The hour of youth has struck, we determine our own future!
"As young people, we must be alive to the reality that dialectically the old will resist the inevitable advent of the new, hence Marx observed such contradictions as struggle and unity of opposites resulting in the negation of the old while the new is still embryonic in the old".
Throughout history, young people have been in the forefront of the political struggle for equality and even more notably so since the ANC was formed in 1912. It was from a mind of a young person, Pixley Ka Isaka, that the concept to found the ANC originated.
Seme conceptualized and mobilized for the formation of the ANC at the young age of 31.
The idea to form the ANC was both militant and radical in itself as hence he had to convince chiefs, various professionals such as teachers and journalists, church leaders and many other respected and leading members of society who were frightened by the colonisers after they had killed and paraded Chief Bambatha in 1906 for fighting for the land of his people.
The colonisers made Chief Bambatha an example in that whoever dared challenge the colonial system would be dealt with in the same manner through beheading. It then took the courage of a young man to convince many respected people that only one united organization of the people can defeat the British and Afrikaner colonizers who had united amongst themselves through the exclusively white 1910 Union of South Africa.
As Marx observed, class struggle remains the golden thread, while the character of such stratifications evolves over time. No doubt as we celebrate the ANC centenary, we also revisit some of the heroic acts that helped bring about the new democratic dispensation.
Way back in 1912 when the ANC was founded, the inspiration for freedom became the chain link that was to connect different generations under the banner of our movement.
There is also no doubt that different epochs saw each generation make impact on the character of struggle, including what must be immediate goals and the specific leadership that must be in the forefront.
It is for this reason that the ANC appropriately commemorate the various ANC Presidents as leaders who signified the times when they were at the helm of our movement.
However, it is important to note that Presidents per se were not the exclusive determinants of the struggle for freedom but did so as part of a broader leadership collective that permeated every layer of the mass democratic movement.
We must therefore further expand on the history of the ANC, as the prism of Presidents may be too narrow to fully grasp the various roles played by cadres of the ANC as well as the various mass democratic formations historically aligned to the ANC. Key amongst these was no doubt the ANC Alliance with the trade union movement, the Communist Party as well as the organised civic structures under the banner of SANCO. There are many others that amongst them student, religious and cultural bodies, that helped drive the momentum towards the historical milestone of 1994 when we attained our democracy.
In the post 1994 dispensation, we have continued to amass political support as the liberation movement. As a political party in power, we bear the full responsibility of ensuring comprehensive transformation in line with the vision that caused the historical conference in Mangaung in 1912.
As we approach Mangaung a hundred years later, we must evaluate whether or not our revolutionary struggle is on course. This is very critical as for the ANC to live another 100 years its youth must inject new energy, innovation and thinking. In future we will find it difficult to blame apartheid or its architects because we would have been in power for many years. Excuses for non delivery of basic services to our people must indeed be cause for concern.
Very worrying must be the spates of protests in various towns for such basic commodities as roads, water, sewage system and electricity. More over we must be worried about the stubborn high levels of youth unemployment.
That is why in Mangaung 2012 the youth should be in the fore front for radical economic policy shift. We should not shy away from our mandate of challenging our parental generation as that is our mandate as young people, as a child who behaves, think and act like his parents is as good as not having been born. A child should bring innovation, new ideas and energy in society. We must discuss openly without fear of self contradiction that indeed we are faced with serious challenges that we can no longer put blame on others as we are the ruling party.
As young people, we must be alive to the reality that dialectically the old will resist the inevitable advent of the new, hence Marx observed such contradictions as struggle and unity of opposites resulting in the negation of the old while the new is still embryonic in the old. We have enough majority in national and provincial legislatures bar the Western Cape to effect change through appropriate legislation and relevant programmes.
Related to the challenges of non delivery of services is the problem of corruption. Not only are resources diverted unduly to the pockets of instant millions, but even where the services are rendered we still have problems of inefficiency and ineptitude. We must speak to ourselves about these challenges and not wait for some analysts or the political opposition to pretend to be the wiser when these are self evident challenges.
In Mangaung, we must resolve to build a stronger ANC that will be alive to these challenges. It must be an ANC that is capable of translating the various well intentioned policies into good use. It must be an ANC that espouses both its historical revolutionary character that is in sync with the masses of our people on the one hand, while effectively and efficiently delivering on the basic mandate to transform our country as outlined in the Freedom Charter, the Strategy and Tactics and various such policy resolutions that have been prepared by the Policy Conference as guide towards adoption by the National Conference in Mangaung.
