In apparent imitation of and a challenge to the “youthful” Economic Freedom Fighters, the governing ANC has bragged about having included a large number of youth, mainly from the ANC Youth League and student bodies, on its national and provincial candidates lists for the upcoming election.
The young candidates include former Wits University’s #FeesMustFall campaign leader Nompendulo Mkhatshwa and a horde of present and former ANC Youth League leaders – the youngest of whom is only 20 years old.
Former ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola tops all other youth league members on the party parliamentary candidates lists.
The move by the ANC is seen as a direct challenge to the Economic Freedom Fighters, led by Julius Malema. The EFF was the first political party in South Africa to be led entirely by young people and its presence in parliament has changed the country’s political landscape.
Since the EFF arrived in parliament in 2014, it introduced rigorous and robust debate in the House and its members openly challenged former ANC president Jacob Zuma, calling for him to pay back the money that was used to build non-security details at his Nkandla homestead. The party stage dramatic walk-outs in protest and often physically clashed with parliamentary security during the sittings.
Political analyst Susan Booysen said the ANC was realising the need for a generational mix when choosing parliamentarians.
She said it was important that the party renewed itself because most of its MPs were too old and out of touch with issues.
“They must start reinventing themselves, the ANC must appeal to the youth and they have realised that it’s time for the young blood that will invigorate the party,” she said.
Booysen said the ANC’s decision to include youth could well be influenced by the EFF’s composition in parliament, as the two parties were presently demographically diametrically opposed to each other, with the ANC for older and the EFF for younger people.
It is believed that the ANC deliberately included the youth in order for them to challenge the EFF in parliamentary debates.
The ages of many of the current ANC MPs range from middle age to well over 70 years of age. But almost the entire EFF consists of young people, while the DA has its own youth in Phumzile van Damme, the UDM has Nqabayomzi Kwankwa and the IFP its Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane and Malema recently turned 36.
Mkhatshwa and others students led the campaign in which students countrywide demanded free tertiary education, as was promised by the ANC. Another #FeesMustFall activist, Fasiha Hassan, has also been included on the ANC list.
The campaign nearly died down when some of the students, including Mkhatshwa, were co-opted into staff at ANC’s Luthuli House, leaving the campaign in the hands of less prominent student leaders, some of whom were either arrested or victimised by police on various university campuses.
It is alleged that the ANC strategy of co-option was meant to take the sting out of the campaign by removing its key leaders.
The ANC said its lists consisted of 20% youth, which it claimed represented a true generational mix and reflected the party’s renewal approach. It also indicated the ANC’s relevance to new generations, together with experience and continuity.
“The ANC enforced in its list guidelines a quota of at least 20 percent of young people. We therefore represent to South Africa young men and women who will bring new energy and ideas to parliament and the provincial legislatures,” the party said in a statement this afternoon.
Lamola was deputy president to former ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema, who was expelled from the party along with Floyd Shivambu and others before establishing the EFF of which he is president. Lamola, who is number 5 on the ANC national list, is a practising lawyer and deputy chair of the ANC sub-committee on economic transformation, and a champion of the party’s land reform policy.
Current ANC Youth League president Collen Maine and his deputy Desmond Moela as well as the league secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza have been enlisted as ANC parliamentary candidates. Maine and Nzuza strongly opposed Ramaphosa as ANC presidential candidates and Maine’s ANCYL ran a campaign to discredit Ramaphosa’s backers such as Pravin Gordhan.
A large number of other youth candidates come from the ANCYL structures in the provinces. They include Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba from Northern Cape, Kwazikwenkosi Mshengu from KwaZulu-Natal and Khaleed Sayed from the Western Cape. Also on the list is Tasneem Motara, a former MP and current ANC Gauteng provincial spokesperson, and Mbali Hlope, an ANC Gauteng provincial executive committee member and former Sasco Wits branch member.
Other former student leaders on the lists are former Sasco president Avela Mjajubana, former Sasco secretary general Lwando Majiza and former Cosas secretary general Nkhobo Khomongoe.