Defend Truth


It’s time for the youth to take back 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.

We talk about swelling the ranks of the ANC, but we are not allowing young people in their 20s to lead the ANC Youth League. We need to tell the ANC leadership not to tell us who must lead the Youth League.

To my generation of the ANC Youth League,

As I write to you my heart is bleeding and I am asking myself why are we using the ANCYL to advance our own political ambitions in the ANC and not being community activists?

We need to start asking ourselves difficult questions about the current status of the youth of South Africa. We need to be honest with ourselves and reflect on the past national general elections. We need to admit that we have failed the ANC as young people as we have left a vacuum in society. The EFF has grown because we have weak ANCYL provincial executive committees (PECs) and regional executive committees (RECs) across all provinces and the blame can’t be placed on the current NEC only.

ANCYL branches are not active in their respective wards due to the lack of leadership; we have branches of congresses and not branches that can serve the community. We were not able to rally young people behind the banner of the ANC going to national general elections, as we are not able to even relate to a person who is 14 years old.

Most of us who want to contest the ANCYL were born in the ’80s and will be graduating soon from the ANCYL. We need to accept that we are no longer young. I speak to you as someone who is below the age of 35, but in her 30s. Why do we still want to hold on to the ANCYL at all costs? Yes, one agrees that the constitution is clear that members of the ANCYL must be between the ages of 14 and 35. No one will dispute this fact, but are we still relevant in championing interests of young people or are we preoccupied with putting food on the table for our families? Many of those who are in their 30s are married and have family responsibilities. There have been marches by young people calling for the disbandment of the current ANCYL NEC in various provinces, as well as to the headquarters. We need to ask ourselves what has led to this, and we need to be honest when we reflect.

We talk about swelling the ranks of the ANC, but we are not allowing young people in their 20s to lead the ANCYL. The world is getting younger, comrades; we can’t want to hold on to power at all costs. Currently we are led by elders in the ANCYL who have graduated and have failed to deliver a national elective congress or even help provinces and regions to go to the congresses; we need to do the right thing for the sake of young South Africans who are below 30.

We need to tell the ANC leadership not to tell us who must lead the ANCYL. If we don’t do it we will never break the chain of ANC leaders telling young people who must lead the Youth League. Now is the time for sober-minded comrades to stand up and defend the ANCYL against those who want to advance their agenda in ANC politics. We can’t sit back and fear the unknown; we must bring back the ANCYL of 1944, which was able to come up with a programme of action that spoke to the people of South Africa, and move away from the politics of money and be activists in our communities.

I plead with you, fellow comrades, to do the honourable thing and bow out with dignity. It will help to take the ANCYL forward to achieve its renewal. Having an interest in who must lead the ANCYL is not wrong, but it becomes a problem when we are told by some in the ANC NEC who must the lead the ANCYL. History will judge us very harshly for not standing up for the truth when it is not fashionable. The future is in our hands to break the chains and allow ourselves to be the bigger person and say, “not in our name” — for the sake of the ANCYL, if we really love the Youth League.

We had the ANCYL disbanded in 2013, but what kind of an ANCYL did it produce? We had two tasks teams appointed by the ANC NEC. Lessons must be learnt from those two processes if we are honest with ourselves. We have a dysfunctional ANCYL NEC.

Some ANCYL PECs and RECs are led by people who made themselves available when they were above the age of 30 and are about to graduate. Let’s do the right thing as my generation of the ’80s if we love the ANCYL. This is a principled call to you, as my fellow comrades. Yes, we support different candidates as we are still members of the ANCYL, but let’s give the baton to those who are in their 20s to revive the ANCYL as they can relate better to the youth of South Africa.

Currently, four members of the top five of the ANCYL are deployed in government or Parliament, including its president and deputy president. We have the secretary-general as a deputy minister and the deputy secretary-general as an MEC. If we had younger people leading the ANCYL, they would focus on the society and wouldn’t want deployment by the ANC, as young people don’t have a lot of family responsibilities.

Let’s be a generation that has a vision and that would support all young people deployed to government and help the country to grow economically in order for jobs to be created for young people. The young people in Parliament must grow there in order for them to contribute in policy formations. We have a pool of young people that can lead the ANCYL, let’s give them a chance.

I hope this open letter can help all of us reflect on the status of the ANCYL. I humble myself to you all who were born in the ’80s who are still below the age of 35, as we have to do the right thing and fight for the soul of the ANCYL. Let us do the right thing for the ANCYL going to the local government elections and hand it over to young people who are militant and vibrant. Let’s bow out with dignity and make sure ANC wins in all wards as the leader of society.

Ours should be helping the ANC in making sure we assist young people in understanding the importance of being patriotic. We can help in building a better society that puts the country first at all times. We still have a role to play in society as activists — let’s go into our communities and fight poverty.

A luta continua! DM


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