We need to start identifying the minerals that should be strategically nationalised including iron ore, zinc, manganese, platinum group minerals and vanadium amongst others.
We the youth of the ANC should ensure its durability and sustainability by ensuring that the ANC stays true to its values and strategic objectives, the attainment of the vision of the Freedom Charter. The National Conference in Mangaung is a democratic platform that must ensure oraganazational and leadership renewal for us to sustain the movement going into the future. We must ensure that a new generation of leaders are elected into the NEC of the ANC to induce fresh, innovative ideas into the life of the ANC as many other young generations did in the ANC in the past. Many young cadres of the organization were elected into the NEC to serve the above mentioned purpose and they never disappointed, comrades like Chris Hani, Thabo Mbeki and the pioneering generation of OR Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.
Idealism breeds complacency but dialectics reminds us of negation as an inevitable outcome of the internal contradictions of every organism. From the national scale, contradictions at play informed the emergence of the ANC as the ruling party and the demise of the National Party and apartheid. This reality speaks to the democratic preference by our people of the ANC led project for change, while negating apartheid as a crime against humanity.
However, within the ANC, internal contradictions must speak to the overall character of an ANC that speaks to the pursuit of the NDR and thereby justifying its pre-eminence in society and the State, while negating the old dispensation. Dealing with contradictions within the ANC has historically seen changes in leadership and policies over the century of the ANC's existence.
We should debate as the youth of the ANC that given the fact that all over the world leaders are becoming younger and younger everyday and that the global population and the South African population is youthful, do we need to continue with generational mix or a generational take over to lead our own generation in society.
Deputy President: African National Congress Youth League
VIEWPOINT: *Phillip Musekwa
Leadership and Policy renewal the ANC "DNA"
"By just reading through the ANCYL Basic Policy Document of 1948, there was no doubt that the youth sought for a paradigm shift in the ANC's policies so to correct the "defects both of form and of matter"..."
Democracy is the "DNA" of the ANC, and so are the plethora of associated values such as leadership and policy renewal. The ANC's history speaks volume about how democracy has ensured that this historic liberation movement survived to this date. It is fitting that in the year that we are celebrating the centenary of Africa's oldest and arguably most illustrious liberation movement, that in the same year we must grapple with the question of leadership towards the Mangaung ANC National Conference. By definition, issues of leadership in a democracy must be dictated from below, except of course in a dictatorship. And these must be dealt with on a continuous basis, as the attributes of leadership espoused in the document "Through the eye of a needle" would attest. That is why despite the fact that the ANC NEC is the highest decision making body between national conferences, nonetheless it cannot dictate what leadership or policy proposals must be raised in national conference because the latter is the ultimate body overriding any other decision by any other structure including the NEC itself.
In Mangaung, a leadership collective will therefore be elected not choreographed by the incumbents, but flowing from the resolution by the branches of the ANC. It is why it is important that branches of the ANC must grapple with the issues of leadership robustly and fearlessly, if the meaning of democracy is to be sustained. Never had the ANC leadership choreographed the election of its National Executive Council before, and we have good reason to believe it will remain the case in Mangaung and beyond.
As we celebrate the ANC Centenary, one of the highlights of this movement with regards to the question of leadership was as a consequence of the impact by the ANC Youth League leadership collective of the 1940's, when the ANCYL itself was launched. A 1944 Manifesto outlined the kind of organisation the ANCYL was to become, and later in 1948, the adoption of the Basic Policy Document radically and militantly repositioned the ANC, both in terms of policies and leadership. Those were daring young revolutionaries, amongst them OR Tambo, AP Mda, Nelson Mandela, Anton MuziwakheLembede, MxolisiMajombozi, Walter Sisulu and many others.
That was the decade that defined the role of the ANC Youth League within the ANC, through the practical experience of interaction between the League and the mother body. The footprint of the ANCYL's autonomy was further elaborately defined in the ANCYL Basic Policy Document of 1948 and how the processes towards the 1949 ANC National Conference evolved. Having made analysis of the political, social and economic situation as it obtained then, and the relevant programmes that must be adopted to defy the apartheid State with a view to further the agenda to emancipate the black majority, they also made specific analysis of both the ANC organisationally and its leadership.
