YOUTH Day celebrations in Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth, descended into chaos at the weekend when angry supporters of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema stormed the stage, forcing SANDF members to step in to restore order.
The main speakers were also heckled and ridiculed.
More than 10000 people had filled the Wolfson Stadium for the R12-million Youth Day event on Saturday, despite President Jacob Zuma backing out from speaking at the gathering and opting instead to fly to Mexico for the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, which starts today.
The youth refused to listen to the speakers, singing that their ousted leader would one day lead the ANC “come what may” – something they would have done even if Zuma had attended the event, they said.
While dancers were entertaining the crowd at 1pm, Malema supporters stormed the main stage.
Wearing ANCYL T-shirts and National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) berets, they toyi-toyied and chanted “asiphelelanga u JuJu akekho”, which loosely translated means “we are incomplete – Juju is not here”.
Despite pleas for calm by Eastern Cape Social Development MEC Pemmy Majodina, the programme director, they drowned out the address by Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, who was standing in for Zuma.
Chabane looked agitated as the youth sang and toyi-toyied around the stadium, chanting “Juju Juju! Malema Malema!”.
An upset Chabane told them: “The future of our youth belongs to all of us. If you disrespect gatherings like this our future is not guaranteed. We need disciplined youth.”
Majodina also appealed to the hecklers, saying: “Youth, we have heard your song that aniphelelanga [you are incomplete]. That will be discussed in proper platforms. Now, can we continue with the programme?”
The disruptions followed ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s announcement last week that party leaders had turned down the youth league’s request for the ANC national executive committee to review Malema’s expulsion at the party’s conference in Mangaung in December.
Malema was expelled from the ANC in April for bringing the party into disrepute and sowing division in the party’s ranks. Mazizi Dlamini, a regional youth league official from the Ngqushwa region near the Fish River, said “circumstances on the ground” had compelled young people to disrupt the event.
“The youth league feels its leader deserves to be here. This is a significant day for us as young people because we are fighting for what the youth of 1976 fought for,” he said.
Youth league member Mzikayise Blom, from Chatty in Port Elizabeth, said: “We want Juju back. We still need that comrade in our lifetime.”
He said Zuma was lucky that he had not attended the event, because “we don’t care about Zuma”.
Another league member, Mzoxolo Kom, said: “Everyone is displeased that Juju is expelled. His space is felt in the ANC Youth League. There should have been a political solution to Juju’s case.”
The ANC provincial headquarters, Calata House in King William’s Town, said what had happened should not be left “unattended”, suggesting that it was on a collision course with the ANCYL.
Opening the ANC provincial general council in East London yesterday, ANC provincial chairman Phumulo Masualle said: “The embarrassment of seeing ANC members wearing ANC T-shirts, waving ANC flags, engaging in such activities, that cannot be left unattended.”
In Kwazakhele on Saturday, Chabane said while being heckled that government was aware of the challenges facing the youth, such as drug abuse and other “different forms of abuses”.
“Government has done well to address the plight of the youth … but youth development is the responsibility of each government department,” he said.
Chabane said the youth was being exploited to lead service delivery protests because of their vulnerability, and called for them to “rather focus on their education”.
NYDA chief executive Steven Ngobeni said at the event that “the youth is running out of patience [as far as empty] rhetoric is concerned”.
“The youth wants to see opportunities of being employed and assistance to start businesses. This is a simple call to all and sundry to deal with our problems,” he said. Additional reporting by Michael Kimberley and Zine George