Suspensions indict the ANC more than its youth league

2011-11-12 09:44

A strong and robust culture of debate has always existed in the ANC, and it is this ability that has made the party strong in its almost 100 years of existence.

We shouldn’t forget that the ANC Youth League was established to “give force, direction and vigour to the struggle for African national freedom by assisting, supporting and reinforcing the national movement – the ANC – and studying the political, economical and social problems of Africa and the world”.

The youth league has successfully fashioned itself an identity as a militant and radical organisation, broadening the mass character of the ANC and denuding it of its founding elitist, lawful organisation.

Throughout its history, the league has made mistakes – some very serious – and its leaders have frequently been in trouble.

Nelson Mandela, a former youth league and ANC president, has recorded various incidents in which he was the victim of the wrath of the ANC leadership, who at the time thought he was “reckless”.

Successive generations of league members have been the subject of debate in the movement about the appropriateness of their conduct. In 1979, while in London, the late Oliver Tambo had to talk the youth section out of its planned protests to a visit by Mangosuthu Buthelezi for his acceptance of black homelands.

Inaugural president Nelson Mandela had to give serial lectures to former youth league presidents Peter Mokaba and Lulu Johnson on the tactical mistakes they made and how these mistakes cost the ANC. The youth league gave former president Thabo Mbeki a torrid time, too.

There is not a single ANC president and his national executive committee (NEC) who have not had run-ins with the youth league – from Alfred Xuma to Jacob Zuma.Young people are almost inherently seditious.

In order to effect change, they employ their creativity, daring and energy.In its 2007 strategy and tactics document, the ANC says a nation’s success depends on the ability to “encourage, harness and incorporate” youthful qualities into their endeavours.

But an absence of guidance in conduct leads to a struggle between discipline and disobedience.

In the past, the organisation always proactively ensured that it trained and inducted its members, particularly newer and younger ones.

This is an area in which the ANC has been found wanting in recent years.The quest for one million members has resulted in the collapse of political education and training.

This growth in numbers of ANC members will be inextricably linked to more discipline problems.Some NEC members say the youth’s “mangling” of liberation politics suggests the mother body has abdicated the responsibility of growing its own timber.

For the national disciplinary committee of the ANC to now say that youth league members don’t understand its policies is more an indictment of itself than of the young leaders.

» Mohale is an ANC and youth league member from the Free State 

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