Racial tension among Western Cape members of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) have exploded into the open ahead of a crucial elective conference later this month.
At the heart of the tension is a call by some members of the youth league for increased representation of coloured people in leadership positions.
An internal document, distributed by supporters of Jonton Snyman, makes the case for greater involvement of coloured people in the leadership structures of the youth league after being “marginalised” by the ANCYL’s disbanded provincial executive.
Snyman, who is from Worcester, has been touted as a candidate for chairperson of the youth league in the Western Cape. The document says political discussion about the leadership of the ANCYL in the Western Cape cannot be complete without addressing the “National Question” and the “National Democratic Revolution”.
Although coloured youth were a significant demographic taking part in elections, the document argued that the ANCYL’s leadership in the Western Cape did not reflect this reality, the document said.
Though Africans made up the majority of youth league voters for the ANC, their support alone had “been insufficient to provide the ANC with electoral victory in this province”.
Coloured support, the document said, was a precondition for an ANC victory at the polls, where the party has suffered heavily due to factionalism.
“Opposition parties have since 1994 successfully continued to exploit the fears of coloured youth in general and the coloured urban working-class youth in particular. This fear of Africans emanates from decades of racial, social and spatial engineering,” the document states. “Many of our own leaders, cadres and members (both old and new) African, coloured and white may also not have fully overcome our psychological scars of the apartheid social engineering project.”
The ANC’s electoral decline, especially in coloured communities, coincided with a belief by the then ANC leadership, particularly after 2004, that coloured electoral support was not necessary for an ANC victory in the Western Cape, the document says.
The consequence of this, the authors argued, was that the ANC’s message was mostly directed at its traditional African support base.
The same argument was used by supporters of Marius Fransman as he squared off against Mcebisi Skwatsha to lead the ANC in the Western Cape, a race which was decided by the support of the ANCYL’s 21 delegates at February’s provincial conference.
Snyman said the “coloured issue” should not become an issue “just because Jonton raised it”.
“It will seem as if I’m doing this for my own personal ends,” said Snyman, who referred further queries to his spokesman Bheki Hadebe who could not be reached for comment last night.
Snyman’s main adversary for the position of provincial chairperson of the youth league in the Western Cape, Luvo Makasi, said the “coloured issue” was a red herring which was “opportunistically” raised.
Rather than looking for coloured leaders, “let us instead debate what the ANC has done wrong to lose the coloured vote”, Makasi said.
He later raised the question on his Facebook page, where commentators, many of them ANCYL members, were split on the issue, with some calling previous coloured leaders of the youth league in the Western Cape “incompetent” while others argued that the league could not ignore provincial demographics.
Four of the six ANC regions which have held their conferences have endorsed Makasi for the position of chairperson, with only the Dullah Omar (Cape Town Metro) region opting for Snyman and the Boland region still to hold its conference.