The otherwise invisible president of the ANC Youth League, Collen Maine, was resurrected this past week at a Winnie Madikizela-Mandela memorial service in Potchefstroom, North West province. He chose this sombre moment to literally throw the cat among the pigeons by revealing that premier of North West and ANC provincial chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo, introduced him to the notorious immigrant Gupta family.
Maine stunned his audience, and the country followed soon as his confession entered the public space. The youth leader best known for his absence and silence at most crucial moments, finally broke his silence and announced his presence in the most profound way imaginable.
Maine was unknown everywhere else except his North West province where had a lacklustre political life. He also made it into the Executive Council of Premier Supra Mahumapelo after his sojourn to Cape Town as a member responsible for local government and human settlements.
Where he gained prominence was when he would emerge as the replacement for the firebrand Julius Malema in the leadership of the ANCYL. Elected under the cloud of an alleged premier league cabal of President Jacob Zuma supporting provincial premiers, Maine was a far cry from the militancy associated with the ANC young lions.
Struggle icon Nelson Mandela cut his political teeth in the ANCYL. Many would follow Madiba to the unbanning of political parties in1990. Prominent among subsequent young lions was Peter Mokaba who would be a hard act to follow in clarity and militancy.
His war cries and chants continue to echo in the collective memory of the nation, years after his death. Fikile Mbalula and Julius Malema matched Mokaba to varying degrees. In fact, they still do in their adult life through oratory. In between there would be more sombre and intellectual Lulu Johnson and Malusi Gigaba. Even among the latter, standards were maintained.
Mbalula passed the leadership mantle to Malema, the high school pupils’ leader from Mokaba’s home province of Limpopo. It didn’t take long before Malema found himself out in the cold after being expelled from the ANC for ill-discipline. He had grown bigger than the ANC and its league.
Just when the nation’s youth was basking in the after glory of Malema’s tenure, bang arrives Maine at Luthuli house ANC headquarters as the new youth leader after Ekurhuleni executive mayors Mzwandile Masina’s stint at the helm.
From day one, Maine never cut it as a youth titan. He would be remembered as a shy and unassuming not so young person. Under his tenure youth matters disappeared from focus and treatment. No wonder former youth league deputy president Ronald Lamola came him Oros after a concentrated orange drink popular in the 80s. This obviously a reference to his weight, big as the Oros bottle.
The nearest time he came alive and staked a claim to glory was when he brought what remained of the ANCYL to back Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature for ANC president at NASREC. It was like he had found his lost voice and courage to speak out. He spewed bile against perceived opponents like the now president Ramaphosa and had to be reined in and cautioned to take it easy on insults and innuendos.
NASREC came and passed, Maine’s candidate lost to Cyril Ramaphosa who emerged as ANC president. Later President Jacob Zuma would be forced out for Ramaphosa to ascend before his term. At the helm, the new president moved in to restructure the cabinet. He dropped some cabinet members and brought in new members.
Fate had favoured Maine at NASREC, he was elected into the ANC national executive committee. Long past his sell-by date as a youth, he would have to make way for new blood in the organisation many credited him with its moribund state. Options for him were limited to the back bench in either the National Assembly or the National Council of Provinces. He had allegedly out of favour with his benefactor, Mahumapelo and there wouldn’t be any patronage from that end. If he was lucky he would scrape his to a back bench seat in Cape Town.
In what could be seen as a pre-emptive strike to spare himself from limbo, Maine and some in his leadership structure where fighting for President Ramaphosa attention and time. Their efforts had allegedly been thwarted by the young people who supported the president in his bid for high office. The Ramaphosa youth were reported to have said there was no need for such a meeting. National duties beckoned their man and not pleas from desperate out touch leaders.
As the plot of Maine’s curious case thickened, he was reported to have apologised to Ramaphosa for his misplaced support for Dlamini-Zuma. That appeared to be lowest of the low to which he could descend to crawl.As it were, more was to come.
In the balmy North West afternoon in the sorghum town of Potchefstroom, Maine made a startling confession during his address at the late Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela Memorial Service. He said unlike Madikizela-Mandela, he went to meet the Gupta family at their Saxonhold compound in Johannesburg. He was not taken there by the obvious culprit, President Jacob Zuma. He tells his audience it is Premier and ANC North West provincial chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo who led him to slaughter. The nation nearly choked in its lunch meals at Maine’s confession that afternoon.
As would be expected of such confessions, it lit the country. There was no middle road, it was an either or moment for the ANC and the country. Those who had been gunning for Mahumapelo and other Ramaphosa new deal denialists, welcomed the confession and its prospects to get rid of the North West premier.On the other hand new deal denialists like ANCYL deputy national secretary Thandi Moraka called her president a sell-out of note. First it was Dlamini-Zuma and now it is Mahumapelo. The ANC in the North West said Maine must own up to his sins.
As for Mahumapelo, he said reckless drivers who cause accidents on the roads must never blame the driving school for introducing them to driving. Since his confession in Potchefstroom, Maine hasn’t been seen or heard in public, including at Mama Winnie’s funeral. As if driving the nail into his coffin and the current youth league, it was its former president Fikile Mbalula who spoke on behalf the youth.
As Maine disappeared from public gaze, Malema just about took all the ANC thunder during his address at the packed Orlando stadium. Every speaker from Mbalula, Mantashe and to Ramaphosa had to respond and acknowledge Malema. Malema’s shadow loomed large over the giant stadium.
For now it is not clear whether Maine will ever reappear from his self-imposed hibernation. Or return only to take his seat at the State Capture enquiry for a fuller confession on how an immigrant family captured the South African state under their watch and with their full cooperation and willingness. The state is said to have been at the beck and call of the Guptas. They even appointed ministers, at least as legend goes.
As the country mulls the curious case of Collen Maine, it is not clear whether the ANCYL of Malema, Mbalula and Mandela will be resurrected. Ramaphosa and his team nationally and everywhere in the country have their jobs cut for them. As for Maine, aretse. He may just have to wait for Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s signal on where to jump.
Molebatsi Masedi is a Polokwane, Limpopo based proponent of radical socio-economic transformation. Tweeter: @MolebatsiMasedi