Youth Month and Beyond: The ANCYL remains a home for all young people
The rupturing revolts by the youth of 1976 remain a milestone in the struggle for freedom and social justice in South Africa. It culminated in an explosive response to a system of repression concocted to demobilize political activities in South Africa. June 16th, 1976 was an eruption of maturing political, social and economic tensions that were building up in South Africa since the banning of political parties and heightening of political repression. When unarmed young people rejected the reproduction of the apartheid regime through poorly funded yet highly state controlled Bantu Education system that supported a morally bankrupt social order they were met with the might of the apartheid forces ammunition.
More than 1000 young school children were shot and killed and thousands injured all over the country. The collaboration of resistance swelled throughout the South African landscape prompted in resistance to “the psychology of being in control”. The period prior June 16th, 1976, during and after, evoked pressure from young people around the world called on the Release of Nelson Mandela in the “Free Mandela” campaign. Collectively, the struggles inside South Africa, on the Continent and internationally began to crystallize against the Apartheid Government and solidify around the African National Congress.
The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) was formed in 1979 as a result of the banning of organisations that realized the uprising of 1976. COSAS` formation was inspired by the bravery of young learners who raised their fists against apartheid repression. Having adopted the Freedom Charter, COSAS provided impetus to the broader liberation struggles and “generated a leadership cadre characterized by its political maturity and insight and above all its courage. Together with other township youth formations it provided a militant backbone to the entire democratic movement not only through its own struggles but through its former students as they reached tertiary education, institutions joined trade unions community organisations and MK.”
The formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983, depicted unity in diversity, simmered the 1970`s call to “Free Mandela” and the call to make South Africa ungovernable. This was realized in the campaign for united action, towards the unbanning of the ANC and its support for the formation of SAYCO. The United Democratic Front fortified the phases towards achieving National Liberation during the banning of the ANC and its Youth League especially during township uprisings and the State of Emergency.
In 1987, the South African Youth Congress was formed. This was critical in illustrating the creation of new layers of youth leadership. Its impact was in the strength of its numbers and the diversity of its affiliates constituting Trade Unions and religious, sport and cultural formations. The force and fighting spirit of the young lions was demonstrated in resilience during the State of Emergency. Peter Mokaba engineered mass based support through militancy and radicalism, which was embedded on the need to defend and advance the ideals of the Congress movement.
The political temperature had risen in South Africa, the apartheid government could no longer take the heat, and pressure was mounting from within the country despite the banning of the ANC, its Youth League and other political parties the struggle for liberation could not be contained even against armed forces of the nonsensical apartheid regime. Outside the country sanctions depleted the legitimacy and the state and weakened apartheid propaganda which had over the years presented itself a genuine separate but equal development. In the late 1980s, freedom was imminent, primarily because of the gallant struggles of young people in South Africa.
The United Democratic Front and its affiliates including South African Youth Congress carried the torch towards the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 and the release of Nelson Mandela. The support for the ANC was demonstrated by its unbanning in 1991. The apartheid forces agreement to negotiations change was not a compromise, but a capitulation to the struggles of people of South Africa. Young people have proven through various generations that youth remain the force that mobilizes society behind the ANC and primary agents for change.
Like others who in our recent past miscalculated the militancy and fearlessness of the ANCYL`s strategic analysis of the political landscape in South Africa, and chose to break away from the ANC, the ANCYL brought victory to the people of South Africa and the ANC in its victory in the 4th National General Elections. It was the ANCYL that first called on the counter-revolutionary faction to leave the ANC when they began with threats of what they misnamed “serving divorce papers to the ANC”. Amidst fears of substantial loss of majority in the ANC, the ANCYL said these people represent a rightwing faction, which will never succeed in dislodging the ANC. The outcomes of the 2009 general elections proved us right.
In the most fiercely contested elections the ANCYL attested to the true democratic values of the Constitution of South Africa. It indicated that the generations that brought this democracy to maturity have not done so in vain. Whilst fledgling parties tried to leave their nests prematurely and engage in an attempt to wreak havoc and divide the African National Congress, the Youth League emerged and mobilized young people in their scores to the polls. Generations of youth past and present confirmed the ANC as the only hope, the only advocate and the only Congress of the People.
In a whirlwind victory, the vibrant voice of the South Africa`s youth was heard as it was in 1976. The African National Congress Youth League, as in all its generations, remained committed to its twin tasks of mobilizing young behind the vision of the ANC whilst championing their interests, to ensure that the slogan of the first generation of the ANCYL, “Freedom in our Lifetime” remains and that the martyrs of our struggle mirror their vision, unwavering fear and selflessness to the generations to come to strengthen the African National Congress. Our generation of the ANCYL has lived up to expectations and fulfilled its role in defence of the ANC. We have however said in previous communications that our goals will be truly realized and celebrated when majority of South Africans are emancipated from poverty and starvation.
