The ANCYL and the quest for Economic Freedom

2012-12-11 03:25

Let’s look and dissect what the ANCYL is really saying/ doing when it comes to Economic Freedom. Well, they say (and do) a lot of things, but two things are primarily on the top of their list: Nationalisation and Land Expropriation (without compensation to be precise). These two are the cornerstones of Economic Freedom as defined, and called for, by the ANCYL. And it is an ideal that Mr. Malema and his crew are supposedly prepared to serve time, or even die for. Scary. It must be really important.

Now I’m not about to talk about the merits or demerits of either Nationalisation or Land Expropriation. I won’t go into whether it should happen or not, or whether it’s appropriate or not, right tool or not. One thing I will say though: it is, at least, worth the debate. And for that, big up to the ANCYL for opening up this all important and critical debate. Surely, we don’t want one generation after another to keep going with the flow and leave things as they are. We need such brevity to launch contentious issues and have them explored and debated openly.

BUT…. (Yes, here comes the big BUT).

As much as I laud them for championing this debate, I do question a few things about this whole new agenda of Economic Freedom. Is it a politically motivated economic agenda?

? One: is Nationalisation and Land Expropriation as critical as the ANCYL will have us believe in the fight for Economic Freedom?

? Two: is Nationalisation and Land Expropriation the only 2 critical ways by which Economic Freedom can be achieved?

I won’t dwell much on the first question. There has been much debate on it already, lots of studies, lots of reference points – some proving for and some against. There are places where it has worked and some where it hasn’t.

On the second question, that’s where I’m really dumbfounded. Why is the ANCYL so hard-pressed on Nationalisation as if it’s the only tried and tested weapon towards economic freedom? As a body that’s meant to be representing Young People, I can’t help but wonder.

As much as I believe there might be a case for Nationalisation as a medium to long term strategy, I still fail to understand this strong correlation between Nationalisation and Economic Freedom. Maybe Nationalisation should be argued for on its own merits, not necessarily as this magic wand for Economic Freedom.

Being a young person myself, I can think of a few other challenges facing young people which if they were as well championed as Nationalisation, they would go a long way towards us young people realizing the reality of Economic Freedom in our lifetime. Let’s look at but 2: Education and Small Business Development.

Education

I hardly ever catch the ANCYL being as radical about Educational reforms in the country as they have about ‘you know what’, and let’s face it, our education system is currently in a dire state. They leave it to the relevant government ministry and only once in a while make some noise. But Nationalisation of mines is not left to the relevant ministry – the ANCYL is directly & actively involved, continuously challenging the government on its position, pushing for researches to be done, policies to be reviewed and introduced, etc. But not with Education.

Sadly, I have seen the Youth League use a platform meant for education to push their own political agenda. When Malema makes an appearance in an educational institution, apart from disrupting classes, the highlight of that visit is always politicking, hurling insults at other politicians, and other such futile agendas.

The one and only time I ever heard of an ANCYL bursary, was when the ANCYL ‘offered’ a bursary to Mr. Shilowa’s son pre-Polokwane – after he broke away to form COPE. There are many desperate kids out there, some have their plight published in newspapers or even televised, and we don’t see the ANCYL coming out publicly offering them bursaries. But hey, they had to make sure they come through for Shilowa’s son. Was it because they value education or this was just another platform to make a political statement?

And no, I’m not saying Education is not on the agenda of the ANCYL completely – I’m just concerned that it’s not getting as much attention as the supposedly more critical Nationalisation and Land Expropriation. I have seen a discussion document for their 24th national congress talking about Education as was one of the pillars for Youth Development. Which is all good and well. But, it needs to go beyond a discussion document?

If there is indeed a case for Nationalisation, the logical order of events would be: let’s reform our education system and make sure our youth is well educated and equipped so that in the next ‘so many’ years, we will have the proper skills and know-how to efficiently run the mines that will be nationalized.

