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Address by President Jacob Zuma at the ANC Youth League 25th National Congress
5 September 2015, Midrand
The President of the ANC Youth League, Comrade Collen Maine,
Secretary General, Comrade Njabulo Nzuza and all newly elected Officials,
Members of the ANC National Executive Committee,
Leadership of the SACP, COSATU and SANCO,
Members of the National Task Team,
Leadership of the Progressive Youth Alliance,
Comrades and friends,
I bring revolutionary greetings on behalf of the National Executive Committee of our mighty and gloriousmovement, the African National Congress.
We are extremely delighted that the long awaited and much anticipated 25th National Congress of the ANC Youth League is now in session.
This congress is a significant milestone in the continuous process which began just over two years ago, of rebuilding the ANC Youth League.
Let me also begin by congratulating the President, the Secretary General and all newly elected Officials. We also look forward to welcoming the entire National Executive Committee as well once the process has been concluded.
The convening of this congress and its success thus far,is a practical expression of the fact that the young lions of Oliver Tambo are alive and well.
You have silenced your critics who had already written the obituary of the ANC Youth League.
This congress is a historic landmark in the history of the ANC and the country.
As delegates gathered here you have the responsibility to ensure that the ANC Youth League continues to successfully execute its twin tasks, of advancing the interests of all young people in the country, while at the same time, rallying them behind the banner and vision of the ANC.
Historically, the ANC Youth League has carried the hopes and aspirations of our youth.
This congress must revive and strengthen that role.
You therefore have a responsibility to ensure that this congress runs smoothly and that it is characterized by high levels of discipline, political maturity as well as robust and productive engagements on policy and programmes until its conclusion.
You must do this with the full understanding that youcarry on your shoulders the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of young people who continue to express unparalleled confidence in our movement.
You have to reassure all young people and the nation at large, that the country is safe in your hands as the youth of the ruling party.
By starting on a positive and progressive footing as you have done thus far, we have confidence that you will be able to restore the grand stature of the ANC Youth League and reposition it as a radical and militant, yet disciplined and revolutionary voice of the youth.
This 25th National Congress begins just six days before the ANC Youth League celebrates seventy one years of its existence.
This is a historic milestone that places the ANC Youth League above all youth organizations in the country, because it is the most experienced and revolutionary organ of youth power with a rich history as well as anunmatched, proven and credible track-record.
It was in the formative years of the ANC Youth League when the National Party came into power and institutionalized racism through its atrocious policy of apartheid.
To respond to this development, the ANC Youth League developed a radical programme of action and successfully lobbied for its adoption at the 1949 national conference of the ANC.
It is important to note the fact that the first generation of youth leaders mastered the skill to argue ferociously, yet constructively and respectfully.
They understood that violence and insults would never convince delegates to an ANC conference to adopt their programme.
In other words, they learned early that discipline is a central component of commitment to whatever programme but in particular the programmes of their movement.
The founding leaders of the ANC Youth League were so committed to their radical programme that they participated both in its conceptualisation and itsimplementation.
The outstanding example of this commitment was their participation in the defiance campaign of 1952 where the then ANC Youth League President, Nelson Mandela, was Volunteer-in-Chief.
I am giving this brief background in order to explain the social context which has informed the militancy and radicalism of the ANC Youth League since its inception.
In other words, the ANC Youth League does not become radical or militant because it is fashionable or exciting to do so.
On the contrary, its radical posture at any given point in history is always informed by the concrete material conditions under which it mobilizes and organizes. Indeed the youth constitute a very critical stratum in society.
Throughout its seventy one years of existence, the ANC Youth League has always appreciated that its strategic role and responsibility is to mobilize young people from all walks of life behind the banner and vision of the ANC.
It is important to underline the fact that the vision to be rallied behind is the overarching vision of the ANC.
The ANC Youth League derives its existence and therefore its programmes and vision from the ANC`s vision to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
This is the vision which constitutes the core objectives of the National Democratic Revolution and which is the basis for our Alliance with all democratic and progressive forces in our country.
In short, the vision of the ANC Youth League cannot be anything other than the vision of the ANC because it is the Youth League of the ANC.
The founding leaders of the ANC Youth League correctly understood this relationship when they wrote in its manifesto that:
"African youth must be united, consolidated, trained and disciplined because from their ranks, future leaders will be recruited".
They further noted that:
These words reassure us that the ANC Youth League remains a preparatory school and an incubator of the ANC. It is charged with the immense responsibility to produce leaders for the ANC and for the country.
We are confident that your generation will carry on this rich legacy and common heritage of our people.
In this regard, we are encouraged by your discussion document prepared for this congress on Organizational Building which asserts, among other things, that:
"We, as the ANC Youth League, are charged with an obligation not to view our ongoing process of organizational rebuilding with gloom and despondency but rather as an opportunity to take stock of the milestones achieved by this organization against resilient obstacles and the struggle heritage accumulated throughout these years."
Let me reiterate that the formation of the ANC Youth League seventy one years ago represented a watershedmoment in the struggle for freedom and self-determination for the African majority. It marked an important turn of events in the history of the ANC itself.
It is common cause that the 1944 generation of the ANC youth takes the credit for having systematically infused radical politics into the ANC and having transformed it into a fighting force with a mass presence.
The same generation would in the later years play a central role in sustaining the tempo of revolution; even under conditions of illegality.
The formation and operations of uMkhonto weSizwe are indicative of this fact. It is therefore not an exaggeration to suggest that present day South Africa is very much the result of the militancy and youthful energy of young people of the ANC.