"Yet from the very outset, the ANC suffered from serious defects. The founders, great patriots no doubt, had no grasp of the concrete historical situation and its implications, and they were obsessed with imperialist forms of organisation. As a result the ANC had defects both of form and of matter and as long as these remained the ANC could not create an effective organisational machinery for waging the national liberatory fight; put forward a dynamic Nationalistic programme which could inspire and cement the tribes, and be a motive power and driving force in the militant struggle for national freedom." (ANCYL Basic Policy Document, 1948) On this occasion of celebrating the ANC's centenary, it is the generation that will no doubt inherit the ANC that must be even more concerned in probing questions of this nature, on the long term viability of the ANC as currently constituted and whether or not there are no "defects both of form and of matter" as the ANCYL of the 1940's had argued, that can undermine the ANC's thrust into the future, a future informed by its historic vision for a non racial, non sexist, united, democratic and prosperous society.
The ANCYL of the 1940's did not end there, they also went on to make analysis of Dr AB Xuma as ANC President. After making brief analysis and appraisals of Dr Xuma's leadership pedigree, they went on to assert that:
"Doubtless there is room for more drastic and revolutionary changes in the organisational form of Congress, if this organisation is to live up to the people`s expectations. As far as the matter and substance of Congress`s outlook is concerned, the year 1944 saw a historic turning point, when the Congress Youth League came into life. From the very outset, the Congress Youth League set itself, inter alia, the historic task of imparting dynamic substance and matter to the organisational form of the ANC." (ANCYL Basic Policy Document, 1948)
Clearly that was a youth organisation that did not see themselves as "parrots" to merely echo the mother body. Their mission was later consolidated in the twin tasks, which is to champion the interests of the youth as well as mobilise them behind the vision of the ANC, not necessarily stale ANC policies which were over time defective in form and matter. That does not mean that the ANCYL is not bound by existing ANC policies, as dictated to by the ethos of democratic centralism, but rather that advocacy of policy change cannot suffer the excuses of democratic centralism lest we tilt into dictatorship. The ultimate validity test of the ANCYL's policy and leadership proposals is the ANC National Conference as the latter is the highest decision making body and can actually overrule any ANC NEC decision in the intervening period of National Conferences. The ANC NEC cannot for instance pre-empt what ANC National Conference resolutions can or cannot adopt, because the ANC National Conference is the conference of the branch, and by extension of the broad membership and this is what gives the ANC its ultimate democratic mast.
It must be remembered that it was Dr Xuma who had characterised the ANCYL and their radical and militant onslaught as "kindergartens". However, to his credit, Dr Xuma allowed the ANCYL to further their agenda along the axis of democratic support, or the lack therein, year in year out in the intervening years between the adoption of the ANCYL Manifesto in 1944 and the adoption of the Programme of Action in 1949. This is the sacrosanct creed of the ANC, to allow even antagonistic views to abound. Of course democratic centralism as borrowed from Marxist literature and applied in the ANC meant that after differing, the centre must take centre stage which is why the ANCYL can only implement policies adopted by the ANC. But as argued, it does not mean the ANCYL cannot advocate for policy changes.
However, Dr Xuma heeded to a special dispensation for the ANCYL to advance their views throughout the decade of the 1940's, despite the ANC Annual National Conferences as highest decision making bodies not adopting the ANCYL stances until at least the watershed 1949 National Conference that adopted almost wholesale the ANCYL's proposals on the Programme of Action.
By just reading through the ANCYL Basic Policy Document of 1948, there was no doubt that the youth sought for a paradigm shift in the ANC's policies so to correct the "defects both of form and of matter". Speculation could abound as to what could have been had the ANCYL met with say a dictatorial Dr AB Xuma, who in contrast to a dictator was a democrat par excellence. These could be scenario analysis that could perhaps be helpful to intellectually stimulate a robust discussion on the meaning of democracy in the movement, but the historical facts speaks to democracy winning the day in 1949. It is for this reason that we have every hope that it will be the case in Mangaung. Any suggestions that pre-empt National Conference resolutions is in contrast to the rich ANC history of robust debate with National Conference being the final arbiter on all contentious issues, both with regards to leadership and policies.
To his credit, Dr AB Xuma acceded to the tide of democracy on whose radical wave the ANCYL rode to radically change the ANC policies and subsequently elected a leadership collective that would advance those radical policy postures. This was a quantum leap from the days of the National Representative Council, and the other harmless policy measures such as deputation and pleading with the colonial powers for leniency, that the ANCYL rejected together with the notion of trusteeship. The fact that the Native Representative Council was glorified by the participation in its structures by esteemed leaders such as the ANC founding President John Dube and later ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli, that alone did not swerve them from their course, and was never considered an insult such esteemed ANC leaders.
