To balance forces and win the battle of ideas, the ANC (also) needs a strong SASCO

2015-11-04 13:43

About itself, SASCO says: “SASCO is seen by many as the intellectual and skills reserve of the progressive movement and our country; its task being to build organic intellectuals.” And in one of its publications, Moithuti, former SASCO Free State chairperson Ntakuseni Razwiedani observes: “The emergence of the black middle class has tilted the general socio-economic position of black people in South Africa. This has changed the character of the student populace in institutions of higher education....”

In this article, “The tactic of the Student Movement within the ever-changing student population”, he notes that all the weaknesses in mobilising students and young people in general are a result of SASCO’s failure, to some extent, of not adjusting to the changing needs of students, largely informed by the emergence of the black middle class.

On 11 October 2015, Independent Media carried an article with the title, ANC to court ‘clever blacks’, in which it is reported that “as part of its resolutions on the balance of forces discussions, the party believes it needs to win over the support of the black middle class, which has increasingly felt alienated by the ruling party”.

The above references point to the fact that, because of its strategic location in institutions of higher learning and training, SASCO’s task stretches far beyond SRC elections, membership statistics, T-shirts philanthropy and acting as a student electioneering arm of the ANC. The key task is to effect significant behavioural and ideological impressions on students in institutions of higher learning, which students will soon become the middle class that might say it too “increasingly felt alienated by the ANC”. This responsibility requires a shift in political behaviour to adjust to the changing nature of students, so that the weaknesses of mobilisation which former FS chairperson bemoans are properly atoned.

To measure the output and relevance of SASCO we should appreciate the more profound and intangible value of education in general and progressive political education in particular.

In this regard, SASCO leaders ought to ponder upon the following:

What are the most effective ways to live up to the expectations of us being the architects of organic intellectuals?

What programmes do we have in place to prepare students in general and our members in particular, for the workplace and job market complexities, thus far exceeding the boundaries of common politics?

Since students are professionals in the making, how do we ensure that such young professionals are critical thinkers armed with the correct scientific tools of analysis to participate in the broader struggle for socio-economic transformation?

Do we have fruitful partnerships with professionals and specialists to enable the movement to develop students in whole?

Are students from our ranks who will go on to be public servants conscious of the challenges faced by the public sector as far as work ethic, corruption, fraud and maladministration are concerned? 

Do we have trained members who can influence the liberal ideological atmosphere in many universities, which liberalism eats away at the natural inclination towards altruism that defines human beings, replacing it with individualism and selfishness?

Necessarily and obviously, such an undertaking demands political maturity and innovation. It necessitates an in-depth study and sober characterisation of the modern student. It requires that the movement acknowledge the material conditions of children of the working class, without ignoring the needs of other students from the middle and upper strata. At the face of growing and well-funded propaganda against student movements, which propaganda seeks to divide the student community by creating “us” and “them”, SASCO must establish itself as a resilient brand among students – students should own the brand and defend it against malicious messages disseminated to the student community about the student movement. Additionally, the quality of leadership needs to be stressed so that the conduct of leadership doesn’t cast aspersions on the credibility of the movement. It calls for the exploitation of the skills of its members so that in practice SASCO becomes an "intellectual and skills reserve" for our country.

It is in institutions of higher learning that the balance of forces begins to swerve to the unfavourable side of the ANC (mainly because of shortcomings of SASCO). And if students graduate to become professionals who harbour negative sentiments about SASCO, given its prominent place in the ANC-led mass democratic movement, then the ANC’s battle for ideas and the quest to balance forces will be an equivalent of a voice crying in the wilderness.

A weaker SASCO is therefore undesirable.

And so one may ask: is SASCO strategically and tactically fit to bestow upon society a more conscious, more ethical, more critical graduate?

To answer this, it is better to reproduce questions asked by Ntakuseni Razwiedani in the article cited earlier:

Are we as a movement creating relationships with the church organizations as we’ve always done historically? Are we having relationships with progressive staff members, so we easily advance the interests of students? Are we doing our campus work of addressing students’ challenges, academic and non-academic, on a daily basis? Are we recruiting members to the movement and doing the necessary politicization of members? Do our members understand the organization and can they represent it accordingly? Are we building cadres who understand our revolution?”

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