The month of June requires all young people to take stock of their contribution to their nation-building responsibility and ensuring that social cohesion remains an unconditional individual task towards the collective. This should be so as young people remain with legitimate expectations of benefitting from the blood that nourished the fruits of our freedom. Young people are therefore expected to endure the achievements and imperfections of sustaining and developing South African society.
We have realized that the success of the intergenerational vote since the first democratic elections have turned the voting power at the polls into real influence over policies. The culmination of such influence and achievement has demonstrated the militancy of the ANCYL and its commitment to the Freedom Charter in the establishment of the National Youth Development Agency. In previous polls, there were concerns over the turnout of young people to the polls, and our generation has overturned that reality through robust, principled, trendy and fashionable mobilisation methods and strategies, which were responsive to the interests of young people. From the beginning, the ANCYL elections strategy was underpinned by the need to speak to young people in their language and in places where they are found. We ensured throughout elections that the ANC is not swallowed by social gatherings and bashes, but that the ANC swallows these into trendy responsible activities within our movement.
The gains since 1976 have been cumulatively progressive and have built on the legacy of generations past and generations into the future in the delivery of seamless, holistic and integrated development of young people by the NYDA. The NYDA is a direct consequence of the ANCYL 22nd National Congress of 2004, and the proclamation of the NYDA Act 58 of 2008 into law by the President of South Africa on 6th February 2009. This resulted in the timeous appointment and announcement of the Board of the NYDA on the 30th April 2009. The ANCYL did not abdicate its responsibility to champion youth interests during the elections. We disaggregated our energies to fight for the adoption of the NYDA Act and the National Youth Policy and in the process mobilizing young people to vote for the ANC.
Since the characterization of African Nationalism in the 1948 ANCYL Basic Policy Document, the leadership and structures of the firebrand organisation have perpetuated the restoration of social, economic and political dignity of Africans within South Africa, the continent and internationally. This provided for equal and democratic rights for African, Indian, Coloured and White South Africans as well as equal opportunity and access to the country`s means of production. These ideals continue to guide and inspire our political programmes and activities and will be inspire our engagement with all spheres of society towards the realization of better lives for all.
Young people in South Africa must be led out of the abuse of alcohol, drugs and substances that elevate their vulnerability and brought under the umbrella of democracy, equality and the realization of the Freedom Charter. The time has now come for young people to unify during the trying socio-economic imperfections of the 21st Century. Young people should be taught and encouraged to stay clear of risky sexual behaviors. As we recall that the contentious issues of 1976 were not exclusive, young people revolted all over the country; they identified with the vision of a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa, and shed the differences of race that defined the strategy of the oppressor.
The ANCYL remains the only political solace for all young South Africans irrespective of race and sex. The role of young people in shaping what they visualize their future to be remains their task. During the month of June and beyond we must support the process towards the National Health Insurance Scheme that aims to provide healthcare for all South Africans including young people who face basic healthcare challenges and address the vast dilemma of HIV and AIDS that continue to deteriorate the optimal lives of our young people. We should further support the process towards the review of the National Students` Financial Aid Scheme into a Scheme that will additionally insulate capable needy students from University and post secondary training fees.
The commitments to the Manifesto of the ANC in President Jacob Zuma`s State of the Nation Address must be translated to young people, who, will benefit from the “creation of decent work which will be at the center of our economic policies”. An immediate task of the Expanded Public Works Programme is to create 500 000 jobs by December 2009 and 4 million by 2014. More than 70% of young people are unemployed, and they should be priority in the creation of these job opportunities. The task to reduce unemployment amongst young people in line with the task of EPWP then becomes apparent. The NYDA should speed up efforts to integrate as many young people into the economy as possible.
The increase in access to higher education of young people from poor families is evidence of the achievements of the ANCYL towards the goal of Free Education until the First undergraduate degree. The struggles of Education as epitomized in 1976 must continue in order to achieve complete total emancipation from poverty and starvation. The responsibility of the ANCYL should become the collective responsibility of all South Africa`s young people. We must continue to advance the objectives of the unified, skilled and properly remunerated public service as an instrument of the developmental state. This advocates the cumulative task of all young people in civil society, business, young professionals, the public service including unemployed young people who must be the future they envisage by taking their successes, skills and talents to their communities and communities less advantaged.
In so doing, we should respond to the call of the Ministry of Police to recruit volunteers to fight crime in our communities. Active citizenship starts with our young people as protagonists for peace and justice. Youth Month and beyond must celebrate the vibrant voice of youth, by embracing the task, being footstools of our people and continue to influence the State, Organisation and the Alliance.
We celebrate Youth Month whilst we host the FIFA Confederation Cup and prepare for the 2010 World Cup. Such a remarkable achievement requires us to reflect National Pride in all our actions especially in supporting our home team, Bafana Bafana. The spirit of the nation during the victories of our sporting teams have exuded our love for South Africa, let it be one of the many symbols of pride that tie us together as we host our foreign guests. We have a great task ahead of us and we are sure that we will not disappoint South Africa`s youth, but will do everything in our power to ensure that young people`s lives are radically improved and that they have access to sustainable opportunities.
Julius Malema-President of the African National Congress Youth League