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Address by ANC President Comrade Jacob Zuma at the 24th ANC Youth League National Congress
16 June 2011, Gallagher Estate, Midrand
ANC Youth League President Julius Malema,
ANC Youthe League Deputy President Andile Lungisa;
Secretary General, Vuyiswa Tulelo and all officials
Members of the ANC Youth League NEC members present;
ANC NEC Members,
Veterans and former leadership of the ANC Youth League,
Comrades and friends,
Fellow South Africans,
I bring revolutionary greetings from the ANC National Executive Committee and the entire membership of the ANC, on this important occasion of the 24th Congress of the ANC Youth League.
This is a very important occasion, on an equally important day in our national calendar, June 16, on which the youth of our country in 1976, took to the streets against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.
June 16 is the most important reminder of our youth's contribution to the struggle against racial oppression, and its dedication to the creation of a non-racial, non- sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
That message and demand is still pertinent today in our time, as it was in 1976, and indeed as it was during the time of the formation of the ANC Youth League in 1944.
The youth decided to face the might of the apartheid state and demonstrated that they would never succumb to being treated as inferior in their own country.
The uprising reignited the spirit of defiance and no surrender inside the country, and swelled the ranks of the ANC in exile and just like in the 1940s, injected fresh momentum to the struggle.
Therefore just like the youth of the 1940s, the 1976 class is a very distinguished generation.
Currently we have many senior comrades in the movement, in government and in the private sector who are part of that 1976 generation.
They have played a very important role in transforming this country.
We meet in a crucial gathering. A national congress or conference is important in many ways. It allows an organisation to take stock of how it has performed since the last congress. It evaluates the kind of resolutions it took, reviewing how it implemented those resolutions.
It examines the successes and difficulties.
If there were any difficulties that resulted in failure to implement the resolutions, what has been done to correct them. If there have been successes, how do we improve on them to strengthen the organisation?. This is what the Young Lions will be doing at this congress.
This particular national congress provides the ANC Youth League with an opportunity to ponder its strategic and practical role and responsibility in this country going forward, in advancing the National Democratic Revolution.
Given the fact that this National Congress, is the biggest political school of the ANC Youth League, it may be important to trace the historical role of the Youth League within the mother body, the ANC.
The ANC attaches an important value to the ANC Youth League because it is the future investment for the sustainability of the ANC. The ANC established the youth league as an integral part of the ANC, while it exists as an autonomous structure.
After the ANC was founded in 1912, it made a clarion call for the unity of the African people as a pre-requisite to fight and defeat colonialism.
In the early late 1930s the leadership of the ANC debated a need to mobilise young people into a structure as an important force within the ranks of the ANC.
During the 1942 National Conference of the ANC held at Fort Hare University, the formation of the Youth League was canvassed and adopted. The ANC Youth league was later founded in Johannesburg on the 10th September, 1944.
The primary task for the ANC Youth League was to mobilise young people behind the vision of the ANC, as well as to serve as a preparatory school and incubator for the ANC.
Throughout its existence the ANC Youth League has never failed to discharge this important task, and all its different generations have also appreciated their political responsibility to strengthen the ANC.
We are proud of the contribution the Youth league has made throughout the evolution of the mother body, the ANC, during different epochs in history.
Even during the time that the ANC was banned and operated outside the country and later operated through its underground structures, the Youth League was involved in shaping the discourse for the ultimate defeat of apartheid state.
In the processes leading up to negotiations before 1994 political breakthrough, the Youth League participated in the development of the strategic engagement between the ANC and the Nationalist Party.
After the 1994 political dispensation, the ANC Youth League has grown in leaps and bounds because it was able to adapt to the new conditions under which we had to conduct the struggle.
Many political organisations have died a natural death since 1994 because they failed to adapt to the conditions.
The League's performance in the 2009 national general elections indicated that it has been able to capture the imagination of thousands of young people in the country, even those who would not necessarily follow the activities of any political organisation.
