ADDRESS BY THE ANC KZN PROVINCIAL CHAIRPERSON & FORMER ANCYL SECRETARY GENERAL CDE SIHLE ZIKALALA ON THE OCCASION OF THE ONLINE LECTURE ON THE ROLE OF ANCYL IN THE ANC HOSTED BY ANCYL TSWANE REGION – 31 MAY 2020
PROTOCOL AND INTRODUCTION
- We extend our warm and revolutionary greetings to all Leaders of the ANCYL in Tswane Region, Gauteng PEC and Youth League membership in the entire country.
- Thank you very much for joining us and for your participation in this conversation on the role of the youth in advancing the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
- This input is timely. It takes place on the eve of youth month which is dedicated to honouring the sacrifices of the youth of our land in the noblest course of national liberation from the yoke of racial oppression.
- Accordingly, we pay tribute to the children who fell in Soweto, Gugulethu, KwaMashu, Wentworth in 1976. We remember Tsietsi Mashinini, Seth Mazibuko, Sibongile Mkhabela, Onkgopotse Tiro, Steve Biko and many of their generation.
- We salute the young brave freedom martyrs who shed their blood in combat here at home and in exile.
- We honour the youth who responded to former President OR Tambo’s call in the 80s to render South Africa ungovernable and apartheid system unworkable.
THE ANC YOUTH LEAGUE’S ROLE WITHIN THE ANC
- Today’s subject is about examining the role of the ANC Youth League in the ANC. Finding a relevant answer to this question will require us to examine the mission of existence of the ANC Youth League – as an organisation. Thus, we must ask ourselves why the ANC Youth League was established and how has it evolved this far. Drawing from the ANC Youth League 1948 Policy Document, the formation of the ANCYL was summed up as:
“The formation of this League is an attempt on the part of Youth to impart to Congress a truly national character. It is also a protest against the lack of discipline and the absence of a clearly-defined goal in the movement as a whole.
The Congress Youth League must be the brains-trust and power-station of the spirit of African nationalism; the spirit of African self-determination; the spirit that is so discernible in the thinking of our Youth. It must be an organisation where young African men and women will meet and exchange ideas in an atmosphere pervaded by a common hatred of oppression”.
- Clearly, learning from the above policy statement, the formation of the ANC Youth League was about injecting ideological orientation and consciousness into the life of the Congress Movement. It emphasized the National Character of the movement which in essence was the reason behind the formulation of the ANC in 1912 – that the ANC was and still remains the organisation of all South Africans, and fighting against oppression of the blacks in general and Africans in particular.
- The ANCYL therefore carries a responsibility to define the National Character of ANC. This National Character is drowned from unity of all ethnic and racial groups within the country. In the class contest, the ANCYL should keenly strive to protect the unity of the motive forces of the revolution. Therefore, fighting divisions in the ANC should be one of primary tasks of the ANC Youth League.
- What further underpins this point is the fact that the youth is inherently the future. The youth constitutes the imminent citizens of the country. Equally, members of the ANC Youth League are inherently expected to lead the ANC in future. All revolutionary movement invest in their youth formations knowing that they are the touch-bearers of the future.
“The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigour and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you. China's future belongs to you”. Mao Zedong talking to the Chinese Student in Moscow (November 17, 1957).
- Attached to this National Charter, was the introduction of the ideological struggle and emphatical definition on whose benefit is the National Liberation struggle. The ANC Youth League was and had subsequently remained clear that our revolution is about the liberation of the blacks in general and Africans in particular. This is derived from the understanding that it was the black society that suffered apartheid colonialism and the Africans in particular were at the receiving end of the such a system.
- This should be properly understood, it is not about African chauvinism. It was essentially meant the liberation of the most oppressed and creation of an equal society. In the very same 1948 Basic Policy Document, the ANC Youth League said:
“African Nationalism is the dynamic National liberatory creed of the oppressed African people. Its fundamental aim is:
- The creation of a united nation out of the heterogeneous tribes;
- The freeing of Africa from foreign domination and foreign leadership;
- The creation of conditions which can enable Africa to make her own contribution to human progress and happiness.
The ANCYL continued to say: “In such a true democracy all the nationalities and minorities would have their fundamental human rights guaranteed in a democratic Constitution. In order to achieve this the Congress Youth League and/or the National Movement struggles for:
- the removal of discriminatory laws and colour bars;
- the admission of the Africans into the full citizenship of the country so that they have direct representation in parliament on a democratic basis.