After many years of clandestine activities and beingunorganized due to the outlawing of the National Liberation Movement, the Youth League was officially re-launched at its 1991 national congress in KaNyamazane.
This followed the unbanning of the ANC and other components of the liberation movement due to the heroic and relentless struggles of our people.
The distinguishing feature of that conference was the serious responsibility that the youth of 1991, led by Peter Mokaba, had to carry out in order to fast-track ourtransition to democracy.
This transition period especially between 1990 and 1994, needed a very strong and focused ANC Youth League with the energy necessary to mobilize and organize young people throughout the length and breadth of our country.
Needless to say, the ANC Youth League played a keyrole in delivering an overwhelming majority to the ANCduring the 1994 elections and in the shaping of the democratic transition and transformation processes.
This indeed lends credence to the notion that the ANC Youth League has an integral role to play in the life of the ANC.
There cannot be a substitute for the ANC Youth League.
I remarked at the national consultative congress last year that just like both the 1944 and 1991 national congresses, this congress was convened and organized by an appointed interim leadership structure.
You have demonstrated your determination to lead yourselves by sorting out the leadership issue swiftly.
To successfully reach this destination, we need a well-functioning ANC Youth League which masters its twin tasks of advancing the interests of young people while at the same time, rallying them behind the banner and vision of the ANC.
In this regard, as delegates to this congress, you are part of a special generation making history in our movement and our country.
Just like the generations of 1944 and 1991, your generation will be remembered as having opened a new chapter in the life of the ANC Youth League.
This is the first national elective congress since the ANC declared that we have now entered the second phase of our long drawn transition from apartheid colonialism to the national democratic society.
During this phase we will take bold and decisive steps especially at the level of policy formulation to ensure radical economic transformation.
This congress therefore has the responsibility to determine the place and role of a united and radical ANC Youth League in this second phase of our transition.
This must be done with the full understanding, as remarked in one of your discussion documents, that:
"The successful accomplishment of the tasks of the second phase of the transition depends precisely on the successful mobilisation of the youth as a potent force for revolutionary change, indeed, as the catalysts, the foot-soldiers and the cutting edge of the struggle during that phase."
In short, we need a radical, militant and robust ANC Youth League which operates within the general organizational discipline of the ANC, to participate in taking our country forward to the National Democratic Society we envisage.
We need an ANC Youth League that appreciates that militancy without discipline amounts to anarchy, counter-revolution and mobocracy.
A disciplined ANC Youth League must therefore resume its position as the epicenter of progressive radical politics among the youth of South Africa.
You must do so by mobilizing all young people behindthe vision of the ANC and close the space for all opportunistic, pseudo-left and narrow nationalist and counter-revolutionary organizations which confuse rudeness and ill-discipline with revolutionary action.
More importantly, the ANC Youth League must define its role in both the offensive and defensive strategies and tactics of consolidating the gains of our revolution.Your role is to defend this hard won democracy from all counter-revolutionary elements wherever they are placed.
To be able to do this, you need to be able to define counter-revolution in the South African context to enable the organization to respond to it in defence of the ANC, our revolution and the Republic of South Africa and its people as a whole.
The ANC and South Africa need you right now. You need to be focused, clear and determined to work hard in rebuilding the ANC Youth League for it to contribute meaningfully to transformation, for the benefit of the country as a whole.
You have come a long way to this point.
We encourage you to take radical decisions at this congress that are in line with your correct generational mission to achieve economic freedom, inspired by the path-breaking generations of 1944 and 1991.
You are also the generation that has the enormous task of cleansing the ANC Youth League of all negative tendencies that have crept in over the years.
These tendencies threatened to tear the organization asunder and erode its proud history and stature in society.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to some of these negative tendencies yesterday.
They include gate-keeping, bulk-buying of membership, intimidation, careerism, patronage, political enslavement of new members, crass materialism and the use of money to secure votes.
You have a responsibility to rebuild and unite the ANC Youth League throughout the length and breadth of our country. The interests of the ANC Youth League, the ANC and the country must come first before any personal considerations.
Therefore, the ANC Youth League that emerges from this congress must unite behind the new leadership at national and all levels, and work hard to eliminate factionalism which diverts cadres from their important work of building the ANC and the country.
This is a period of renewal. The old tendencies that we saw in Bloemfontein must change. Change they must. We cannot continue on that wrong and destructive path. We need an ANC Youth League that is loyal to the ANC and loyal to the people of this country.We also urge you to rebuild the ANC brand among the youth.
Through your conduct in every branch, the ANC Youth League will reclaim its place as a strong, visible, appealing and popular brand with which every young person in our country wishes to associate.
The programmes you adopt at this congress should strike a chord with young people and the challenges they face in their lives in a changing South Africa.
The campaigns of the ANC Youth League around those programmes should rally every young person in the country regardless of race, gender or creed.
All of this must be done without losing the proud traditions of our movement and the heritage of strugglewhich is passed on from one generation to another.
You must do all that is necessary to strengthen, defend and preserve the ANC Youth League of illustrious leaders such as Anton Lembede, Godfrey Pitje, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Robert Resha, Patrick Molaoa or Peter Mokaba.
We must do so because the ANC Youth League is indeed a priceless and timeless asset of the ANC and of the people of our beautiful country, South Africa.
We congratulate you on the progress made thus far leading up to this congress and since the beginning of the congress.
On behalf of the ANC National Executive Committee, we wish this historic ANC 25th national congressphenomenal success.
I thank you.