Dream Sav­ing the SA

The ANC Youth League is sup­posed to be the sec­ond layer of our lead­er­ship, but th­ese days the or­gan­i­sa­tion is lit­tle more than a lame duck, writes

CityPress - - Voices - Dube is a se­nior re­searcher at the Xu­bera In­sti­tute of Re­search and Devel­op­ment

The late play­wright, philoso­pher and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Czech Repub­lic, Vá­clav Havel, cau­tioned that “ly­ing can never save us from an­other lie”. Thus, those of us em­bar­rassed by the par­lous state of af­fairs in to­day’s ANC Youth League should take ex­tra care to avoid “brain fog” – fuzzy think­ing and mem­ory loss – when re­call­ing the Thabo Mbeki years.

The in­con­ve­nient truth even the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion was keen to avoid is that Mbeki and Ja­cob Zuma were two peas in a pod un­til the dawn of this mil­len­nium.

And it was their di­ver­gence and ri­valry that opened a per­ni­cious Pan­dora’s box of im­punity in our po­lit­i­cal cul­ture.

Both men need to take in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pre­vail­ing sense of dis­cord and dis­trust in the youth league.

The self-de­struc­tive­ness demon­strated by their per­sonal am­bi­tions is also prov­ing to be an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional pun­ish­ment and a be­trayal of young South Africans’ hopes and dreams for a bet­ter future.

Al­most all points of anal­y­sis con­verge on the prob­a­bil­ity that the slate ( group) cul­ture was in­tro­duced and per­fected in the ANC in the course of the league’s 21st con­fer­ence that took place in Man­gaung in 2001. This is where the youth league was gob­bled by its mother body.

The con­clu­sion of Malusi Gi­gaba’s pres­i­den­tial re­port laid bare the dis­turb­ing re­la­tion­ship the ANC was clan­des­tinely craft­ing with its youth league when he said: “As vet­er­ans, we trust that you shall not fail to fairly crit­i­cise our ac­tions, ad­vice, sup­port and guide us through­out the cause of our jour­ney, rather than in­ter­act with us only when con­gresses are near and you have opin­ions about who should oc­cupy what lead­er­ship po­si­tion.”

Al­beit Gi­gaba’s plea was on be­half of the league, there was a dom­i­nant dis­trust that the then ANC pres­i­dent, Mbeki, was favour­ing a cer­tain slate that com­prised Gi­gaba, Fik­ile Mbalula and Rubben Mohlaloga com­pared with that of David Makhura, Ja­cob Mam­abolo, Kenny Fihla and Tshilidzi Rat­shi­tanga.

It is well known that to­wards the in­fa­mous 52nd ANC na­tional con­fer­ence in Polok­wane in 2007, the league be­came the fo­cus of much at­ten­tion. As the Mbeki and Zuma camps jos­tled to court them as a mo­bil­is­ing agent, youth league chest-beat­ing grew more pro­nounced.

With Mbeki over­thrown, and in­tox­i­cated by their new power, they crowned them­selves “king­mak­ers”.

We know now – through Julius Malema’s po­lit­i­cal ex­ile and sub­se­quent rein­car­na­tion as the ANC’s po­lit­i­cal bête noire in the form of the Economic Free­dom Fighters – that they were never king­mak­ers. In­stead, they were “con­doms” to be dis­carded af­ter use.

Why are youth lea­guers still will­ing to be ma­nip­u­lated by those seek­ing the high­est po­si­tions in the ANC?

In the early decades of democ­racy in the US, James Madi­son, the au­thor of the Bill of Rights and fourth pres­i­dent of that coun­try, ob­served: “The essence of gov­ern­ment is power, and power, lodged as it must be in hu­man hands, will ever be li­able to abuse.”

This maxim ex­plains much of the league’s com­plic­ity in the cor­rup­tion of its mother body.

The in­sa­tiable lust for ma­te­rial ac­cu­mu­la­tion, clam­our­ing for so­cial sta­tus and grandiose delu­sions fa­cil­i­tated by the post-apartheid po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion al­tered the ANC’s char­ac­ter.

At the same time, the ap­ple does not fall far from the tree.

The youth league, as the en­try point and po­lit­i­cal test­ing ground for ANC cadres, was like­wise trans­formed into a den of scoundrels.

The se­quence of events of the past 10 years il­lus­trates that in the youth league, a dan­gling car­rot is reach­able. We have seen peo­ple who punch be­low the belt be­ing “re­warded” with gov­ern­ment and Cabi­net po­si­tions.

Pol­icy ar­tic­u­la­tion and in­tel­lec­tual devel­op­ment of the or­gan­i­sa­tion are no longer pre­req­ui­sites to lead. The league should not cel­e­brate by count­ing num­bers

The youth league, as the en­try point and po­lit­i­cal test­ing ground for ANC cadres, was like­wise trans­formed into a den of scoundrels

of Cabi­net min­is­ters, MECs and pre­miers from its mem­ber­ship.

