We Ought To Redefine Youth Politics

2013-05-15 18:22

Youth leaders should invest their energies into fighting youth battles, not internal party conflicts or entertaining issues outside the scope of the youth.

If there is one thing that nearly led to the demise of the ANC Youth League and also renders all other political youth structures irrelevant, it is failing to understand the scope that inspires their activism. They want to be jacks of all trades, yet masters of none. They want to be political parties, opposition parties, priests that anoint future presidents, and sangomas who predict the overthrowing of neighbouring governments.

In all that, how is an average young person who is not politically conscious gaining knowledge?

So what’s the point, young man?

The point is we cannot have youth organisations such as Azapo's that only appear in the media to call Nelson Mandela a sell-out. I mean, in the sea of unemployment, drug abuse, school drop-out, and many other youth-related ills, is Nelson Mandela’s facilitation of our political transition what keeps Azapo Youth Organisation awake? How successful has it been “to encourage the involvement of the youth in problems facing them in particular and the Black people in general”, as one of its aims and objectives claim? Does the organisation manage to get publicity for its other programmes in the same way it did with Nelson Mandela comments?

This is a cause for concern.

Although part of the ANC Youth League’s objectives is “to unite and lead young men and women in confronting and dealing with the problems that face the youth”, the extent to which this has been done remains mysterious, unless we consider putting clueless young people from places as far as Limpopo into buses for an ‘economic freedom’ march as meeting the objective.

Does calling for a regime change in Botswana form part of “confronting and dealing with the problems that face the youth”?

Has the youth league ‘united’ the youth to confront drug abuse, held all-encompassing (not limited to comrades) dialogue sessions, and explained complex political decisions to them.

How effectively did the youth league use its often unmerited media exposure to communicate messages of hope to young people, not hurl insults at Jacob Zuma or bombard us with internal party disputes?

In fact, are any youth-related issues raised in the ANC’s decision to disband the NEC of the youth league?

Building blocks of redefining youth politics

The most important challenge facing youth leagues of political parties is redefining the scope within which their activism is inspired in order for an average young person to find resonance in their messages, rather than being bombarded by the often personal exchanges in the public platforms.

Once that significant aspect has been mastered, the prevalent youth political apathy will cease to exist. When these youth leaders are given media platform, we will hear less of infantile politicking and more of programmes aimed at inspiring young people to participate in their communities.

Politics of shouting will be trashed and replaced with politics of action.

We may lament the fact that students on campuses are politically apathetic, but the lamentations will not end until organisations such as SASCO, YCL, and PASMA, learn to redefine their ways of politicking to drift away from the unwarranted militancy to ‘politics of a sound mind’ suitable for institutions of higher learning.

If there is one highly enviable characteristic of the ’76 class, it’s their leaders’ ability to represent them faithfully.

We are yet to be blessed with youth leaders of that nature in our generations. When young people realise that there is a ‘civilised’ way of raising their concerns, they will begin to delight in politics.

As young people we struggle with the skills to organise ourselves against a certain crisis, and unfortunately we lack political leadership from those who are close to decision-makers.

There is absolutely nothing that stops us from mobilising on our own, but the problem arises when it comes to representation of our voices. The prevailing notion is that if one doesn’t belong to any party, one’s voice will not be mindfully listened to.

That poses as a challenge to youth leagues.

I must be able to find expression in the DA even if I’m not its member. YCL should not exclude me from its discussions on the basis of my non-association.

Community dialogues about government policies should be held where politically learned members of any of the parties explain to the youth the processes, considerations, and implications of complex policies such as the Youth Wage Subsidy or Nationalisation. This shouldn’t be a form of electioneering. It instead should be intended to empower the thinking mind of average young people and ultimately change their perceptions about politics.

Honestly, if some youth leaders in the country and campuses still resort to unwarranted militancy as a means to communicate their grievances, it is inevitable that the average young person who was still planning to join politics will surely decide otherwise.

Additionally, the defining features of militancy should be clarified. Burning tyres, hurling insults, disrupting classes, and stoning cars should no longer happen in a redefined political sphere.

I guess it's ignorance from my side, but I haven’t read of any campaign masterminded by the ANCYL to combat the use of drugs in the Cape Flats, let alone condemning the establishment of the Botshabelo Sex Club in Free State (should we perhaps blame the media for not reporting such?). Hypocritically, the very same ANCYL devoted itself to fighting the DA over open toilets, a clear political stunt for power (Do I have to mention that even in ANC-led regions we still have open toilets?) The DA Youth may not be insulated against this recurring challenge of political resonance among young people. To date, the youth organisation seems to be only appealing to ‘snobs’, while regrettably ignoring the lower class.

In our redefined political state...

Ideally, when the time comes for us to reach the envisaged state where youth leaders are architects of a united youth movement, we won’t be entertaining small ideological differences and animosities. Instead, we will be formulating an engaged youth group that will safeguard our indigenous systems and promote innovation.

Principles of Black Consciousness will be discussed and their relevance debated among the youth.

We won’t passively accept the heroism of the ANC, neither shall we ignorantly dismiss the struggle story of the DA.

Ours should be politics of critical enquiry characterised by media literacy to defend ourselves against biased media reporting and misleading advertisements.

Moreover, through a redefined youth politics we will see young people having a collective voice against corruption and nepotism. Although it will be an arduous task, portfolios of 'Manager: Youth Affairs' in municipalities will not be given to politically connected comrades, but competent people who have proved to be dedicated to the struggle of the youth, not patronage to some politicians.

Furthermore, the language used by youth leaders requires serious review. In mobilising the youth, we don’t need big words but simple language.

Politicians use every opportunity they get to prove to young people just why they shouldn’t involve themselves in politics by speaking in tongues.

Our generation should redefine that.

Absurdly, some campus comrades keep using that language thinking it makes them smart. Truth is: it does the opposite and even repels students farther from politics.

Are we expecting other students to take politics seriously when it’s conducted so recklessly?

I think we ought to redefine our politics from party-politics to creating a common youth identity–engaged, united, educated, and respecting. We are tired of populist youth leaders who are always in the news for saying things that young people don’t care about, let alone understand.

In our future, youth leaders won’t go to conferences to drown themselves in the pool of alcohol. They will strive to become role models.


Frankly, if we continue with the current political approach, anticipating the youth to have an interest in politics is as hopeless a wish as a voice crying out in the wilderness.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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