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Whither the ANC Youth League?

Defend Truth


Whither the ANC Youth League?


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.

The ANC Youth League of 1944 was led by people who had the best interests of the people of South Africa at heart, and that is why in 1949 they came up with a programme of action that shaped the politics of the ANC. It’s time for the organisation to return to those ideals because an active Youth League is needed to champion the interests of young people and bring new ideas to the ANC.

Is the ANC moving away from its traditions and culture? On Friday, 31 May 2019, young people picketed outside St George’s Hotel in Tshwane at the ANC special NEC meeting. They are now planning a march to Luthuli House on 4 June 2019. They want the ANC NEC to disband the ANC Youth League NEC.

Many would recall that Ronald Lamola was seen picketing outside St George’s Hotel at an ANC NEC meeting, holding a placard with “Zuma must go” written on it, in March 2016. This later led to a march to Luthuli House.

These acts should worry the ANC NEC, as it seems to be fashionable to march instead of finding political solutions to internal matters. In the era of renewal, things need to be done differently, but also not moving away from the traditions and culture of the liberation movement. The view that was raised by ANC stalwarts and veterans for a consultative conference should be considered by the ANC NEC to reflect on where the organisation is, post-apartheid.

We can’t have an organisation that marches against itself at times — or even approaching the courts — instead of finding political solutions.

We all know that the ANCYL under the leadership of Collen Maine has not been active and playing its role in society. It is a known fact the ANCYL SGO is now deployed to government, with the secretary-general being recently deployed as the deputy minister of Home Affairs and the deputy secretary general being the MEC of Sport in Limpopo.

The president and the deputy president are both deployed as Members of Parliament. Currently, in the ANCYL, it is only the treasurer-general that is left in the office. So you have officials that would not be available to help with the preparation of the national congress, as they need to now serve the people of South Africa. The other problem is that four provinces have not gone to their congresses and their mandate lapsed a long time ago. These are North West, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, which was disbanded after the national congress in 2015. On the other hand, you have regions that have also been in office for five years.

The ANC NEC should put the matter of the ANC on its agenda without young people pushing it: While the matter is being engaged it should also go back to why the ANCYL executive was disbanded in 2013, and reflect on the role that was played by the two national task teams that were appointed. Lessons must be learnt on how things were done by the ANC NEC in the rebuilding process of the ANCYL after the ANCYL NEC was disbanded. It must be an honest and frank discussion on the ANCYL; it is a known fact in the ANC that money is the root of the challenges facing the ANCYL. Young people are not elected based on merit, but more on the money one has to buy votes.

Thomas Sankara once said, “he who feeds you, controls you”.  The ANCYL needs to move away from the politics of money and focus on reviving activism in its cadres to serve the young people of South Africa. There is a lot of gate-keeping and factionalism happening in the ANCYL — if you have a different view, your membership will not be accepted. If it is accepted it can be removed from the file that is kept at the regional office before the audit process is done. In the ANCYL you have to renew your membership annually, unlike in the ANC where you can have a membership for five years.

Moving forward, the ANC NEC should start to also ask itself if it wants an ANCYL that is controlled by individuals within the ANC NEC, or an ANCYL that will be an ANCYL of the ANC.

The crisis in which the ANCYL finds itself is because of some ANC NEC members who want to control the ANCYL to push their own agendas that don’t serve the interests of the organisation.

The ANC NEC needs to remind itself why the ANCYL was launched in 1944. The ANCYL of 1944 was led by people who had the best interests of the people of South Africa at heart, and that is why in 1949 they came up with a programme of action that shaped the politics of the ANC. We are living in a youthful society and an active ANCYL is needed to champion the interests of young people and bring new ideas to the ANC. They have a responsibility to rally young people behind the banner of the ANC.

Organisational discipline needs to be brought back into the ANC and the leadership, and while doing that, it has a responsibility to listen to different views from its members when they use proper channels to raise matters with which they are not happy. The leadership should not dismiss differing views, even if they might not like them at times. The ANCYL matter must not be treated like a big elephant in the room; the leadership should even consider calling a special ANC NEC meeting and invite the ANCYL NEC to hear why they have failed to take regions to congresses and other provinces to congresses.

The problem is that you have the ANCYL president and secretary-general invited to NEC meetings of the ANC. This will help the ANC NEC to understand the challenges in the ANCYL. The ANCYL needs to be revived moving forward and that will depend on how the ANC NEC handles the matter.

The ANC needs a level-headed and sober-minded ANCYL leadership going to the National General Council in June 2020. The renewal and unity of the ANCYL is important, and will help the ANC going into the local elections in 2021.

The ANCYL needs to go back to the days of having a battle of ideas in its structures. DM


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