President Collen Maine,
Perhaps this open letter will eventually grant me your attention. It surely must provide us with an opportunity to talk frankly and assist the movement as a whole.
On several occasions, I have tried to communicate with you. I am still trying to do so through this letter. I have also come to accept the reality that at times you say the most shocking utterances on our behalf and we are always left in serious shock.
The reflection you have continued to send is that we are less interested in issues affecting young people but forever entering debates of names and insults. In December 2016, during an ANCYL lecture hosted by KZN, you recently spoke about the falling of the rand and I am still trying to digest what you actually meant.
I remain worried, because young people do not understand what we represent and you do not seem to care. I also know the media might have deliberately misquoted you out of context. Hopefully one day, when you have time, we will discuss these and many other issues.
Great leaders are products of robust engagements – me and you must from time to time agree to be engaged. You will also know that the revolutionary Che Guevara once said, “Youth should learn to think and act as a mass. It is criminal to think as an individual.”
It is well and fine, as leaders of the youth league we are not necessarily expected to be friends who must dine every now and then. For I see you as part of the collective I am elected to serve with. You must know that I continue to see you as a fellow comrade who at times needs to be told when doing wrong. This I do because I can not continue to be part of processes that I do not understand and yet am expected to clap hands.
The many abortive attempts in the past to talk to you were and are still informed by the fact that, as the leadership of the African National Congress Youth League, post the disbandment of the previously elected National Executive Committee, we have had a tough task of rebuilding.
We are entrusted with the responsibility to reorganise young people and also mobilise a growing support for the ANC. Do you honestly think we are on the right track? I do not think so and your action in this regard does not seem to assist. We have lost the mark, President! We must urgently correct ourselves.
President Maine, this letter I write to you because we are starting 2017 on a high note. This is not an ordinary year. It was the last January 8th statement of the current ANC NEC to be delivered by the current president of the ANC. It is a worse year for people like me and you, who are an integral part of the leadership of the ANC. It is a year in which our conduct will determine whether the ANC will live or die.
In my failed attempts to engage you, I simply wanted us to deliberate on many issues. I also wanted to understand what informs your current posture, President.
Serving with you in the NEC, I have never missed any meeting and I am party to all decisions taken and can always defend them. I also know that collective decisions are binding and must be respected. I am worried that for the past three months you seem to be on a campaign which some of us know little about. Worse, you are unavailable to clarify even we who serve with you in the NEC.
The situation is not normal and cannot continue. This situation is very dangerous and forms part of that which kills the movement. It cannot be us! It cannot be our leadership which is part of this wrong process. That cannot be our legacy as the leadership of the ANCYL as elected in the 25th National Conference in Gallagher. You and I must agree that this must come to an end.
I thought our history would assist us to honestly rebuild the league and champion the interests of young people; that our leadership would try and restore the glory of the league.
President, why do you continue to express yourself in the manner you are doing without a proper mandate from our structures? Whose views do you represent? Worse, you do not want to be engaged. What type of leadership trait is that? Such behaviour has no room in our current political climate. You expect some of us to keep quiet because you are president. It cannot be, my comrade. The least a leader can do is to be open for engagement, so that we are all taken into confidence about what your utterances are all about.
Post the August 3 local government elections, we have continued to receive negative reports from our people. Our people are not happy about how as a movement we conduct our affairs. The local government polls results are telling us to improve in our conduct. You and I know the reality is that unless we change how we conduct ourselves, we will inherit the ANC from opposition benches. I surely do not want to live in that self-inflicted political reality. This political situation is already a reality in our metros. I also do not want to be part of leaders who push for the speedy eventuality of losing power. I think you must also refuse to be part of the problem, Collen Maine.
President, can we at least be disciplined in the manner in which we conduct the affairs of our organisation. Why don’t we as the NEC open the debate about leadership preference and consult structures before you pronounce on their behalf without a mandate to do so? Worse, the NEC has never taken a resolution – all I remember is that we agreed to discuss the issue later on. I am saddened you are already all over, expressing yourself and making it sound like an NEC decision. This must be put on hold because even the ANC has not yet officially allowed us to start debating the matter. We must never do things outside guidelines of the organisation we aspire to lead one day. Let us be organisational! This conduct is very wrong. It is foreign to the movement.
You continue to speak a language which is not unifying at a time when unity is much needed. You continue to express yourself about ANC leadership issues with no mandate. I would be comfortable if we had consulted broadly. That is all I am pleading for. This we must do because we have a constituency. We must not lead through an iron fist, with membership fearing us, because we can always expel cadres.
The reality is that gate-keeping is no longer needed, cadres must be given a platform to express themselves. Views, different as they might be, should be heard. You expressing yourself before a proper organisational resolution is taken is crippling the movement, you are undoing the very rebuilding we seek to achieve. Worse, you are dividing our membership and instilling fear of expression within them. I do not want to conclude that your actions are deliberate. It will surely be hard for our members to speak contrary to you because you have already expressed yourself before time.
An unfortunate historical error has transpired here. Let us correct ourselves. This conduct remains alien. It is alien because historically every time the league expressed itself, it would have consulted its structures or at least discussed and resolved matters in an NEC meeting. We are very far from having done any of those.
At all times, we must make sure that we do everything in our power to leave a lasting living legacy. History is written from our actions. The ANC cannot die before our eyes, with our actions contributing. Our conduct must unite our membership, it must be a posture we carry as we head for the ANC’s national conference. We must unite leaders of the ANC. In everything else let us be organisational. We have rule as the league.
I hope you will reflect and lead us, President, lead us well and let us help the ANC to remain in power. As we start the year, please refrain from doing the shocking things you did in 2016. Let us as young people who are the future act in a manner that reflects a prepared people who are ready to build the movement, the only organisation in South Africa that can improve the lives of our people. The only hope for the majority of our impoverished people, that majority being black. Let us not forget this!
Rhulani Thembi Siweya
ANCYL NEC member DM