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Letter from ANC YL President Julius Malema. The NDR, African Leadership and Non-Racialism

27 August 2009

The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) guides the struggles and programmes of the entire National Liberation Movement as led by the African National Congress. There might be various contested questions about the character of the NDR, yet the following features are objectively true. First is the fact that the NDR seeks to create a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Second is the NDR's resolute determination to resolve the national, gender and class contradictions without emphasising one component over the other. Thirdly is the reality that to achieve the envisaged society and resolve these contradictions, the NDR should emancipate the black majority and Africans in particular. Failure to acknowledge and appreciate these features of the NDR and their historical location has potential to retard the true character of the National Liberation Movement and divert it from achieving the aims of the NDR.

In almost all its articulations, programmes and campaigns, the ANC YL has sought to ensure that all the component features of the NDR are adequately resolved and given the necessary practical meaning. We take this approach because we believe that the NDR and attainment of its objectives should not be empty rhetoric, but a practical programme pursued by the revolutionary forces. Our recent pronouncement on the representation of Africans in key and strategic economic transformation positions in both the State and corporate sector does not entail whatsoever that we have betrayed the struggles to build a non-racial society and retain the wealth of the land to the ownership of the people as a whole. There has somewhat been various overcharged responses to our pronouncement, because in South Africa, race and race relations continue to be very sensitive issues. This unfortunately is a result of the injustices of the past and contributing to the uncertainty which some have about our call for the representation of Africans in key and strategic economic transformation positions, i.e. Finance, Economic Development, Planning, Public Enterprises, Trade & Industry, Reserve Bank and all leading corporate such as Anglo-American.

This article will provide a deeper and less emotionally charged discussion on Africans being represented in key and strategic sectors of the economy. To achieve that, we should begin by dismissing certain myths, lies and stereotypes attached to the call for a balanced representation of all races in key and strategic economic positions. The first myth to dismiss with contempt is the supposition peddled by some in and outside the Movement that the ANC YL's views are sponsored by some few black business people or politicians who envy key and strategic economic transformation positions. This myth should be dismissed with contempt because those who peddle it are forever misleading themselves that all articulations of the ANC YL are sponsored by some self-seeking black business people and politicians. This characterisation should be strongly rejected because those who peddle it believe that Africans in the ANC YL are not able to think and come with new positions, unless they are promised patronage elsewhere.

The second myth to dismiss is that the ANC YL leadership is trapped in some narrow Africanist chauvinism. Labelling genuine and honest debates has never been a sustainable way of handling issues that relate to social transformation, and those who do so should know better that such form of engagement was recently buried in the movement in favour of open, robust and frank discussions. Thirdly, we should dismiss the myth that our call for an open discussion around the issue of Africans in key and strategic economic positions amounts to a vote of no confidence on the incumbents. The ANC YL is amongst the first to affirm its unwavering confidence on the cabinet appointed by President Jacob Zuma, and we have not retracted that statement. Our call for representation of Africans in key and strategic positions was actually made in the context of affirming our unwavering support to the recently appointed Reserve Bank Governor, Gill Marcus, who is more than suitable for the responsibility.

In Morogoro in 1969, the ANC adopted a Strategy & tactics which amongst other things says that "the main content of the present stage of the South African revolution is the national liberation of the largest and most oppressed group - the African people. This strategic aim must govern every aspect of the conduct of our struggle whether it be the formulation of policy or the creation of structures". The essence of this observation remains true in the current conjecture and any view that seek to suggest that race (and racial representation in strategic sectors) in South Africa does not matter, and choose instead to label those who genuinely raise the issue, is simply dishonest. While greater progress has been made in democratising South African society, the race/class realities have not fundamentally shifted, i.e. the white minorities continue to dominate the South African economy, with resilience to adapt to the new political situation and its transformative intentions, and the black majority remain poor.

The extent at which race is an issue goes to the level of perceptions and misperceptions of transformation of various sectors of South African society. Institutions and sectors that are perceived to be untransformed continue to be objectively those that have no or very few blacks, Africans in particular and women in their leadership collectives. South Africa`s redress and equity legislations, charters and guidelines are based on the recognition that black people and Africans in particular should occupy strategic positions in the management of society and the economy. There are many Black Empowerment legislations and charters, and what is wrong with emphasising African emancipation and empowerment like the NDR does? Why is it that when the ANC YL argue that in the future the ANC should handle the issue of appointment to key and strategic positions differently, some find the convenience of labelling us, sadly without substantive arguments to justify their observations?