Or, with regard to Land Expropriation: let’s promote farming as a key study field so that we will raise young people who will be able to take over the farming once we have the Land back. That would make more sense.

Small Business Development

We all know unemployment is one of the key challenges facing young people today, by the ANCYL’s own admission. I can almost guarantee that promoting the development and support of small businesses will go a long way in helping young people economically.

If only the Youth League was all over the news because they wanted to create an environment conducive for small and medium businesses. Key issues need to be addressed here, for example: availability of funding, access to capital, credible mentorship programmes, fostering of partnerships between large and small business, fair access to government business (tender system revisited), timeous payment of suppliers by government entities, and more. If only the ANCYL attended to such issues, how much progress would have been made towards the realisation of this dream.

For example, there has been a lot of outcry (from young people) about the effectiveness of the NYDA as a youth development agency. I haven’t even once heard the ANCYL speak-up about this, or calling the agency to task, or calling for the Board and management to account. Could it be that the ANCYL itself occupies the Board?

The NEF, Khula Enterprise Finance, Ithala Bank, the IDC and more other development funding agencies/ institutions – are they really doing enough in the area of business development? Is the Youth League playing its part in holding them to account?

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Ok, maybe it’s my mistake. Maybe all this information is available to the public; it’s just me who doesn’t read. But well, I have, on more than one occasion visited the ANCYL website and haven’t found much to help me as a young person concerned about acquiring economic freedom for myself.

Ok, let’s blame it on the media. Maybe these issues are deliberately not being covered by the Media when the League is dealing with them. Well, I have noted time and time again how the ANCYL has the power to call a news conference if they have something important to announce to the public, and it’s always well covered, no matter how trivial. Therefore, the ANCYL has the power to get any info to the public if they consider it necessary.

Now I would like to ask the ANCYL: what if Nationalisation never makes it as an economic policy? What if Land Expropriation without compensation never happens? Does that mean we should forget about the dream of achieving Economic Freedom in our lifetime? Will the leadership vacate their positions because they would have failed on their ‘key mandate’? Will the ANCYL cease to be because… ‘what else do they stand for again’?

But of course, I wouldn’t want to infer that the Youth League does not take Economic Freedom seriously, because they do. In fact, so serious that not so long ago they even organized a march, a march for Economic Freedom. That’s big dude. +50km of marching. And the difference it made! For example, News24 reported this comment from one woman who was marching: "My children are grown up but they are not working because of the scarcity of jobs in this country, I hope that this march will change their lives forever... that they get jobs and financial aid from the government to start businesses." Wow! I almost feel like taking back everything I’ve said above about the ANCYL.

Well, that’s the ANCYL for you – you would think they would take this opportunity and address the people directly about how they can change their own lives, rather than make them futile promises. But hey, they had to  flex their political muscle and make a ‘political statement' – and, mission accomplished. I’m sure they went as far as claiming “the march was a huge success”, pity that old woman and his children could not say the same, probably still can’t.

Conclusion:

Ok, marching on ahead. What would this mean for you and me? Let us not assume and take for granted that our beloved politicians genuinely have our interests at heart in doing whatever they are doing. Sometimes they do, sometimes only as an-aside, sometimes not at all. We must always bear in mind that Politics is also a career for them, a means for living, not just a calling or deployment. They also have to consider ‘economic well-being’ for themselves and their families – good luck in hoping they always put us the people first.

We may have to face the fact that the time of sacrificial political leaders has come and gone; that the selfless, servant mentality of the politicians of old is no more.

We may have to face the fact that the realization of Economic Freedom is more in our own hands than some political ideologies they try to sell us. Especially so in this country since we don’t necessarily vote people into power based on their policies, integrity or commitment to service delivery – but based on... ummm…. ok, on what basis do we elect our political leadership again?

**big sigh**

.

Join me next time as I continue asking “Can we really trust our political leaders to usher in Economic Freedom for us?”

In the meantime, follow me on twitter @Xolanik

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