Rather, it needs to judge their value to South African so­ci­ety in re­la­tion to their con­tri­bu­tion to the public dis­course, as well as the in­tel­lec­tual sphere and the en­tre­pre­neur­ial sec­tor.

The power that makes one free is not vested in gov­ern­ment, but is in the hands of those who gen­er­ate knowl­edge, safe­guard the im­par­tial­ity of our public in­sti­tu­tions and com­mand the means of pro­duc­tion.

Sadly, for the past 20 years, we have not seen any in­tel­lec­tual in­ter­ven­tion or the for­ma­tion of new po­lit­i­cal per­spec­tives be­ing crafted by youth league mem­bers.

Who shall res­cue the youth league from “turn­ing and turn­ing in the widen­ing gyre”? We all know that the fal­con has been be­trayed by the falconer. Surely that is why things have fallen apart. The cen­tre is no longer hold­ing.

Even Mbeki now ac­knowl­edges the cor­re­la­tion between the ANC’s de­cline and the gen­eral drift of South African so­ci­ety. In a re­pen­tant tone, he de­liv­ered the 2012 Oliver Tambo Me­mo­rial Lec­ture at the Univer­sity of Fort Hare, say­ing: “Our beloved moth­er­land is los­ing its sense of di­rec­tion, and we are al­low­ing our­selves to progress to­wards a costly dis­as­ter of a pro­tracted and en­demic gen­eral cri­sis.”

He ap­pealed for soul-search­ing to steer it back on course. Mbeki’s con­fes­sion, as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his gen­er­a­tion, that they have failed, ne­ces­si­tates the rein­car­na­tion of Tambo’s thun­der­ing call that once re­ver­ber­ated in all cor­ners of the world: “Roar, young lions, roar!”

The hour has come – es­pe­cially for those who once led and par­tic­i­pated in the in­tel­lec­tual move­ments of the league and other youth or­gan­i­sa­tions in the 1990s – to re­po­si­tion, re­de­fine and con­tex­tu­alise the strat­egy and tac­tics of the ANC.

The youth league must heed Khalil Gi­bran’s warn­ing: “If it is a despot you would de­throne, see first that his throne erected within you is de­stroyed.”

It must be a pri­or­ity for the league to ex­cise the ma­lig­nant sys­tem, in­tro­duced by Mbeki and nur­tured by Zuma, that has re­pro­duced fac­tion­al­ism and ve­nal­ity, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously hol­low­ing out the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Let all those young lions, who through the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion are sup­posed to be the sec­ond layer of our lead­er­ship, lis­ten to the des­per­ate calls of those whose dreams are be­ing shat­tered daily. Let them roar louder by speak­ing truth to the re­al­i­ties con­fronting South Africa.

It is within their con­vic­tion to en­cour­age Panyaza Le­sufi to pro­ceed and write what he likes. Mbalula must pen a thought-pro­vok­ing open let­ter to Zuma with­out fear of los­ing a tran­si­tional min­is­te­rial po­si­tion.

Paul Mashatile’s demo­cratic right of elect­ing a leader of his choice must be en­trenched with­out his so­cial up­ward mo­bil­ity be­ing covertly eclipsed. The an­a­lyt­i­cal tal­ents and out­spo­ken­ness of Dr Makhosi Khoza must be warmly em­braced. Lulu John­son must re­visit with­out fear the Protea and Spring­bok em­blem dis­course.

The for­mer youth lead­ers and par­tic­i­pants in the progressive struc­ture must com­mit to mem­ory Os­car Wilde’s words: “We are never more true to our­selves than when we are in­con­sis­tent.”

In hind­sight, we now know that the ap­peal made by Gi­gaba on be­half of the youth league fell on deaf ears.

The South African dream has been sab­o­taged by our own lead­ers. It is high time for the next gen­er­a­tion to re­claim cen­tre stage.

Re­newal and re­di­rect­ion are des­per­ately needed, and noth­ing short of a blood­less mutiny (sim­i­lar to the 1949 putsch in which the Congress Youth League de­posed ANC pres­i­dent AB Xuma and se­cured nearly half the ex­ec­u­tive seats) will save the ship.

Ma­hatma Gandhi said: “Truth never dam­ages a cause that is just.” As such, the youth league and talented lead­ers within it must pick up the ba­ton that has fallen. Our future de­pends on it.

PHOTO: JOHNNY ON­VERWACHT

FRENEMIES Thabo Mbeki and Ja­cob Zuma em­brace af­ter the elec­tion re­sults at the ANC’s 52nd na­tional con­fer­ence in Polok­wane in 2007

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