I have been an activist all my life. As a teenager, I even got detained by the apartheid government, locked in solitary confinement under the draconian Section 29 of the Internal Security Act.
Having cut my political teeth in Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness movement, I was attracted to the Mass Democratic Movement which I independently aligned with.
It was you, Malusi Gigaba who got me into the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) activities in 1997. You were more interested in how I could assist you and the ANCYL with media relations while I was interested in the activism of the youth league.
When the ANC moved from Shell House to its new Luthuli House headquarters, I was deeply involved in youth activism. Hence, I was there throughout your unprecedented three terms as president of the ANCYL.
I remember how you narrated to me the story of your harassment at your first ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting because “comrades didn’t know who this young man is at the NEC” until Blade Nzimande came to your rescue.
I was there when under your leadership we took on the Andrew Babeile case. I was there when we initially clashed with Sasco over the ANCYL opening branches at tertiary institutions.
I couldn’t attend Peter Mokaba’s funeral because you had deployed me with Nikiwe Num to the ANC provincial conference in Rustenburg, North West, where Popo Molefe and Thandi Modise were slugging it out with youth league activists.
It was under your tutelage that I had to write articles for the ANCYL magazine, Horizon. I was with you when Fikile Mbalula lost his son and we had to bury him in the Free State. It was during that period when Eugene Mthethwa of Trompies started visiting our offices and wrote articles for us to review until we started referring to him as a “political tadpole”.
We visited the offices of the National Youth Commission in Pretoria regularly, and during one of our regular trips we bumped into then Cosas president Julius Malema and his entourage who told us that they were just coming from a trial of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
I still have the forms from Mandla Langa Attorneys, which I never signed, to become one of the founding directors of Lembede Investments, the youth league project that went wrong.
Later with former Gauteng youth league secretary Lebogang Maile, we attempted to launch a similar project for the provincial structure. Your presidency with the likes of Andrew Dipela, Joe Maswanganyi and Reuben Mohlaloga provided me with a platform to engage. We robustly engaged under the principle of “the supremacy of ideas”. I loved that youth league. I enjoyed being an activist.
I was in Mangaung when we defeated a challenge for the youth league presidency by David Makhura and Mahlengi Bhengu. Together with Zizi Kodwa, Jabu Mbalula, Khotso Khumalo, Joy Motubatsi, Valentine Mbatha and many other comrades, we mobilised young people under the ANCYL banner.
Even when I had started my career in television, I always found time to participate with you on door-to-door campaigns, address rallies and engaging young people.
I was no longer in the youth league but was in Mangaung when you collapsed the conference that elected Malema.
I have been around for a fair amount of time and can safely call myself a veteran of the youth league.
My main point is that I am not a newcomer to politics but must confess that the politics of today are new to me. I am sure you will agree with me that this is not a future our youth league generation envisaged.
Coming from a generation that has confronted injustice and repression, I am of the view that we should not keep quiet. Most of our peers are today what is termed the black middle class. We are professionals and highly opinionated.
We are responsible family people with children and possibly grandchildren too.
However, regrettably, our children cannot identify with an organisation we help build, the ANCYL.
We come from a youth league that reflected the aspirations of young people, not this youth league of Collen Maine.
You led us for a very long time. Today the former presidents of the youth league remaining in the ANC are yourself, Lulu Johnson and Fikile Mbalula. The challenges facing our country are not only confined to the youth.
The challenges facing the ANC are organisational as well.
Are we going to keep quiet as a generation? There is a perception that amid all this political crisis, Jimmy Manyi and Maine represent the voice of the former and current young lions.
Well, this veteran young lion does not agree. I know that with the revelations of the Gupta emails that implicate you, perception is that even our generation’s leadership is captured.
I have confidence in the young lions that led me, not the ones that are mentioned in the leaked Gupta emails.
I am ready to stand up and declare that this is not the future I envisaged nor struggled for. I am ready to rally my peers to stand up and fight for the right things.
I am ready to defend a future for my kids and generations to come.
I cannot comprehend a scenario where my peers do nothing when things get out of hand.
I am from that generation which is fearless. At university I was led by Arthur Moloto, David Makhura, JJ Tabane, Paledi Selolo, Sonti and Violet Mojapelo. I conquered the fear of death at an early age and cannot fear anything else when fighting for what’s right.
I refuse to see this country go down under my watch when I can do something.
As a good student of the movement that taught us to respect leadership, I want to ask you: Are you going to lead us to correct the wrongs in our movement? Are you going to be part of the efforts to save this movement?
We need a platform to express ourselves and take action. I have been in the Struggle for long enough to know once a generation decides on a cause of action, nothing can stop it. We need courageous, fearless and daring leaders of our time. Unless our generation and others take action, this country is doomed.
I am of that youth league generation which produced fearless comrades. The Malusi I know would stand for what is right. I don’t know this Malusi who is mentioned in the Gupta emails. Will the real “Gigs” please stand up, otherwise you will find yourself on the wrong side of history. I want my generation to “meet, reflect and resolve”. Do I have any “seconders”?
* Mpho Tsedu is a former ANC Youth League member.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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