the Live VIPZA platform as we bring you unique coverage on the shape, form and future of South Africa’s biggest youth political organisation, the league’s looming elective conference and the policy debates, news and views that will emanate from its interactions with the DA Youth and the EFF, amongst others. We will have it here first.

The #2014Elections has set an exciting and vibrant context for the future of South Africa politics to unfold upon. What happens now that you’ve voted? How do we gauge whether we’re “moving the country forward”, whether we’re “bringing change” or “economic freedom in our lifetime”? Stick with #LiveVIPZA and we’ll give you analysis, debates, comments, polls and all YOU need to understand, enjoy and interact with SA politics.

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