We congratulate you on these achievements. We must caution at the same time, that while the youth league is expected to grow and swell the ranks of the movement with young people, such growth should not be at the expense of the character of the ANC.
The task of mobilising young people behind the vision of the ANC is as important as it were during the struggle against apartheid and racial oppression. But our tools of mobilisation must not change the character of the liberation movement. It is a tricky balance and we trust that this congress will touch on this point when you discuss organisational renewal.
The ANC remains the liberator of our people even in this post-apartheid scenario.
In the same manner that it has delivered political freedom, only the ANC can deliver economic freedom in our lifetime.
The role of the ANC Youth league therefore goes beyond just mobilising young people behind the vision of the ANC. It must champion their aspirations as well.
During the struggle against apartheid, many young people yearned for freedom.
Today, many young people yearn for economic emancipation, equality, justice, peace, better education and prosperity.
Critical to the advancement and attainment of these goals, is the unity of ANC and the entire congress movement. President Nelson Mandela described unity as the rock upon which the ANC was built.
You know that the ANC has gone through difficulties in the past, which made many people outside the organisation to think its very existence in its current form was under threat.
The ANC always proves its critics wrong, and emerges triumphant after every adversity. The resilience of the movement is derived firstly from the discipline of its cadres and secondly, the ability to unite regardless of the size of the challenges.
The Youth League should always remember these attributes of the ANC, which are the glue that holds the movement together.
Unity is also the glue that keeps together the Alliance with COSATU and the SACP, and the broader democratic movement.
We may all differ at certain points on issues of strategy or tactics, but the common goal will always be same â€“ the achievement of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
I am pleased that in the discussion documents you are advocating organisational renewal to revive the structures and deal with what you call the cancer of seasonal branches.
We need a strong and well-organised Youth League, and organisational work will enable you to achieve that.
Organisational democracy, discipline, respect and political education are some of the integral aspects in this renewal.
It is through organisational democracy, discipline and strong activism that the youth of the 1940s played a key role in the leadership of the Defiance Campaign in the 1950s, which pushed ANC membership from less than ten thousand to almost a hundred thousand at that time.
It is through active branches that we can effect meaningful changes in our communities.
As the mother body prepares for its centenary, it looks to the Youth League to mobilise young people and help promote the values that were espoused by the founders of the ANC, the ANC Women's League, Veterans League and indeed the democratic movement as a whole.
Another critical issue you will be looking at is how you define the role of this generation of the Youth League.
The youth of previous generations had the responsibility of working for liberation in our lifetime. That has been delivered. We must now deliver the better life we have been speaking about for many years.
The ANC Youth League must mobilise the youth around the five priorities identified by the ANC in 2009 â€“ job creation, health, rural development and land reform and the fight against crime.
We know that you have chosen economic transformation as the goal of this generation. In the January 8, 2011 statement, we stated that political freedom without economic emancipation was meaningless.
This builds on the resolutions of the 52nd national conference of the ANC, which notes that the substantial progress made over the past 10 years in transforming the economy has not eradicated unemployment, poverty and inequality.
This means extensive work must be done to transform the economy so that it can grow and create decent jobs for our people.
Transformation has to take into account not just the management and equity ownership but the productive activities of the economy as well.
We are building a mixed economy, where the state, private capital, cooperative and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and foster shared economic growth.
At the centre of this transformation, must be an efficient and effective developmental State that guides transformation and ensures that it is in line with the overall goals of the country, to achieve a non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and prosperous society.
It is a state that must ensure that we achieve inclusive growth, which does not leave behind especially the youth and women. It would be inclusive growth that protects the rights of workers in line with the Constitution of the country.
In declaring 2011 a year of job creation through meaningful economic transformation and inclusive growth, the ANC introduced a New Growth Path that will guide our work in achieving these goals.
We are working within the premise that the creation of decent work is at the centre of our economic policies.
Research has indicated that we can create jobs in six priority areas. These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
Some instruments have been created to aid job creation and transformation, such as the R9 billion jobs fund and the R20 billion tax concessions for qualifying investors.
