Can the ANCYL be saved from the politics of money?

ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza. (Thapelo Maphakela, City Press)
ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza. (Thapelo Maphakela, City Press)

Rebone Tau

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) has degenerated over the years to the point where there seems to be no organisational discipline in the movement.

Looking back to the ANC's 2008 national congress in Mangaung, we saw a new culture of ill-discipline emerge; the behaviour of delegates after the results of the top 5 were announced was shocking, for example.

We saw a culture of money being introduced in our politics and space for the battle of ideas being closed. We now need to ask ourselves: Is the ANCYL still relevant to the youth of South Africa? If the answer is "no", then we must ask ourselves, "why?" 

Building up to the ANCYL's national congress, we need to really start asking ourselves difficult questions and start having a frank and honest discussion. The ANCYL is the oldest youth formation in South Africa and it seems like we don’t understand that we can't allow the ANCYL to die in our hands because history will judge us harshly if we do. 

Young people of South Africa deserve better. They deserve leadership that will be preoccupied with serving them and not leaders who just want positions to enrich themselves. They don’t deserve power hungry leaders preoccupied with living a lavish lifestyle and will do anything to lead the ANCYL at all cost. 

We need to be led by young people who are thinking about the future and not just about the present. Young people in South Africa do care that the ANC is a liberation movement, but not as a god-sent; young people want jobs and a better life. The revolution was never about money, it was about serving the people and working towards changing the lives of people for the better. 

We need to be led by people who are patriotic and who are activists; not leaders who will just chant slogans and do lectures while talking to the converted. South Africa comes first. That is why we need leaders who love the people. Our duty is to serve the people of South Africa with honour and dignity. 

We need leadership that understands the guiding principles and core values of the ANC. We need young people who understand the four pillars of the ANC, as three are still relevant to today's struggle. 

The most pertinent in this context is the pillar of mass mobilisation. The pillar of armed struggle is no longer necessary while the other two, international solidarity and underground structures (or in this time, street committees, etc.), gives us a responsibility to serve our people.

We should start asking ourselves why people are so desperate to lead the ANCYL. What is it that they are seeing that we can’t see?  We can’t have an ANCYL that is only alive during congresses. 

It is clear that branches of the ANCYL are not active branches that have programmes that talk to young people within their communities. In the recent weeks we seem to have some ANCYL NEC members crisscrossing the country giving lectures because we are going to the national congress and all of them want to "save" the ANCYL while they have said nothing throughout their term of office. 

During their term of office we did not see them crisscrossing the country to build the structures of the ANCYL. Yet, all of a sudden, they have the energy to do lectures. The only conclusion one can draw is that they are being opportunistic now that it's time to elect new leadership.

The current ANCYL leadership has been in ICU since their term in office started and they did nothing. It has missed so many events; there is a vacuum and the revolution does not allow for a vacuum. Is our leadership taking us as members for a ride?

We need branches that will not be visible only during congresses. We need an ANCYL that will lead us into the fourth industrial revolution; we need to move with the times. The world is changing and it is not waiting for us to advance our narrow interests; which are about fighting for resources. 

We can’t have an ANCYL that is led by those who think it is their time to eat. We need young people who still have a revolutionary consciousness and not those who rather want to buy expensive cars and live a lavish lifestyle.  

We need to start asking ourselves how we can move away from the politics of, "it's time to eat". We should be asking ourselves these questions: Can the ANC trust its youth league with the future? And, are we able to say our generation can take the ANC to greater heights? 

Is the ANCYL still a body of opinion within the ANC? Is the ANCYL able to rally young people behind the banner of the ANC? We need to start admitting to ourselves that the ANCYL is in a mess and it will need honest and credible people to rebuild and revive it. The ANCYL is at its lowest since its formation. It is not even appealing to its own members who don’t subscribe to the politics of money. 

Lastly, members of the ANCYL should be asking themselves the following additional questions: How do we get out of this mess? How do we work towards reviving the ANCYL? 

Historically, the ANCYL was known to be a beacon of hope for young people in South Africa. How do we take the ANCYL back to its glorious days? What kind of leadership do young people of South Africa deserve in order to advance the revolution? Look to the ANC's Through the Eye of the Needle guiding document. These guiding resources are readily and publicly available.

- Rebone Tau is a former member of the ANCYL National Task Team. She writes in her personal capacity.

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