Over the last couple of days, the ANC and the ANC Youth League released consecutive and contradictory statements concerning both the SABC and its leadership under COO Hlaudi Mostoeneng. The message, its seems, has become muddied.

On Monday, the ANCYL issued a statement of support for the SABC and its board, titled “Hands Off SABC and please let us allow quitters to quit”, which can only be described as outlandish.

For weeks, the ANC had remained relatively silent on the matter, despite calls from the likes of the DA to speak out against censorship at the public broadcaster, save for a few tweets from, among other people, its spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.

The ANCYL called the backlash against the SABC “attacks” and “acts of cowardice” which “suggest that there is something wrong at SABC or its leadership thus a need for a probe” [sic].

It further went on to congratulate the SABC for the “good, progressive decision” made in promoting local content.

The ANCYL also launched a verbal attack on suspended SABC employees and those who’ve resigned since the saga began, calling them “quitters” and saying they should “stop complaining about decisions they were part of but could not win the debate inside structures of SABC but now decide to use other platforms to vent their inability to provide leadership” [sic].

When such a statement comes from such a key body within the ANC, one would think the mother-body would’ve signed off on it and that that was the general consensus in entire party.

In light of subsequent developments, it seems the ANCYL acted without waiting for official confirmation, which isn’t unheard of.  The Youth League is known for making outrageous statements, which usually results in a slap on the wrist from the ANC.

Fast forward 24 hours and the ANC motherbody, through its outspoken parliamentary chief whip Jackson Mthembu, issued a statement expressing a completely different stance from the ANCYL on the matter.

ANC motherbody takes completely different direction

The statement read by Mthembu yesterday stopped short of calling the SABC board and Motsoeneng dictators, saying they had made decisions without consulting anyone and disregarded South Africans and the governing party.

“We have jealously guarded the right of freedom of expression and have never hesitated to speak in favour of media freedom wherever and whenever allegations of media censorship of any kind were raised,” Mthembu said.

Mthembu said any policy changes or editorial decisions by the SABC, that in any way limit these freedoms, can never be sanctioned by the party. Nor do they represent its views and aspirations.

“…If somewhere mid-stream you want to change [editorial] policy, you don’t consult with us [ANC], that also shows scant disregard for the governing party…No one sitting some cosy office can decide and be that arrogant and decided what it is that people can see or not see… If you put a ban on coverage, you are in conflict with South African constitution,” he said.

Egg on ANCYL’s face

The above statements by Mthembu clearly map out the ANC’s position on the SABC and Motsoeneng.

Someone reading what the YL has said, would think it and the motherbody are two are entirely different entities with no common ground.

Will there be consequences for this? Probably not publicly, but there may be stern words behind closed door. Will that deter the YL from deviating from general party stances in future? Highly unlikely.

If anything, the YL should take a lesson from this and learn to be in sync with the motherbody, lest it further damage its own and the party’s reputation, especially at a crucial time such as now when there are less than 30 days to the 2016 Municipal Elections.

We tried to contact the YL media liaison to find out if it would be retracting its statement, but he was not able to speak to us as he was too busy.