276 President Jacob Zuma during the Human Rights Day celebration held at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown near Soweto. 210312 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya
276 President Jacob Zuma during the Human Rights Day celebration held at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown near Soweto. 210312 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

Government failing the unemployed: ANCYL

By Deon De Lange Time of article published May 14, 2012

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The ANC Youth League has responded to the latest unemployment figures with a double-barrelled blast at the government for its apparent failure to demonstrate the “commitment” and “clear will” required to deal decisively with the jobless plight of young South Africans.

Stats SA’s latest Labour Force Survey, released on Tuesday, indicated that formal unemployment rose to more than 25 percent in the first quarter of 2012, up from 23,9 percent in December. And National Treasury figures put youth unemployment – 18 to 30 year-olds – at about 42 percent, compared to 17 percent for those older than 30.

Still recovering from the power vacuum left by the recent expulsion of its president, Julius Malema, the new youth league leadership, under deputy Ronald Lamola, issued a strongly worded statement on Sunday night accusing the ANC government of “managing the status quo” without seeking to “fundamentally alter the structure of the economy”.

Structural change would require the “nationalisation of strategic sectors and the commanding heights of the economy”, including “greater ownership and control” of, among others, petrochemical giant Sasol, which in 2009 had estimated assets of R153 billion, equity of about R88 billion – much of this owned abroad – and more than 30 000 employees worldwide.

The youth league also wants the state to “own and control” the “cement industry” as well as steel giant ArcelorMittal SA, which has a foreign stock ownership of about 53 percent, while the Public Investment Corporation and the Industrial Development Corporation together hold about 17 percent of the shares.

And there should be a "reliable state oil company" and a “State Bank”, which would have an undefined “relationship” with the Reserve Bank.

President Jacob Zuma’s administration should also do away with constitutionally protected property rights so that the state can “expropriate property, particularly land, without compensation for redistribution in the public interest and for public purpose”.

Finally, the government should enact “urgent policies” to help communities grow their own food and feed themselves and their immediate schools, hospitals and prisons, the league urged. Referring to the league’s “economic freedom march” from Johannesburg to the Union Buildings last year, the league said it was still waiting for a response from “those in power”.

“For us, this demonstrates a lack of commitment and clear will to deal decisively with redress and the plight of youth”, said the league.

The league has also rejected proposals for a youth wage subsidy – to subsidise employers who take on young workers – as designed to “incentivise capital greed”. It said this policy would create a “permanent reserve of youth casualties in a two-tier labour market” and would “undoubtedly lead to an entire generation delivered to mass exploitation...”

The league’s nationalisation calls have found support from Limpopo premier and Malema ally, Cassel Mathale, and KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize, who was re-elected to another term in Newcastle this weekend. But other ANC leaders, including cabinet ministers Pravin Gordhan, Malusi Gigaba, Susan Shabangu and Trevor Manuel, have all publicly warned that asset grabs could lead to capital flight and disinvestment in South Africa.

A task team appointed by the ANC to explore the issue stopped short of endorsing nationalisation, but has suggested the party discuss other options, such as a 50 percent tax on mining “super profits”. The youth league – and others in the ANC – appear determined to have the matter settled at the party’s policy conference planned for June.

The youth league has been calling for some of these policy changes for some time – notably under Malema’s leadership – but the tone of recent demands appears to have upped the ante just as the relationship between the ANC and its youth wing goes from bad to broken.

Last week, the leage fired treasurer Pule Madbe, who was seen to be jockeying to take over Malema’s job, and vowed to continue fighting, “using all available internal mechanisms”, for the re-instatement of Malema, suspended secretary general Sindiso Magaqa and spokesman Floyd Shivambu. Their seats on the league’s national executive committee will remain vacant in the run-up to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung, with Malema’s conspicuous absence rendering him symbolically powerful, at the very least.

And with the league openly demanding Zuma’s replacement at the party’s end-of-year gathering, the tussle for young – often jobless – constituents has intensified. This was demonstrated by Zuma’s warning this weekend at the party’s KwaZulu-Natal conference, where he told delegates that “there are many youth leagues... but this one belongs to us”.

“The fact stands: This is the ANC’s youth league and the ANC has the final word”, Zuma said.

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