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#SOS1944 – a route to saving the ANCYL


Rebone Tau is a political commentator and author of The Rise and Fall of the ANCYL. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought & Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. She writes in her personal capacity.

What would the generation of 1944 say if they could see the ANC Youth League in this state? This is the question that all generations of the ANCYL should be asking themselves.

It can be argued that some ANC leaders have used the ANC Youth League to fight their factional battles. This is contrary to the historic purpose of the league. We have seen the ANCYL degenerating and not being an organisation of young people. Its behaviour in recent years has seen it move further and further apart from its constituency, to the extent that it can fairly be asked whether or not it still has a constituency; we seem to be talking to ourselves instead of the young people of this country.

We are no longer activists as young people, we are not selfless. We have failed the young people of this country, as we are not championing their interests. We need to remind ourselves why the ANCYL was formed in 1944; we need to remind ourselves about the programme of action of 1949.

This year, 2018, is a very significant one; we are celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela and of Albertina Sisulu. These legends of the ANCYL were both at its launch on 10 September 1944. Earlier in 2018 we laid to rest the “mother of the nation”, Winnie Mandela, and we failed to honour her as this generation of young people. We know the love that Winnie Mandela had for young people.

We also laid to rest Ambassador Eddie Funde who was one of the people who was there when the first ANCYL logo was crafted and who worked towards taking the ANC Youth and Students Section to its first congress in Tanzania; while in exile as he was tasked by Oliver Tambo, then president of the ANC.

One wonders if we deserve to lead the ANCYL as this generation of young people – our politics is no longer about the people of South Africa. This month is the ANCYL’s 74th anniversary and we have not even said anything to the young people of this country.

We are a generation that is just preoccupied with power and money. We have forgotten the twin tasks of the ANCYL. We seem not to appreciate the oldest youth formation in South Africa. We just want to use it for proximity to ANC leadership so that we can push our narrow, selfish interests, which have nothing to do with the young people of this country.

To the young activists that remain: are we going to allow the ANCYL to die while we are watching and complaining in the comfort of our homes? We need to ask ourselves this question as this generation.

We all have a responsibility to make sure that the ANCYL does not die. History will judge us very harshly if we look away and do nothing. We need to start having a proper dialogue as a different generation; I am imploring all those who have led the ANCYL to help my generation.

Ambassador Funde had one dream before he passed on. He wanted us to have a young cadres’ conference to look into the challenges of the ANCYL; and he had this discussion with fellow former ANCYL leader Ambassador Welile Nhlapo in April 2018. This process was going to be guided by his generation from whom my generation can learn a lot.

What would the generation of 1944 say if they could see the ANCYL in this state? This is the question that all generations of the ANCYL should be asking themselves. Looking away won’t solve the problems of the ANCYL. We were supposed to have our national congress in September, which has now been postponed to October.

As things stand, there is no sign that the national congress will actually sit in October. Annual general meetings have not sat, we don’t know which branches have passed their audits and discussion documents are not yet out.

It is clear that we have problems in the ANCYL and we need to save its soul; it is our responsibility. We can’t be revolutionaries only when it suits us; where is our revolutionary consciousness to guide us? No one has the monopoly over the ANCYL; this is our organisation.

In June 2018 during the youth month, we failed to have a national youth rally to speak to the youth of South Africa. Who are we actually leading?

It is time that we unite as different generations and start a campaign that will help us save the soul of the ANCYL; let us do it for the generation of 1944.

The #SOS1944 campaign is the only route to take now, we have a revolutionary responsibility to save the ANCYL, which should not be used as a factional campaign to advance narrow interests.

I call upon young people to stop fearing the unknown; this is our ANCYL. We can’t be the generation that does not have a vision. Oliver Tambo did not call us “Young Lions” by mistake; now is the time for us to roar and organise ourselves. The revolution can’t be hijacked while we watch and do nothing. Young people deserve an activist ANCYL that will champion their interests. DM

Rebone Tau is former ANCYL REC member Tshwane Region, former ANCYL National Task Team member, ANC BEC member ward 42. Writes in her personal capacity.


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