ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa received a major boost in his quest for a second term when a crowd of young people gave him the thumbs up during the memorial lecture of the late ANC Youth League president Peter Mokaba in Polokwane on Friday.
After waiting for Ramaphosa for more than two hours to deliver the lecture, the crowd was growing impatient but finally breathed a sigh of relief when he took to the stage.
Before his arrival, chaos ensured when two factions of the league squared off about favouritism in giving out tags to enter the venue. But after an hour of tensions, chanting and toyi-toying, John Mpe, the chairperson of the Peter Mokaba region and mayor of Polokwane, intervened and diffused the situation.
He told the crowd that instead of having the lecture inside the hall, a stage would be erected outside the venue to cater for everybody, much to the crowd’s delight. As the party was gearing up for the January 8 statement on Saturday, Ramaphosa said it was an important occasion to pay respect and also remember to the gallant leader, not only of the youth league, but of the liberation struggle.
He described Mokaba as an extraordinary leader who would be remembered as a young lion, not only just to honour his memory, but also for young people to draw inspiration from him.
“For me, it’s a real honour to have been invited by the ANCYL. To come and be here in your presence to deliver the memorial lecture through which we remember what Mokaba stood for, the work he did, and how he led the young people of his time,” Ramaphosa said, adding:
As a son of Limpopo, Mokaba led a generation of young people through the darkest time in the history of South Africa, when the apartheid regime rulers thought they would rule the country for 1 000 years and more.
He said it remained a pain that he was taken at a very young age and that the country lost his energy and his determination.
"Your presence is a confirmation of what Mokaba stood for because he heightened the level of consciousness, but he also heightened the level of militancy among young people,” said Ramaphosa.
He described Mokaba as militant and a revolutionary. “He was a leader who was courageous, who was not afraid. But more importantly, he became a highly disciplined member of the organisation. He was a soldier and a warrior. He understood the values, culture, traditions and politics.
“Mokaba was one of a long line of remarkable young leaders produced by our movement,” said Ramaphosa.
He said he could not speak about the role of young people in the struggle without remembering the role that was played by the youngsters in 1976.
Although the country had achieved near universal access to basic education, many young people leave school without the skills and the experience to find meaningful employment, he added.
“Although we have massively increased enrolment in higher education, and have brought in access to students from poor and middle class families, we have yet to break the cycle of poverty.”
Ramaphosa said the country was still faced with challenges that many young people were not working, were not in training and did not have the necessary skills to take them forward.