- Coupled with the ideological orientation, the formation of the ANC Youth League introduced militancy and activism into the ANC. Since its inception in 1944 the ANC Youth League sought to revolutionise the ANC; and positioned itself as ground forces who dare to undertake daunting revolutionary tasks. Even before the formation of the ANC Youth League, its cadres were tired of the movement’s failure to embark on decisive action against the oppressors. Long before he came to Johannesburg and joined the ANC, Lembede was unhappy with the work of the African Teachers Association in the Free State: He was scathing in his assessment in “Umteteli wa Bantu” in November 1941. He wrote:
“Every year, many resolutions are adopted by the Conference. What is the fate of many of them? Some end just on the paper on which they are written. They are not acted upon, thus they fail to realise their ultimate destiny –action…We must be action –minded. The philosophy of action must be the cornerstone of our policy…in our ranks we have men and women of high talent and ability. Our poor, disorderly position is not occasioned by lack of talent, but (a) by lack of scientific organisation and utilisation of that talent, (b) by lack of will-power. Africans. Our salvation lies in hard and systematic work!”.
FEW OF MANY MILESTONES OF THE YOUTH IN THE ANC
- Throughout the evolution of the National Democratic Revolution, the ANC Youth League has sought to occupy the frontline trenches in the struggle.
- It revolutionized the ANC into a militant, mass-based organization. This was made possible by the ANCYL’s Programme of Action which became ANC policy in December 1949. The Programme of Action was conceptualized by the ANC Youth League. The youth league of the time went to on the lead mass rolling campaigns against the oppressive system.
- The formation of uMkhonto Wesizwe was originated by the very same cadres who established ANCYL. The first detachment to confront the enemy, the Luthuli Detachment, was composed of many youth cadres including the last ANCYL President before it was banned, Cde Patrick Mosell Molaoa.
- It was young people who led the June 16 Uprising against the education system designed to under-develop the African Child.
- When President Oliver Tambo issued an instruction to render the country ungovernable and the Apartheid System unworkable, the youth within the country rose to occasion with only a stone to defend themselves.
- So, recounting the above attests that the successive generations of the ANCYL never failed the revolutionary role expected of the Youth Movement. This resonate with the expression by which the articulation of Che Guevara who, on his seminal work Youth and the Revolution in 1964, said: “the main way the youth must show the way forward is precisely through being the vanguard in each of the areas of work they participate in.”
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT TASKS OF THE ANCYL
- But we recount historical evolutions of the youth in the ANC to draw lessons and analyze contemporary conditions so that we develop a common direction in rebuilding a strong ANCYL which will complement the ANC’s ideological orientation and programmes . Moving from this understanding, we should ask ourselves what are the tasks of the ANC Youth League in the current conjecture?
- In rebuilding itself, the current ANCYL must return to debating issues frankly and truthfully. Comrades must be allowed to test their views inside the Youth League without fear, favour, or prejudice. And they should be encouraged to express their views which are aimed at asserting the hegemony of the ANC as the legitimate leader of society.
- The current ANCYL generation must be given space to lead the process of rebuilding ANCYL structures. They should be assisted to be sharpened through political education and supported in other ways, but not micromanaged. They should be allowed to elect their own leaders without undue influence from the ANC or any section of our movement.
- The ANCYL must understand that it owes its existence and loyalty to the organisation and not an individual leader or a clique of leaders. And its own structures must operate democratically wherein all cadres, as equal members of the YL cohort, test their views through healthy democratic debates devoid of any dictatorial tendencies. The Youth League must not tolerate any tendency to muzzle democratic debates within its structures.
- The current ANCYL generation must understand that it will restore the ANC Youth League glory only through advancing issues affecting the youth namely: access to free and quality education, skills development, creation of jobs for unemployed youth and fight against poverty and diseases.
- While the conditions are no longer the same but prevailing challenges of building the ANCYL and advancing youth interests need strong cadres, whose character conform to what the first President of the Youth League, Anton Lembede, said in 1945:
“We are not called to peace, comfort and enjoyment, but to hard work, struggle and sweat. We need young men and women of high moral stamina and integrity; of courage and vision. In short, we need warriors.
This means that we have to develop a new type of youth – not the pleasure-loving, frivolous, dissolute, light minded type – but a youth of stoical discipline, trained to endure suffering and difficulties. It is only this type of youth that will achieve the national liberation of the African people.”
- Indeed the current conditions requires that “the Youth must be united, consolidated, trained and disciplined because from their ranks future leaders will be recruited”.
I thank you Comrades,