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In his opening address to the ANC fourth policy conference at the Gallagher Convention Centre, President Jacob Zuma made many observations that, although presented in a contradictory manner, confirmed the many assertions and observations of the ANC Youth League in the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime.
While the address was delivered on June 26, the 57th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, little mention and reference was made to this seminal strategic mission.
Not paying adequate attention to the Freedom Charter in an ANC gathering and on the day the Freedom Charter was adopted 57 years ago… represents political negligence, which seeks to undermine this important document.
In an attempt to define the nature of SA’s transition, the political opening address delivered on behalf of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC acknowledged that Codesa (the Convention for a Democratic SA) represented a strategic retreat and detour from the original perspectives and commitments of the liberation movement, particularly as it relates to the economy.
Summing up these observations, the opening political address of the NEC said: “Among underlying causes of the slow pace towards economic freedom, is the fact that ahead of the 1994 breakthrough, we had to make certain compromises in the national interest… we had to be cautious about restructuring the economy, to maintain economic stability and confidence… Thus, the economic power relations of the apartheid era have in the main remained intact. The ownership of the economy is still primarily in the hands of white males.”
The observations that the past 18 years have been defined by slow progress towards attainment of economic freedom, and that the economy is still in the hands of white males, are the central messages the ANC Youth League has been championing.
The youth league has been saying we need to fundamentally change the apartheid capitalist class relations, which favoured white minorities as the only owners of the means of production, while the black majority were turned into slaves and wage labourers.
We were labelled racist and inconsiderate of SA’s negotiated transition when we spoke about and exposed the fact that the economy was still in white males’ hands, but President Zuma shines when he verbatimly makes reference to what we have always said.
The other aspect that came vividly from the opening political address is an assertion that “we need to… take the difficult decisions that we could not take in 1994, with regards the economy”. This is the clarion call by the youth league on its programme of action for economic freedom in our lifetime.
The youth league discussion documents on nationalisation of mines and on economic freedom dedicate adequate attention to the political foundation of the need to intensify economic freedom.
That political foundation is the national democratic revolution, the aim of which is to attain all Freedom Charter objectives through concurrent resolution of the national, class and gender contradictions that defined SA’s colonialism.
We never tried to disjoint the struggle for economic freedom as a separate struggle because we appreciate that the struggle the ANC is pursuing is simultaneously intended at the attainment of political, social and economic freedom.
In discussing the question of state intervention in the minerals sector, President Zuma said: “We must go deeper than the ‘nationalise or not nationalise’ debate as the discussion document indicates.”
This is a deliberate affront to trivialise the ANC national general council (NGC) resolution that unequivocally said, “there was greater consensus in the commission on the nationalisation of mines and other strategic sectors of the economy. The NGC therefore mandated the NEC to ensure further work be done – including research, study tours and discussions – and to report to the policy conference for a decision at the national conference in 2012”.
This greater consensus is not insignificant and happened because, in the NGC, not only did 98% endorse nationalisation of mines and other strategic sectors of the economy, but all provinces of the ANC, the youth, women’s and veterans’ leagues and all formations of the mass democratic movement such as Cosatu, Sasco, Contralesa, and Sanco, and the SACP waffled in the plenary session of the NGC.
Any work the ANC NEC had to do should necessarily acknowledge and appreciate that the second-highest decision-making body of the ANC established greater consensus on the nationalisation of mines.
As part of what we call cardinal pillars for economic freedom in our lifetime, the youth league mentions the intensification of education and training as an important pillar. Under this pillar, we concretely propose that the state should initiate a funding scheme that will take South African students to the best universities across the world to attain skills, knowledge and expertise.
In the opening political address, President Zuma said: “The youth league has also proposed that we look at formal programmes of sending young people to other countries for training and exposure. This can be looked at in the context of relations with other countries.”
What he fails to acknowledge is that the youth league made formal policy submissions to the ANC on this matter even before the ANC NGC, and that, in our address to the youth league’s 65th anniversary rally in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape in October 2009, we made the first public call for the scholarship for SA students who must be sent to the best universities across the world.
Among the many policy submissions we have made is that about the integration and mainstreaming of youth development in South Africa, which we said should find expression through the establishment and support of the National Youth Development Agency.
On June 16 2009, we jointly addressed the rally of the government with President Zuma in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, to officially launch the NYDA and announce newly appointed board members of the NYDA.
In the opening address, President Zuma said the the NYDA, with state-owned enterprises and the banking sector, should complement job creation measures and implementation of a job seekers’ grant for young people.
These are concrete policy matters we brought forth as the youth league and these were not given attention by the ANC-led government. More than once, President Zuma made the commitment that the funding and support of the NYDA from the government will be enhanced and harnessed, but we all know that what has happened thus far is the deliberate strangling of the NYDA by the Presidency, which has recently disbanded the board of the NYDA before a new one is appointed.
In academic circles, mentioning other people’s ideas as if one is expressing his own views, and failure to correctly acknowledge the sources of the ideas one is expressing, amounts to plagiarism.
If this was in academic circles, we would say President Zuma has plagiarised, because he deliberately refused to acknowledge the sources of the many observations and ideas he expressed in the opening political address and he failed to acknowledge that virtually all progressive and developmental proposals made reference to come from the youth of the ANC, whom he is so impatient with and does not want to see thrive in the movement.
Failure to acknowledge the sources of these ideals leads to their distortion and misplacement into non-existent concepts of second transitions, which should never be elevated to any significance in the ANC.
Because we are in the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime, we appreciate it when centre-right ideological opponents propagate our ideas because it means what we are fighting for is a just cause. For this reason, our struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime continues and will never be deterred by people of low self-esteem and pretenders who only shine on ideas of others and cannot think on their own.
The opening political address lacked coherence and was ideologically inconsistent in positing various ideological trends.
The input was also conflicted in whether to acknowledge failure of the ANC government in the 18 years of democracy and whether there was adequate progress.
This ideological and political zig-zagging has defined the ANC since Polokwane, with many blunders committed on the ideological, economic, social and international fronts.
When those who are wise ask the relevant questions of “second transition to what? From where to where?”, they get insulted, threatened with discipline and labelled as causes of divisions.
The ANC should rescue itself from this mediocrity sooner than later.
n Malema is former ANC Youth League president