ANCYL has be­trayed its mis­sion


Ta­bane is Author of Lets Talk Frankly and Host of Power Per­spec­tive on Power 98.7 Sun­days to Thurs­days 9pm to 12am. IS week, the his­toric day of June 16 is upon us as we mark its 41st an­niver­sary where young peo­ple took the lead in the strug­gle against apartheid. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion that their ac­tions had a last­ing im­pact on the mo­men­tum of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. It is be­cause of that that we ask the ques­tion: where is the lead­er­ship of young peo­ple in the cur­rent chal­lenges fac­ing our coun­try? More point­edly: has the big­gest youth or­gan­i­sa­tion, the ANC Youth League, that turns 73 this year, lost its rel­e­vance with young peo­ple. Can any­thing re­store it to its for­mer glory?

Its pre­de­ces­sors were, among oth­ers, An­ton Lem­bede, OR Tambo, Wal­ter Sisulu and Nel­son Man­dela. Their pur­pose was the res­o­lu­tion of the ques­tion of na­tional lib­er­a­tion. They did this by forc­ing the ANC to adopt a mil­i­tant pro­gramme of ac­tion when the el­ders were not so in­clined.

The de­ter­mi­na­tion to take up arms, for ex­am­ple, was in­spired by that gen­er­a­tion after all peace­ful means to free­dom drew a blank. They were not into fri­vol­ity and were not an ap­pendage of the main body but a cat­a­lyst for greater achieve­ments than the mother body could pur­sue.

June 16, there­fore, was not an iso­lated event that showed what this youth league could con­trib­ute to the broader strug­gle. It was a cul­mi­na­tion of heroic deeds since the 1944 launch of this glo­ri­ous youth move­ment. There was an up­surge of new lead­ers who joined the Strug­gle after 1976, in­clud­ing a huge con­tin­gent that de­cided to take up arms and skip the coun­try – a clear de­ter­mi­na­tion for sac­ri­fice for the cause. There was no doubt this gen­er­a­tion of youth lea­guers un­der­stood what their mis­sion was and set out to ful­fil it.

Once lib­er­a­tion dawned in 1994, a new set of chal­lenges was born – mainly to re­build a so­ci­ety rav­aged by apartheid. The en­emy was no longer as ob­vi­ous as be­fore, but more mul­ti­pronged from is­sues of sub­stance abuse to com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, from in­equal­ity and un­equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. Young peo­ple were starved of lead­er­ship to con­front th­ese new re­al­i­ties that ex­ist side by side with po­lit­i­cal free­dom.

It didn’t take long for the league to lose its way. The revo­lu­tion­ary spirit dis­si­pated fast un­der Peter Mok­aba, Malusi Gi­gaba, Fik­ile Mblalula and Julius Malema. With each tak­ing over, it is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion that the qual­ity of its pro­grammes de­te­ri­o­rated, reach­ing rock bot­tom un­der Collin Maine.

The ANC as a mother body be­gan to take the league less se­ri­ously. While some lead­ers ac­corded them­selves well un­der the cir­cum­stances of gen­eral po­lit­i­cal ap­a­thy, they were noth­ing com­pared with the revo­lu­tion­ary in­ter­ven­tions of Man­dela and Sisulu. The league lost its sting.

There is no fun­da­men­tal pol­icy shift over the past 23 years taken by the demo­cratic state that was as a re­sult of the in­ter­ven­tion of the league. Even the ar­eas which stir the youth, such as higher ed­u­ca­tion, were cham­pi­oned more by the likes of the SA Stu­dents’ Congress than by the league. It failed to lobby for the sim­plest of things, such as the pro­vi­sion of san­i­tary tow­els for young women, or even the re­al­i­sa­tion of free ed­u­ca­tion for all. Its a shame what pic­ture the league has painted about its mis­sion for ex­is­tence.

Young peo­ple in the mould of the now de­funct SA Stu­dents Or­gan­i­sa­tion, and even the SA Na­tional Stu­dents Congress were known for high-level pol­icy ar­tic­u­la­tion in the build-up to free­dom. While con­tribut­ing to the shap­ing of ANC pol­icy and di­a­logues to­wards a free so­ci­ety and the achieve­ment of the Na­tional Demo­cratic Rev­o­lu­tion, the cur­rent youth league is yet to re­lease a sin­gle pol­icy po­si­tion worth look­ing at. It has in­stead mas­tered the art of pub­lic in­sult as a modus operandi of dis­course and en­gage­ment. This is why they were caught nap­ping by the up­ris­ings of #FeesMustFall – the only recog­nis­able stu­dent strug­gles wor­thy of note since 1976.

The league and, in­deed, the en­tire pro­gres­sive youth al­liance were found nap­ping – even worse, it had a pa­thetic re­sponse to this cri­sis, even seek­ing to hi­jack it as their own. Ev­ery­one knows this strug­gle had noth­ing to do with them but was as a di­rect con­se­quence of the vac­uum the ANCYL has cre­ated over the past 23 years. The league had a golden op­por­tu­nity since the pass­ing of the free ed­u­ca­tion res­o­lu­tion of the ANC con­fer­ence in Polok­wane. It squan­dered this by never rais­ing the is­sue with the ANC about im­ple­ment­ing this.

Nine years later they are so blinded by their sup­port for Pres­i­dent (Ja­cob) Zuma that they failed to make him im­ple­ment the sim­plest of res­o­lu­tions – free ed­u­ca­tion for all. That is why they have be­come ir­rel­e­vant to the ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple. Quite frankly, this lot has be­trayed its mis­sion fun­da­men­tally.

It is not nec­es­sary to speak of how cap­tured this gen­er­a­tion is. The ANC lead­er­ship in gen­eral is also to blame as it cre­ated no en­vi­ron­ment for a dy­namic and rad­i­cal youth league to flour­ish and saw it as vot­ing cat­tle. When the cur­rent lead­er­ship was elected, Zuma and (Cyril) Ramaphosa gave them march­ing or­ders to de­fend the ANC as if that is the only thing they are good for. They didn’t in­spire them to em­u­late the gen­er­a­tions that came be­fore them.

If they did, that would have seen the youth de­mand this cur­rent lead­er­ship step aside and in­stall lead­ers with a bet­ter vi­sion to res­cue the lib­er­a­tion move­ment from the clutches of its cur­rent loss of le­git­i­macy in the eyes of the peo­ple whose ex­pec­ta­tions are dashed daily. One hopes the 41st an­niver­sary of the 1976 up­ris­ings will reignite youth lead­ers who can re­dis­cover their mis­sion and ful­fil it for the sake

LOSS OF PUR­POSE: The ANC Youth League and MK vet­er­ans gather at Ger­mis­ton Sta­dium. The writer claims the league has lost its teeth and di­rec­tion.

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