The Expanded Public Works, Community Work and National Rural Youth Service Corps programmes are also still integral to our mission to provide the youth with the much needed skills and development opportunities.
The massive infrastructure programme over the next coming years should absorb a considerable number of youth and provide opportunities for entrepreneurship.
The ANC Youth League needs to come up with concerted plans to take advantage of these opportunities and also to guide further policy development around these areas.
Mining is a key industry in our economy, and I agree that youth participation and beneficiation in this industry is non-existent.
You will recall that in response to the matter of nationalisation of the mining industry, we established a research team which will report back to us in the policy conference.
You will have noted that from 2009 we have tried to deal with the matter of poverty and inequality by improving the capacity of the State to deliver.
The ANC government introduced a performance monitoring mechanism in the Presidency and a National Planning Commission, in order to change the way government works. We are seeing positive results in this regard.
The ANC government is likely to be one of very few if not the only one, where the President signs performance agreements with Ministers. This builds accountability and also enables better focus on the work at hand.
The National Planning Commission in the Presidency released its diagnostic report last week, outlining nine critical areas where we are lagging behind, the main being unemployment and education.
The youth is the future of the country. We encourage the Youth League to engage the NPC document, in preparation for the production of a national plan for the country for 2030.
The National Youth Development Agency has thus far played an important role in promoting the participation of the youth in the economy.
Government is to broaden the participation of the NYDA in government through the establishment of youth directorates in each government department.
So far only seven departments have youth directorates. There are 150 municipalities too that have youth desks. We expect the youth directorates, once fully established, to participate in assisting departments to mainstream youth development in both policy development and implementation.
In this manner, youth issues will no longer be in the periphery but will be part of planning and policymaking in government departments.
The participation of the youth league in social transformation is commendable.
You have some very progressive campaigns that support our call for education to be an apex priority. The educational campaigns such as Siyageleza, Operation Mayibuye to return books to schools at the end of every year, eradication of mud schools and many others are all signs of people who know the centrality of education to economic freedom.
Youth development and education are inter-linked.
We urge the youth league to work harder to promote skills development amongst the youth.
To arm themselves for the economic revolution, the youth need to gain much needed skills, especially in scarce fields such as engineering, science, technology, finance and management, as well as technical and artisan skills.
Our interventions of making higher education accessible to youth from poor households, through converting loans into bursaries for qualifying final year students, is intended to assist in this regard.
We commend your impressive campaigns against HIV and AIDS.
They should go a long way towards helping to reduce new infections.
The leadership of the youth league is assisting to demystify HIV and AIDS, and also to make prevention measures such as the use of condoms to be fashionable.
The youth league is our most powerful medium in the fight against AIDS because of the stature of the youth league brand in the country.
If the youth league tells our youth to abstain, be faithful and use condoms consistently, we will be able to achieve our goals of beating this disease. We urge you to continue with this good work.
We urge you to intensify your campaigns against substance abuse, especially the abuse of drugs and alcohol. It is such campaigns that touch on the fibre of society that will make the ANC Youth League grow and be entrenched in our communities.
We also urge the Youth League to intensify campaigns against the abuse of women and children, and help us to build a society where women and children will be respected and protected.
Another matter of interest to the Youth League is the redistribution of land, the view being that the restitution process has been slow.
We announced in the ANC NEC January 8 statements that In order to have more land available for land reform and restitution, government is looking at three forms of land holding.
These are State land that can only be held through leasehold; freehold with limited extent on private land and foreigners will be allowed to lease land but ownership will revert to South Africans on the expiry of the lease. The ANC government is working on measures to speed up the restitution process.
As we meet at this congress, let us remember that members of the ANC are expected at all material times to defend the unity, image and integrity of the ANC.
We must never allow our personal feelings to undermine the standing of the ANC as nobody is above the ANC.
We are concerned with what we have seen happening in the past few weeks in the organisation.
