ANCYL's Thanduxolo Sabela ready to lead youth to glory

ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo contemplates being the new league president. / Thuli Dlamini
ANC Youth League KwaZulu-Natal secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo contemplates being the new league president. / Thuli Dlamini

Thanduxolo Sabela wants to follow in the footsteps of Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Peter Mokaba, Malusi Gigaba, Julius Malema and others by becoming ANC Youth League president.

Currently the secretary of the youth league in KwaZulu-Natal, he was one of the staunchest backers of former president Jacob Zuma in the run-up to the ANC national conference in December.

It is Friday afternoon and I meet the 32-year-old at the Hilton Hotel in Durban. He has just returned from Pietermaritzburg, where he joined other ANC leaders to give
Zuma moral support during his appearance in the high court on corruption charges.

But when I ask him about his relationship with Zuma he refuses to express his views.

"President Zuma (sic) is a former leader of the ANC and I respect him but I'd rather not dwell on my relationship with him," says Sabela.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise that Sabela would want to stay clear of Zuma at this stage. After all, some in the league blame the former president for the state the once influential league finds itself in under its current president Collen Maine.

Sabela and the youth league structures in KwaZulu-Natal played a great part in backing Maine for the presidency as, at the time, he was part of their pro-Zuma camp within the ANC.

So what does Sabela think of Maine's legacy as youth league president now that he'll be stepping down in September?

Sabela avoids the question.

"It's not up to me to judge how he executed [his] mandate, that would be judged by the branches of the youth league at the conference to assess the work he has done from 2015 till now," he says.

He is not shy to speak about his campaign for the youth league presidency, though.

"I'm ready to lead," he says.

"I've been approached to stand and I've never refused any task given to me by the youth league, so I accepted that I will avail myself for the position of the president."

According to youth league insiders, the race for the presidency is a three-horse race
between Sabela, Mabala Noise record label owner Reggie
Nkabinde and former Gauteng SA Student Congress leader Ndumiso Mokako.

Sabela regards Mokako as an old friend and says discussions on them joining forces "are at an advanced stage".

"I can tell you that Ndumiso and I will be on the same team by the time of the national conference," he says.

Mokako could not be reached for comment.

According to those campaigning for Sabela, he already enjoys support from the Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga structures.

Were he to win, what would he do to revive an organisation that has become a shadow of itself under Maine, I ask him? "I would ensure the unity of the structures that I will be working with."

"It's not a secret that the national executive committee of the league has some challenges. Our role is to encourage unity, go around the country to try and reach consensus in all matters, including policy and leadership matters."

He will go to the elective congress armed with a number of policy proposals from KwaZulu-Natal youth league structures.

Among them is the abolishment of the "work experience" requirement for entry level posts in government and the private sector. Rather, the structures propose that the focus should be on on-the-job training for the youth.

Sabela says many youth, especially graduates, are not even given a chance by employers to show what they have learnt as they have no experience.

"To be able to graduate from a university shows that you are capable of studying and of learning. So, if you put them on the job and give them on-the-job training they will be able to execute their duties," he says.

As he prepares for the September conference, Sabela will be encouraged by the success of the campaign he and other league leaders in the province led to ensure that the youth dominate the ruling party's provincial executive committee.

The outcome of the provincial ANC conference put youth leaguers firmly in charge of the party in the ANC's biggest province.

"What the youth needs beyond factional battles of the ANC is to champion the interest of young people," he says.

"Nobody dare challenge us in the province, you challenge us at your own risk.

"If you challenge us because you think you are powerful, [you will find out that] nobody is more powerful than the ANC, the ANC is a brand. It is the ANC that is powerful, not leaders," Sabela says.

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