ANC Youth League deputy secretary-general Thandi Moraka, president Collen Maine, secretary-general Njabulo Nzuza and spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize during a media briefing at St George’s Hotel. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Media
Durban - Since the inception of democracy in 1994, the ANC obtained more than 60% support in general elections. Only in the elections this year did the party’s support drop to 57.5%.

This caught many people by surprise. The reduction in support should prompt the ANC to do some critical, truthful assessments of its shortcomings with a view to finding solutions.

Various commentators on social media and the media have speculated as to why the ANC’s support decreased so much.

They’ve spoken of corruption, factionalism, an unappealing ANC Youth League (ANCYL), careerism, gatekeeping, political insecurity, a lack of political education, power struggles and nepotism.

I want to add to this, the modus operandi espoused by the present ANCYL. For the ANC to remain relevant, it requires a youth league that has not lost credibility. Let me explain.

The ANCYL OF 1944 couldn’t bear the politics within the party at the time and influenced the parent body to adopt a militant and radical position against the apartheid government.

The youth of 1976 mobilised against the then suppressive curriculum which had no regard for the dignity of black people. All this generation had was their commitment and resilience.

The generation of 1985 never betrayed Oliver Tambo’s call that it must make apartheid unworkable and the country ungovernable.

What happened in 1994 was the result of a political commitment and a political will demonstrated by the generations that had come before. These generations worked to ensure that the ANCYL championed the interests of young people and it mobilised them behind the vision of the ANC.

The question that must now be asked is whether the current ANCYL shares the same vision as the youth of 1944, 1976, and 1985.

It is important to point out that championing the interest of young people is not merely symbolic. It is about a commitment to fight against anything seeking to undermine the interest of young people.

The nation executive committee (NEC), which was elected by the 24th national congress of the ANCYL, influenced ANC policy.

Land repossession and radical economic transformation is widely accepted as a struggle that every progressive South African should fight for today because of the hullabaloo made by it in 2011. This committee also unashamedly raised its views against ANC ministers who took government decisions which the ANCYL viewed as unprogressive.

This NEC narrative, which was led by Julius Malema, is not about praising him or his collective, but to point out that his generation was able to identify its mission and championed it.

As a result young people felt this ANCYL spoke for them. The silence of the current ANCYL is what is behind the lack of confidence many young people have in the league and the ANC.

The silence of the ANCYL, in my opinion, is caused by the ANCYL being dependent on the ANC.

It would seem that these days, before the ANCYL takes a decision, it must first assess whether that decision would hurt the feelings of some ANC leaders because most ANCYL leaders survive through the material gains they benefit from ANC leaders.

There is also the issue of gatekeeping - many capable leaders who might take the ANCYL to greater heights are denied participation because they are viewed as a threat by those who are currently in leadership positions.

ANCYL leaders in some regions and provinces have turned it into a step ladder to access tenders and deployments.

Furthermore, to a large extent, the ANCYL doesn’t mobilise its membership in good faith. Some of the current ANCYL leadership have done exceptionally well; many of them drive expensive cars, drink expensive whiskeys and live in expensive houses.

As a result they seem to have forgotten the essence of leadership.

We need a renewal of the ANCYL, start in the rural areas where problems of unemployment, crime, poverty and inequality are most keenly felt.

The ANCYL needs to work to become the legitimate voice of young people.

* Advocate Sbonelo Nomvalo is a member of the ANC KZN Provincial Executive Committee.

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