The ANC Youth League in Johannesburg is going ahead with its “Camp Zenith”, where participants will take part in military training, gun handling and guerrilla tactics, despite a public outcry and death threats against the organisers.
The proposed camp has proven so attractive that the venue had to be changed, since the original venue couldn’t accommodate the large numbers.
One of the leaders and organisers of the camp, who goes by the name of “General” Bheki Nkutha, said the public outcry and threats were a shock because the organisation was “known” for being a militant youth political organisation.
“What people do not understand is that this camp was part of the youth league’s resolutions and commitments made at Gallagher Convention Centre in 2010, when Julius Malema was president,” said Nkutha.
He said the camp, which was aimed at empowering the youth and motivating them, was not a call to arms, but a team-building exercise where participants would take part in numerous activities, including hiking, military training, gun handling and guerrilla tactics.
“We are not saying take up arms, all we want is to teach the youth and empower them with skills such as gun handling so that they can protect themselves. We live in a society where guns are everywhere, so they need to know how to handle situations involving guns,” said Nkutha.
The youth league was dormant under the current leadership of president Collen Maine and, as the Soweto Zone 9 branch, they wanted the organisation to be vibrant and involved in issues affecting young people, he said.
Nkutha said the public was silent about the military training that Afrikaner children were receiving in Orania, the Afrikaner town in the Northern Cape.
“We are shocked that people are threatening to kill us for organising a spring weekend camp when there are young Afrikaner children who are being taught how to shoot in Orania. Why is nobody talking about the military camps there?” asked Nkutha. “Why is it so bad for black children to be taught discipline, because that is what the military is all about.”
Nkutha said they had to change the venue because the organisation received a lot of interest from other provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, while the dates were also subject to change due to this.
Senior researcher and consultant for the Institute for Security Studies Johan Burger said there were laws that would have to be adhered to if the camp were to go ahead, such as the Firearms Control Act and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, to determine the legality of the camp.
Attorney Ulrich Roux said there would be no problem with the camp as long as it complied with the relevant laws.
“As long as there are no illegal guns or weapons being used and everything is according to the law, there should be no problem,” said Roux.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said the ANCYL members responsible for the camp would have to explain themselves.
“We do not accept the decision of a youth league in Gauteng that they will be training people militarily and handing out guns,” she said.
“The youth league members responsible will be requested to come and explain themselves to us. If anyone wants to join the defence force, they can apply to join the SANDF. We do not subscribe to private armies on the side.”