ANC must ac­ti­vate the youth

The path to rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion re­quires the in­put of a new gen­er­a­tion of party lead­ers

The New Age (KwaZulu-Natal) - - Comment - Kim Heller is a writer and so­cial commentator

THE 2019 elec­toral race be­longs to the ANC. For all its haugh­ti­ness, the op­po­si­tion is weak, both in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively.

Even in a show of unity, and with the cheer­lead­ing of main­stream me­dia and busi­ness, the op­po­si­tion will fin­ish a clear sec­ond to the ANC.

But the real en­durance test for the ANC, which the party needs to pre­pare for now, is to en­sure steady and sus­tain­able trac­tion among its most vi­tal con­stituency – young South Africans.

The ANC will have to step up as the cham­pion of the youth and as the au­then­ti­cated pace­set­ter of rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

If the ANC fails to ac­com­plish th­ese two things, it will im­peril its own longevity.

There is a marked fa­tigue among many ANC lead­ers.

Like sea­soned but weary ath­letes, they reach for the fin­ish line af­ter a praise­wor­thy race, yet flag in the fi­nal stretch.

The gru­elling marathon of po­lit­i­cal lib­er­a­tion, won on the stamina and sweat of so many com­rades, was a vic­tory in the race to­wards the at­tain­ment of free­dom in South Africa.

But po­lit­i­cal democ­racy is just a sin­gle lap in the ti­tanic bat­tle for a free Aza­nia.

The chase for rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion re­quires the steroid of youth­ful­ness. Eco­nomic lib­er­a­tion will be won on the rise of a dex­ter­ous young lead­er­ship.

If the ANC’s for­ward vi­sion, is fixed, as it should be, on a free Aza­nia where the black child comes first, rather than on an un­free South Africa, im­mo­bilised by white dom­i­na­tion, then the lead­er­ship ba­ton must be passed on to an ag­ile and able young lead­er­ship.

There is a suf­fi­ciently vo­lu­mi­nous rank of young lead­ers in the ANC with well-flexed ide­o­log­i­cal mus­cle and ex­cel­lent track records who are well poised for rad­i­cal ma­noeu­vre. This lead­er­ship must come to the fore in­side a halo of sup­port from vet­eran lead­ers, rather than in its shadow.

In my read­ing of the con­tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal to­pog­ra­phy, I sense a gen­er­a­tional dis­con­nect between the cur­rent ANC lead­er­ship and young South Africans.

A squad of young lead­ers within the ANC’s top lead­er­ship struc­tures, in­clud­ing its top six, will lift any mid­dle-age sag and rejuvenate the rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion agenda and en­sure a stronger foothold among the youth.

This is cru­cial, es­pe­cially given the un­de­ni­able spark that is de­vel­op­ing between young South Africans and the EFF.

The DA, with its easy ac­cent of white­ness, also holds a cer­tain charm to a dis­in­vested youth.

The great ex­pec­ta­tions of young South Africans should be re­flected in ev­ery ex­ha­la­tion of pol­icy for­mu­la­tion at this week­end’s na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence.

I would like to see the ANC’s na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence take on an un­apolo­getic youth bias, and for the con­fer­ence to ex­tend well be­yond the sal­low halls of Nas­rec and into the spa­ces of young South Africans.

I would like to see a na­tion­wide se­quence of peo­ple-pow­ered pol­icy podi­ums where there is dis­course on key is­sues of land re­turn, rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tion.

There is a real need for au­then­tic en­gage­ment with young South

Africans.

The pitch, pos­ture and pillars of promise of the ANC needs to be in concord with the every­day frus­tra­tions, as­pi­ra­tions and long­ings of young black South Africans to lib­er­ate them­selves from a white-driven re­al­ity that has never hon­oured them.

As the ANC cel­e­brates Oliver Tambo this year, the emer­gence of a young lead­er­ship would be a true tribute to this great leader.

In his words, “a coun­try, a move­ment, a per­son, that does not value its youth does not de­serve its fu­ture”.

It is both the gift and the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a ded­i­cated, vi­sion­ary in­cum­bent lead­er­ship to give a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers the roots and the wings to steer in eco­nomic lib­er­a­tion

The na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence and its pol­icy frame­work must be a vic­tory lap for South Africa’s youth.

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