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The hour of youth has struck!

29 October 2000

On October 27th the ANC Youth League celebrated its 56th Anniversary.

Announcing itself in April 1944 the ANCYL stated that the hour of youth had struck! Immediately following this proclamation, and to give material effect to it, the generation of 1944 immediately embarked upon action that drastically challenged apartheid-colonial governments and fundamentally changed the content and direction of the South African struggle.

The inception of the ANCYL will now be remembered for the new ideas it represented, the daring and creative forms of struggle it introduced as well as ruggle it introduced as well as the individuals involved with this new endeavour.

The formation of the ANCYL provided the South African youth with a political organ through which, organised, they could fulfil their political aspirations. Through it, the South African youth were to be politically mobilised and rallied into the struggle against apartheid-colonialism.

The ANCYL aimed to rally the youth behind the ANC into the struggle for national liberation and to champion their socio-economic interests.

Thus began a new era in South African politics as a precedent of which the successive generations of South African youth would time and time again be called upon to make sacrifices for the freedom of their people. None can refute the fact that throughout the course of our struggle they were not been found wanting.

Thus they endeared themselves in the hearts of their people and earned their respect and place of honour among the fighters for freedom and a better life!

The ANCYL was born into the struggle against racism, sexism, division and authoritarianism. It was born into the struggle for the freedom of the Africa as a whole. Its birth, it proclaimed, was a response of the African youth to the demands of the times through laying their services "at the disposal of the national liberation movement, the African National Congress, in the firm belief, knowledge and conviction that the cause of Africa must and will triumph".

Its birth was a reflection of the development of a new generation of African intellectuals schooled and trained, notwithstanding, in the ivory towers and institutions of colonialism. Paradoxically, whereas the colonial settlers had sought to train African intellectuals who would sing the songs and dance to the tune of colonial domination, on the contrary, the very ideological and intellectual grave-diggers of colonialism emerged!

This period was also characterised by the growth of militant young trade unionists such as Walter Sisulu and others whose sentiments coincided with those of the university students and resulted in the common yearning for a political organisation of youth under the ANC!

All of them were inspired by world revolutionary events and the growing militant trade union movement in the country. They were deeply dissatisfied with the failure of the ANC leadership of the time to adapt organisational strategies to suite the growing intransigence and arrogance of the colonial regimes, while the African masses yearned for more militant action.

But, they were equally eager to fight against a rising tendency at the time among some to severely criticise the Congress without "putting our heads together to build what has been damaged and to find a way out of the present suffering. Both the oppression and the causes that give rise to the criticisms cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. Sooely. Soon the point must be reached when African Youth, which has lived through oppression from the cradle to the present, calls a halt to it all. That point, happily is now reached … [The] youth wants action and is in sympathy with the rank and file of our oppressed people".

The ANCYL regarded this tendency towards division as destructive to the cause of achieving the national unity front of all Africans, and black people in general, to fight against national oppression. In response, they worked for national united action under the banner of the ANC in the belief that it was "destined for a great mission and purpose". Accordingly, they argued that "the ideal of national unity must be the guiding ideal of every young African`s life".

The ANCYL has always been a truly African Nationalist organisation that believes in the full independence of Africa from the Cape to Cairo, Mediterranean to Cape Verde. Hence, in its CREED, it stated that "the goal of our struggles is Africanism and our motto is `AFRICA`S CAUSE MUST TRIUMPH`"; "We believe that the national liberation of Africans will be achieved by Africans themselves. We reject foreign leadership of Africa"; "We believe in the unity of all Africans from the Mediterranean Sea in the North to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in the South and that Africans must speak with one voice".

Frantz Fanon stated that: "Each generation must discover its mission, fion, fulfil it, or betray it". The generation of 1944 immediately pronounced that the attainment of national freedom was for them their principal mission that they chose to fulfil. Hence the slogan, "Freedom in our Lifetime!"

Zealously, they pursued this mission of national liberation with equal force both inside South Africa and throughout the continent, spearheading the forging of alliances with national liberation movements across Africa.

So zealous that Anton Lembede, the first President, stated in 1947 that African Nationalism was to be pursued with the "fanaticism and bigotry of religion, for it is the only the creed that will dispel and disperse the inferiority complex which blurs our sight and darkens our horizon. We must therefore verily believe that we are inferior to no other race on earth; that Africa and ourselves are one, that we have a divine mission of unifying and liberating Africa thus enabling her to occupy her rightful and honourable place among the nations of the world".

It is this passion for the attainment of our national and continental independence to which the youth of today must re-commit themselves. The pursuit of the African Renaissance requires these fundamental ingredients of maximum unity, self-confidence and leadership, believing, as Lembede in 1946 and Mbeki now, that the leader "of the Africans will come out of their own loins".

The youth of South Africa that is that is today recipient to the most venomous and vicious anti-African independence propaganda must defeat this propaganda and strive for the renaissance of their continent with the same fanaticism of bigotry of religion as Lembede advised them.

The African youth must be fired with the passionate and glowing love for AFRICA, and must believe that their performances in education, sports, arts, culture, science, technology, politics and economics is for the glory of their countries and continent. First in our minds as we strive with our everyday work must be the pursuit of the African Century, the fulfilment of the deepest and most basic aspirations of our people.

On this, the 56th Anniversary of the ANCYL, we urge all youth to make the attainment of the objectives of the African Century their first goal!

In everything we do, we must be fired with the spirhe spirit of success and excellence, strive to be the best in what we do and believe that in our success so does our continent also succeed.

Embedded in our minds must be the Lembede motto: "We are Africa`s own children. We are one with Africa`s darkest soils!"

Malusi Gigaba
ANC Youth League