Our observation that currently, the key and strategic economic transformation positions in both government and private sector are occupied by people who are non-Africans is not blind to the fact that these are capable, diligent and committed cadres of the movement who will fulfil their responsibilities with excellence. This does not entail whatsoever that the ANC YL is opposed to non-racialism, nor suggests that we are trapped in narrow Africanist chauvinism. In Polokwane, the African National Congress adopted a strategy and tactics, which amongst other things read,

"To the extent that the socio-economic legacy of apartheid continues to manifest in national terms, to that extent are Africans in particular and Blacks in general the motive forces of the NDR. Profound self-interest impels them to act in the collective interest to realise the strategic objectives of the NDR. They are the drivers of reconstruction and development. As in the past when they rose above the politics of race hatred, these communities do carry the responsibility of leading the process of nation-building and reconciliation too. Critical for them to play this role is the defence and consolidation of unity across ethnic and racial divides, to fight racism and tribalism whenever and wherever they rear their ugly head".

The observation in the Strategy and Tactics is vital and should certainly not be given mechanical interpretation. Avoiding a mechanical interpretation of what the Strategy and Tactics (2007) say should however not lead to blindness in dealing with the democratisation of the economy and entire society. Unfortunately, a notion institutionalised by apartheid, that Africans are incapable to fulfil certain responsibilities continues to characterise not only South Africa, but the entire world. In all our actions as a revolutionary movement, we have a responsibility to transform society and practically teach youth in particular that Africans can perform all tasks and responsibilities given to them. Apartheid institutionalised racism through exclusion of blacks and Africans in particular from important and strategic responsibilities in society (Africans considered to be hewers of wood and drawers of water), and the ANC`s reconstitution and configuration of key and strategic positions in the State and economy should not whatsoever seek to suggest that Africans cannot perform certain, particularly economic responsibilities.

The mistake we should never make in transforming society is to confuse non-racialism with blindness to South Africa`s racial realities, because the NDR is not blind to these realities. Failure to recognise these realities could lead to misapplication of process to redress the injustices of the past. Failure to acknowledge South Africa`s racial realities is also a failure to understand the complex relationship between race/ethnicity and consciousness. These are realities which any honest revolutionary movement should constantly analyse and proposition the best suited interventions for durable solutions. Now, the ANC YL, which is a revolutionary, militant and fearless youth wing of the ANC, has every right to raise these issues openly because these constitute the future. Being silent about such a vital issue of race relations and representation post apartheid will not assist us to properly contextualise non-racialism and its practical meaning in South Africa. We should in doing this avoid both extremes, with the one extreme suggesting that race completely does not matter on the outlook of government and the other that suggests that racial representation should only be reduced to bean counting without real transformation of the State, property relations and corporate sector.

There is no doubt that all people classified as non-white suffered oppression and exclusion, and our redress policies acknowledge the possible reality that also white women did suffer institutionalised exclusion under apartheid. Whilst apartheid`s institutionalised patriarchy barred white women from performing certain functions and attaining certain privileges within the racially, class and gender oppressive State, black women suffered triple oppression as a class, racial group and on gender basis. Certainly, African people, particularly women in factory floors and workplaces suffered the most oppression under apartheid.

This does not entail whatsoever that other groups, such as Coloureds, White Women, people of Asian origins, including the Chinese were not politically and economically excluded from mainstream South African society. What certainly varied is the extent and degree of oppression, suppression and exclusion in all facets of South African apartheid controlled society. So the extent and degree of mechanisms to undo these realities cannot and should not be standard and mechanisms to erase the misperceptions created by apartheid should include giving Africans key and strategic responsibilities in the economy. The emphasis in the NDR that it should politically, economically and socially emancipate the black majority and Africans in particular is recognition that the degree of suppression, exclusion and exploitation under colonial and apartheid domination was dissimilar.

If the empowerment regime has to continue, there really should be a correct recognition of the injustices of the past and how they impacted on various communities. This should be reflected in all streams of government, the corporate sector and entire society. Government should provide practical leadership in its outlook and give confidence to others that Africans are capable of leading key and strategic sectors as demonstrated in the first 15 years of democracy. The discomfort of the so called markets and investors on appointment of Africans into key and strategic positions should be dealt with sooner than later. Why for instance, did we have to persuade these markets and investors that President Jacob Zuma will not drive them to the sea, by saying lots of things, including an assertion that we will not change economic policies? It can never be correct that we wittingly or unwittingly contribute to a racist misperception and discomfort of markets whenever Africans have to ascend to strategic positions.

Now, all these issues we are raising are not intended to propose and influence a cabinet reshuffle. We are raising these issues because we believe that in the future, there should be a considerate integration of Africans into key and strategic positions in all spheres-this is key to both the redress and nation building efforts of the progressive forces. Our call for a balanced outlook of key and strategic economic cluster appointments does not postpone our determination to influence a fundamental transformation of the economy, including our call for nationalisation of Mines. We believe that those who intend to engage with us should do so in an open and instructive manner because we are youth and would not intend to degenerate a discussion through name calling and labelling. We remain true to the struggle for non-racialism and nation building, and not convinced that the inclusion of Africans in key and strategic economic positions undermines the principle of non-racialism. Aluta Continua!

Issued by the ANC Youth League