During the recent past local government elections, the ANC introduced a new innovation that of community participation in the selection of councillors in order to deepen democracy.
This we did informed by our experience and the interaction with the masses of our people.
This we did because we were confident as the movement that our people have full confidence in the leadership of the ANC.
Many communities have welcomed this innovation and it has deepened the hegemony of the ANC among the people as they felt the ANC was also their own organisation.
However, this process produced its own challenges as some comrades challenged the outcome when they were not chosen as preferred candidates either by communities or by the branch of the ANC.
It has exposed those among us who are concerned about themselves and their uncontrollable desires to lead whatever it takes, even if they are not wanted by the people.
In some areas comrades have even burned ANC offices and damaged property simply because they want their own person as councillor.
No amount of anger can justifiably make a disciplined member of the ANC to burn offices of the organisation. We cannot afford to lose the character of the organisation in this manner.
We have established a task team to investigate some of the complaints of irregularities and fraudulent behaviour. The committee has begun its work.
We look forward to a resolution of the matter in a manner that will clarify the issues, strengthen the organisation and deepen unity in the affected areas.
I know that you are concerned about the situation in the continent, especially the developments in North Africa, especially Libya.
As you know the ANC is concerned about the misuse of United Nations Resolution 1973, which was passed to declare a no fly zone to protect civilians in Libya.
We know that the situation has changed into one where the resolution is being used possibly for regime change, political assassinations and foreign occupation of Libya.
We have called for a cessation of hostilities and the start of a dialogue amongst the Libyan people.
Most importantly, we have to seriously discuss the manner in which the African Union has been undermined in the process and not given space to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis.
We will continue working within the AU ambit to encourage the Libyan brothers and sisters to discuss and find a home-grown solution to their problems.
We continue to participate in finding lasting solutions in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Madagascar, the Western Sahara issue and others.
As the ANC Youth League we urge you to remain seized with development in the continent, as the ANC, the oldest liberation movement in the continent, has to play a key role in the quest for peace, stability and prosperity in our continent.
Let me re-emphasise the question of unity, respect and dignity within our movement.
These are critical in this congress, to ensure that we do not revert to what happened in Mangaung.
You will recall that that congress had to be held twice due to enormous problems of discipline.
The leadership contestation was also too intense and left the organisation severely bruised.
We believe that you have learned from that exercise and will ensure that this congress is managed properly and comradely, whether there is contestation of leadership or not.
Should there be contestation for any position, whoever wins, once that decision is taken, that leadership will have to be accepted, respected and given space to function as this is the policy of the movement.
That leadership would need to respect that they lead people who held different views. They will have the task of uniting the organisation and refocus it on advancing the goals of the national democratic revolution.
You have a lot of work to do this week. We look forward to the resolutions of congress.
Out of this political school should emerge a stronger, united ANC Youth League that will be able to play its role in strengthening the mother body and which will play its role effectively in the political life of the country.
Out of the congress should emerge an ANC Youth League with programmes that would capture the imagination of the youth in the country when we start the celebrations of 100 years of the African National Congress in January next year.
We congratulate the National Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League for the hard work done since the last congress, in leading the organisation during difficult periods for the ANC.
The Youth League played a key role in defending the organisation in 2008, when a group of disgruntled members broke away to form their own organisation.
Your mobilisation work at that time contributed immensely to the victory the ANC scored in the elections, which took place in that highly competitive atmosphere and attacks on the ANC.
You rose to the occasion and played a role that all generations of the Youth League have played, of defending the ANC and defending the hegemony of the organisation in South African society.
As we all know, membership of the ANC Youth League is not permanent. It is always a sad occasion when comrades reach or get closer to reaching that magical age of 35!
We therefore congratulate and wish well the members who are retiring, especially the outgoing secretary general, comrade Vuyiswa Tulelo.
We acknowledge the contribution to the Youth League of all those who are retiring. We will continue working with them in the organisation of older persons, the mother body!
We wish you a successful congress!
African National Congress
Brian Sokutu 071 671 6899