On organisational matters, no doubt the ANCYL seemed to agree with the Chinese saying that the "fish rots from the head", as they sought to elect one of their own in Walter Sisulu as Secretary General in 1949 and replaced Dr Xuma with JS Moroka. The giant strides that the ANC was to make as a liberation movement owes itself to the election of able leaders such as Walter Sisulu as Secretary General during the Defiance Campaign of the early 1950's, OR Tambo as President throughout the years of the political banning and Nelson Mandela on the eve of the protracted negotiations that led to the 1994 democratic breakthrough. Quality of leadership was elected on the basis of the specific revolutionary challenges of that given epoch. Therefore, to make an analysis of a leader, both with regards to achievements and mistakes, is not to be regarded as alien in the ANC if democracy is to continue as its "DNA", neither must it be interpreted as disrespect as the ANC is not a traditional organisation with traditional leaders that must be respected as leaders at all cost from birth.
Moving towards the National Conference in Mangaung, one of the mistakes we dare not make, is to assume that consensus on policy and leadership issues amounts to unity. Unity must reflect the true colours of our diversity. The "broad church" and multi-class character of the movement, is the appropriate characterisation of this liberation movement that has in the long history of struggle captured into its ranks chiefs, kings, queens, clerks, Marxists, nationalists, capitalists, liberals, religious leaders, artists and many more. All these social, economic and ideological strands, sometimes antagonistic to each other have been united by the ANC's vision for a non racial, non sexist, united, democratic and prosperous society.
Democracy is therefore the axis along which the ANC has evolved over time, and distinguished itself from other organisations that were narrow in their conception and were intolerant of divergent views, hence they suffered extinction. As Dr AB Xuma could exemplify through his tenure of ANC leadership, democratic centralism must not be elevated to the death of ideological differences. It does not mean that the Communist will no longer be a communist and neither the capitalist must be obliged to shed their spots.
Blackmail was never ANC policy, but it could be some utilise it to their advantage for short term gains, but that could prove fatal to the long term prospects of the ANC. Only a prophet could tell what political debates the ANC branches will seek to elevate to the ANC National Conference platform. To dictate otherwise is to cut off the lifeblood of the organisation. We must therefore approach the Mangaung National Conference as true democrats in the mould of Dr AB Xuma. Amongst the questions that must be answered in Mangaung, is what kind of leadership that will take the ANC forward, in line with the resolutions that must in turn attend to the prevailing challenges in our economy and society broadly speaking, as the ANCYL did towards the watershed 1949 National Conference.
For the ANC to thrive into the next century, its leadership must be scrutinised without fear or favour or dispositions for short term personal gains. Actually, the fact that someone is an incumbent, that is cause for even grater scrutiny, lest we allow tendencies that are contrary to the history and culture of the organisation that saw colossal giants such as Dr AB Xuma replaced without any qualms about it. This must be an assurance that there will be no holy cows in Mangaung.
Once the official nomination process starts in October, branches must fearlessly seize the moment and ensure that they act informed by what is best in terms of policy and leadership proposals that will elevate the historic struggle as led by the ANC. This is not to suggest any specific name, but to highlight the high level of responsibility that the branches have as we approach Mangaung, lest we repeat that defects that the ANCYL observed, and which history warn us against repeating if the ANC is to survive into the next century. Branches must know that critical analysis is not anathema in the ANC, but the true culture and tradition of the movement. For instance, branches must debate whether or not it aids the cause of the ANC to have leadership nominations only opened two months prior to National Conference, as opposed to the case towards the 2007 Polokwane ANC National Conference when the ANC nominated the then ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma as early as 2004 and that must be done without fear or favour. Critical analysis at all times is the main ingredient towards ensuring the ANC as an organisation, supported by its policies, programmes, quality leadership, cadreship, rank and file and the broader society at large, leads South Africa towards a better life for all. Expressed differences, as it were under Dr AB Xuma, are the evidence that democracy exists, and that does not take away the integrity of the organisation or of its leadership, but in contrast actually strengthens such!
* Phillip Musekwa is a former member and Policy and Research Coordinator of the ANC Youth League