All should applaud the steps being taken by the ANC top leadership to meet with and guide the ANC YL. If media reports are anything to go by it is unfortunate, to say the least, that the ANC leadership failed to meet with the Youth League since 2011. First and foremost our political understanding is that as soon as the league concluded its conference, it would have had to be inducted by the mother body and its resolutions ratified such that they could not find themselves on the wrong side of the ANC constitution and policies while they were implementing their conference resolutions.
While we all agree that the process and events that culminated in the expulsion of Julius Malema were unfortunate, it is critical that the ANC YL restore its relationship with the ANC. The recent history also points out a flaw in the internal political dynamics of our movement, whereby the personalities overshadow structural operations and relations.
The lack of engagement between the leadership of the ANC and the YL should not have been allowed were the leaders able to rise beyond the difficulties presented by personal views and utterances made with regards to leadership preferences.
As members of the ANC and the society at large, especially the youth, it is in our interest to have a fully functional Youth League that is having a solid relationship with its mother body. How would the Youth League champion the interests of youth if it is not taken seriously by the ANC?
We need to also applaud the Youth League for being brave, sober and realising that the Mangaung Conference of the ANC has come and gone so it is prudent that they not suffer from what Ronald Lamola refers to as "Mangaung hangover". The delegates democratically elected the leaders they preferred and this must be respected. All within the ANC, including the ANC Youth League, must be prepared to rally behind this leadership notwithstanding their preferences prior the Conference; that is how things work - majority rules.
The central aspect of my thoughts is that the ANC YL must accept, respect and honour the leadership by the ANC and its leaders. The ANC YL cannot define itself outside the control and veto power of the ANC. The ANC as the originator of the existence, role and function of the Youth League retains the right to sanction, ratify, approve or disprove pronouncements, resolutions and actions of the league. While the league is autonomous it is not independent and at all levels subject to the political authority of the ANC.
While the above seeks to define how the YL should understand its relationship with the ANC it does not in any way seek to suggest that the Youth League must be a meek lapdog of the ANC leadership. More than ever, we need a Youth League that will stop at nothing to champion the demands of young people. Young people are impatient for education and job opportunities.
If this impatience is not properly channelled it results in social and political misfits. The likes of Lindiwe Mazibuko of the Demcratic Alliance are a case in point of wasted and misdirected talent. There are thousands of potential Lindiwe Mazibukos out there, young people who are educated and want the best for this country but do not see the ANC Youth league as the best vehicle for this. They, rightly or wrongly, perceive the Youth League as a bunch of lazy and corrupt young people who drink expensive alcohol and drive flashy cars and use their political connections to access economic opportunities.
If the Youth League is to appeal to all young people it must shed the image of rowdiness, disrespect for elders, conspicuous consumption and mediocrity. Champions and the best in society must find a home in the Youth League. We need a Youth League that notes and appreciates the diverse interests of young people and does not lay its support only to causes close to the hearts of its leaders but rather a diverse portfolio of issues and challenges facing the youth including the arts, religion, sport etc.
Let young people realise that aligning themselves with the Youth League of a party likely to rule South Africa for the foreseeable future is not just exposing themselves to exploitation by the ambitious and will not subject them to dubious means of acquiring wealth and status. The YL should give young people a reason why they should support and join it. It needs to justify its existence and stature through programmes and projects that improve the lot of the suffering youth of South Africa and the world.
We have in the past called for the ANC Youth league to rediscover its historical mission; we have termed this path of rediscovery the "1944 moment" to bring back the focus, excellence, honour and dedication that once defined the Youth League of Lembede, Tambo, Sisulu, Mandela etc. This rediscovery of the historical mission needs to be thoroughgoing and not be limited to the leadership only; members and young people in general need to to build bridges and connect with each in pursuit of the desired future which we seek to inherit from the elders who are currently ruling the land.
The need to build bridges is born out of recognising that the ANC YL is not an island and must mobilise all forces in society behind its cause. The Youth League needs to improve its stakeholder relations. It must build bridges and repair damaged relationships in order to advance its programme.
The famed ‘advice ‘of Lyndon B. Johnson it is better to "have them inside the tent pissing outside than outside the tent pissing in" should guide the ANC YL in making strategic alliances with critical forces inside and outside the ANC because the recent history shows that alienating certain forces is counter-productive. The ANC YL should fully recognise and appreciate that politics is the art of the possible in pursuit of the ideal, and therefore tactics used must be guided by the objective material reality of the situation on the ground.
The Youth League must build bridges with other youth organisations and reclaim its glory as a leading force and champion of youth interests. The urgent task at hand is the filling of vacancies of President etc. While Lamola and the team have done relatively well to keep the ship afloat, a full complement of leadership will not only strengthen the league but also help restore legitimacy. It is a desire and sincere wish that the election of leadership should be as democratic as possible while also managed to restore unity and cohesion.
While the many names punted by the media as potential Presidents reflect the depth of leadership talent within the ranks of the YL it is also a possible source of division. It therefore will be prudent that some of the persons mentioned put the interests of the league first and serve in other capacities as well.
The confirmation of Lamola as President, will in my view not only afford the league continuity but also the experience of a multi skilled and well-rounded leader who understands the youth movement from his leadership days in SASCO, the Young Communist League and now the ANC YL.
While it is not wrong, but to have a stampede of people availing themselves may expose the Youth League to deeper problems at its weakest moment hence the need to politically manage these elections properly. I am not asking for a backroom political deal but appealing to members to come to their senses and be objective about the interests of the YL and the youth of this country.
We cannot afford to have a jamboree of available comrades, some must stand back. We cannot all lead.
The author was the Secretary General of SASCO and is a member of the ANC YL in Tshwane