It was in 2011 when the former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leaders began to take a massive radical posture in the realm of politics.
Before that, the ANCYL of Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula played an insignificant role in our political landscape.
In 2008, when Mbalula handed the baton to the Youth League of Julius Malema and co, it marked an interesting era.
The youth league of Malema made leaders of the ANC uncomfortable and unsettled, so to say.
Leading to the ANC national conference in Polokwane, the ANCYL national executive committee (NEC) collective led by Malema, the firebrand – as he was affectionately known – continued to influence leadership change within the liberation movement.
Malema’s youth league resonated with the assertions of the early 90s ANCYL Provisional National Committee, where it argued the following: “The youth can only effectively participate in the liberation of our country and get involved in the building of a democratic South Africa on the basis of the totality of knowledge and experience handed over to it by older generations. At the same time, young people should not be encouraged merely to copy or assimilate what is handed over to them.”
Furthermore, notwithstanding their flaws, they understood their role within the broad liberation movement.
Their continued dominance in the political space was viewed as a serious threat by political players – both in the ANC and outside.
Between 2011 and 2013, the ANC leadership reigned supreme over the ANCYL leaders and took a costly decision that has rendered the youth league useless in the realm of politics.
It was the leadership of the ANC which tasked the current president as the head of the disciplinary committee to put the final nail to the youth league which resulted in it being disbanded.
However, the leadership of the ANC failed to recall the words of former ANC president Joshua T. Gumede, who in the 1940s argued that “the Youth League had to be formed because that was the only way to make the ANC live forever. By its very nature, the ANC Youth League has to be youthful, re-energise and radicalise the ANC and those who are opposed to its ideals should never be tempted to liquidate the ANC Youth League, nor destroy its leadership.”
With the decision to expel, suspend, and subsequently disband the youth league of Malema, the ANC clearly demonstrated its deteriorating dominance in the broader political space.
A task team was appointed to “revive” the ANCYL from branch to provincial levels with a national congress set for 2015.
Led by former leaders of the youth league, a new breed of leaders were elected at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.
Among those in the top five was the unknown former MEC of Human Settlements in the North West province and Member of Parliament, Mokone Collen Maine.
By imposing Maine on the youth league, the ANC undermined its Constitution and that of the ANCYL severely.
Maine’s youth league has to a large degree failed to live up to its expectations, if there were any.
His lacklustre leadership and lack of vision was clearly demonstrated during the #FeesMustFall era where young people yearned for his leadership in the quest to attain free education to no avail.
However, Maine cannot be entirely blamed for the dismal and utterly disgraceful leadership style.
The unconstitutional structure called the “Premier League” and other prominent leaders in the ANC contributed immensely in this crisis.
In essence, the ANC was demonstrating its nefarious and reprehensible actions in their pursuit to destroy the youth league.
Fast forward to 2018, the ANC continues to find its politics playing in the youth space.
The newly appointed task team which acts under the assumption that it will help the ANCYL towards electing new leaders further undermines what the ANCYL provincial national committee alluded to in the early 90s.
The committee espoused the following: “Autonomy of the league offers the opportunity for the realisation of the boundless resources of energy, enterprise, initiative and free application of the creative potential of our youth.”
The ANC steamrolling its brazen political dynamics into the youth league is not only a danger to our maturing democracy but to the broader youth development.
Furthermore, it is not an accident of history that some some ANC leaders are products of capital that seeks to destroy the gains of a national liberation movement.
Hence, a strong youth league is a threat to capital and its bodyguards in the ANC.
The move to weaken the ANCYL is a well-orchestrated move to destroy the future of the ANC.
Contrary to the above, some amongst the ANC structures are not products of the struggles of poor people, blacks in general.
In fact, they were sponsored to come and destroy the ANC by any means necessary and are not known in the struggles of young people.
Finally, it is without a doubt that all leaders of the ANC are determined to have their way in the upcoming national congress of the youth league.
This continued effort clearly demonstrates the demise of the ANC.
The ANC leaders must remember the words of Gumede that “the ANC Youth League is an integral part of the ANC, but an autonomous organisation. It does many things, some of which will not be comfortable with the older generation”.
Our appeal to the ANC is to allow young people to run their affairs, where we fail, advise and help will be sought from the mother body.
• Mba is a former chairperson of ANCYL Khaya Mebece Branch & Regional Task Team of Buffalo City Municipality