24th Elective Conference of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League
By Abdul Waheed Patel – Managing Director, ETHICORE
Something – perhaps politically and economically historical, commences at Gallagher Estate conference centre in Johannesburg today. For the next four days (16 – 20 June 2011), delegates from the African National Congress Youth League will gather and convene there for the 24th national elective conference of the league.
ETHICORE’s research consultant, Mr. Muhammad Khalid Sayed is privileged to have been invited to attend and monitor the goings-on at the conference. With the league set to engage in deliberations, discussions and policy debate on a number of critical issues, the benefit of Muhammad Khalid’s presence at the conference will prove useful in providing a first-hand account of how these league deliberations and their outcome will shape the future political and economic landscape and trajectory of South Africa at every level. This includes:
- The policies and programs of government;
- The political climate for doing business and investing in South Africa;
- South Africa’s role on the rest of the African continent, internationally and in key strategic multilateral fora; and
- The future legislative regime in South Africa for economic transformation, property rights and economic ownership and participation, as well as the governance of the state.
With the 24th elective conference set to deliberate on a number of strategic issues under the conference them “Youth Action for Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime”, the conference is set to focus on key socio-economic, political and developmental issues, concerns and priorities on league’s political agenda. The outcomes and resolutions of the league’s deliberations on these will no doubt be watched closely from a number quarters and a cross-section within South African society (government, the ruling African National Congress and it’s rival opposition political parties, organised business and labour, business and investors, civil society, academia and the media), as well as the international community and on-lookers from outside of South Africa.
Key issues set be deliberated at the conference include:
- Education, health and social transformation;
- Gender relations and womens emancipation;
- International relations and global youth solidarity;
- Youth development and a program of action for economic freedom; and
- Communications and the battle for ideas
The conference itself will be a battleground for ideas and ideologies, especially in relation to the leadership race and succession battle for the presidency of the league and the leagues much mooted, criticized and publicized positions and proposals for a shift in the official policy of government and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on the nationalization of mines and banks, as well as the expropriation of land without compensation.
Whether or not we like or even agree with the ANC Youth League and its firebrand and flamboyant president Julius “Juju” Malema on these and other issues confronting South African society taken up by the league; both his utterances and the leagues conference deliberations and resolutions will be closely watched and at the very least spoken about in the corridors at places of work, on online jams, blogs, on Facebook pages, on Twitter feeds and good old fashion newspaper articles and letters to the editor
The reason is quite simple. This is the historical character and culture of the league and it’s presidents, both past and present. From the era of Anton Lembede and Nelson Mandela, to the generation of Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula. And now Julius Malema and beyond. The leaders of the ANC Youth League and the league itself have always played a pivotal political and ideological role in the ANC and South African politics, since its founding and establishment in 1944 by Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.
The historic character and tradition of ANC Youth League leaders are to be trendsetters and challengers of the status quo. All of these iconic figures and previous leaders of the ANC Youth League have in one way or another, for better or worse, shaped the politics of the ANC and therefore the politics of the ANC. This includes the succession battles for the presidency of the ANC and ultimately the presidency of the country. ANC Youth League leaders have also gone on to secure powerful strategic political appointments and deployments in government and state entities. In particular, former president Thabo Mbeki (himself a former youth league member) rise to the highest office in the land was partly secured and reassured through the overwhelming support of the ANC Youth League, then under the leadership of then league president Malusi Gigaba. Gigaba is now Minister of Public Enterprises in President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet, arguably one of the most economically significant positions in ensuring the competitiveness of the South African economy in the area of electricity, ports and harbors, airports, pipelines and railways.
Gigaba’s successor as league president and past league Secretary General, Fikile Mbalulais now Minister for Sport and Recreation – a portfolio deemed critical for leveraging the role of sport in ongoing national reconciliation and social cohesion. Not to mention its multi billion sport endorsements deal involving wealthy sponsors.
Current youth league deputy president Andile Lungisa is the chief executive of the newly established National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). The creation of the NYDA (a merger between the former National Youth Commission and the Umsombomvu Youth Fund) was one of the election manifesto and campaign tickets of the ANC 2009 national elections campaign strategy that delivered President Jacob Zuma to the Union Buildings. With young people constituting the majority of the unemployed in South Africa, the NYDA is the entity mandated by government to oversee the disbursement of billions of rands in financial support to assist with youth enterprise development and economic empowerment. Lungisa has also been elected as the chairperson of the official pan-African youth organ of the African Union.
Whatever happens at the 24th elective conference of the ANC Youth League this week, it is sure to throw up some fascinating developments in the South African body politic and political landscape. Not to mention its potential kingmaker role in the 2014 National General Conference of the ANC where it will elect the next president of the ANC (and by tradition the ANC’s candidate for the next president of the country) and review and renew the official policies of the ANC and by implication the policies government.
In commemorating this 2011 national youth day and the historic and heroic youth of 1976, let’s hope that the youth league of 2011 makes sensible and responsible resolutions, that it holds rationale dialogue, discussion and debate that live up with the dire needs, challenges and expectations of young people in South Africa. Furthermore, that the 24th conference of the ANC Youth League lives up to the memory and the legacy of the 1944 generation of the league, whose heroic struggles and sacrifices shaped and paved the way for the freedom which all young people in South Africa enjoy today, including those young people in the ANC.
This is because much as we may lament and be critical of the ANC Youth League for their shortcomings and radicalism, because we recognize and realise their significant role in the politics and ideologies of the ANC and the trajectory of the country as a whole, we look to them to make decisions and a play a role befitting of the positions that their leaders hold and the high office that they are set to rise to in the future. The 24th conference of the represents a historical opportunity and moment in time for the league and its leadership to live to these expectations. The young people and indeed all people of South Africa expect nothing less.
Watch this space for follow-up post on the ANC Youth League’s 24th elective conference.