ANCYL has lost its way

2012-04-21 10:36

Over the past few years, the ANC Youth League has identified economic emancipation as a critical challenge facing the national democratic revolution.

This is in light of the scourge of poverty afflicting many in urban and rural areas.

The majority of those who suffer the brunt of unemployment and poverty are the youth of our country, who constitute 70% of unemployed people.

This state of affairs has serious implications for the future of our democratic dispensation.

It is a powder keg that is forever ready to explode if it is not tackled.

But it is the view that the ideas expressed by the youth league take place outside the total policy guidance of the ANC that gives rise to tensions with the mother body.

The manner in which the youth league has articulated its views suggests that the national democratic struggle was never about economic freedom in the first place.

Yet successive ANC conferences since its unbanning have taken many resolutions aimed at achieving economic transformation.

Even the Growth Employment and Redistribution Strategy (Gear) set out targets to achieve economic transformation by creating more than 40?000 jobs during the stabilisation period.

It is indeed common cause that although Gear succeeded in stabilising the macroeconomic environment, it was not equally successful in creating much-needed jobs, hence the notion of jobless growth as a way of characterising this period.

Since the Gear years, other endeavours have been considered to achieve high levels of economic growth and development.

The National Development Plan being developed by the ­National Planning Commission is also expected to touch on the issue of ­economic transformation, which should not just deal with growth but should set a path towards sustainable redistribution.

The youth league is not the first ­organisation to raise issues of ­economic freedom, but its proposed interventions take place within an ­environment underpinned by varying ideas to achieve it.

As a critical stakeholder in the mass democratic movement and society at large, the youth league is within its rights to raise new ideas to achieve ­the redistribution of economic benefits.

It is within this context that the recent youth league conference adopted the clarion call for “economic freedom in our lifetime”.

Among others, nationalisation of mines and appropriation of land were adopted as policies of the youth league.

It is another matter whether all members of the youth league really understand the implications of their decisions.

This should not matter when we understand that youth league decisions are part of ongoing debates in society. Irrespective of what transpired in the build-up to the conference in question, all members have to support and defend the decisions taken by the collective and engage society as a whole.

The contested issue is the manner in which the leadership of the league has sought to express the resolutions as non-negotiables to the extent of threatening ANC leaders who do not support the decisions, and showing impatience and intolerance towards members who see things differently.

As it is, in less than five years, the youth league has disbanded more structures than the ANC has done in over a decade. A culture of intolerance and cronyism is eating at the fabric of the once proud organisation.

Until recently the youth league was meant to be a hive of revolutionary discourse and not bulldoze its way through everything, including threatening traditional relations with its own mother body.

Previous conferences of the league were festivals of ideas. Members celebrated those ­ideas that came through days of engagement, and not by intimidating those who hold different views.

What gives rise to this culture?

First, there is the obsession by some in the leadership to book their place in history, at any cost.

Rather, a noble approach would be one that allows space for a thorough assessment of the material conditions of the times we live in, in comparison with what the youth league of 1944 had to deal with.

Our intervention programmes should be informed by whatever the outcome of this exercise becomes.

It is also the beginning of a dangerous drive towards a personality cult that in years gone by was responsible for some of the most heinous crimes committed by humankind.

Secondly, the culture of money that has dominated public discourse leads to these defensive tendencies, whereby there is a link between the culture of money and the manner of articulating ideas.

If we are not careful, this culture will turn a revolutionary organisation into a sphere of influence for powerful lobbyists.

But notwithstanding these difficulties, there is a course for the league to enrich ongoing national debates on economic transformation within the overall policy guidance of the ANC.

We have to strengthen the role of the National Youth Development Agency to ensure it provides a blueprint for ­departments and other state ­institutions involved in any form of youth development work.

The youth league cannot blame others for failing when it cannot realise any positive contribution in its own sphere of ­influence.

Aside from the ongoing disciplinary processes against some leaders of the league, the ANC has to accord the youth league a necessary hearing to discuss a range of policy and related matters affecting both organisations.

It might be necessary to create space for such discussions ahead of the upcoming policy conference.

It would be a sad day if both the ANC and the youth league failed to do this because of differences that have more to do with individuals and their preferences and less to do with downtrodden youth who continue to live in bad conditions.

» Rikhotso is an ANC / ANCYL member: Havana City branch

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