ANC Youth League’s spring of Lembedism!

Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Central heating, warmer blankets, thicker clothes, and thermal underwear will become part of life again as we prepare for what will hopefully be our last winter here in Beijing. Beijing winters, like winter in any other part of China, can be fierce compared to the winters we experience in Ivory Park in Johannesburg; every winter evening being defined by smoke from burning coal.

Roundabout this time last year, the first cases of what would come to be known as Covid19 started to emerge in Wuhan. Yet like so many challenges faced by the People’s Republic of China, the people of China were able to manage the winter of Covid19. Once again, like so many springs experienced by this beautiful country in the past seventy-one years, the Chinese people were able to rejoice in their defeat of Covid19. We are here to experience and feel this victory.

The ANC Youth League has been in the media again for bad reasons. We recognize that there will be bad news about the ANC Youth League for the media in South Africa remains captured. So, we must be able to differentiate between bad news and being in the news for bad reasons.

When, in the earlier part of this decade, the Youth League championed the nationalisation of mines, the expropriation of land without compensation, the introduction of a state bank at the three spheres of government and economic freedom in our lifetime, this was bad news for the capitalist class and as such, as during the days of apartheid, there was bad news about the Youth League in the media.

However, today the ANC Youth League is in the news for bad reasons precisely because the issues being championed are not the issues and aspirations of the young people of South Africa but rather the aspirations of a few. This is so because there is hardly anyone, whether in the ANC or in the ANC Youth League, who believes that the Youth League must not be led by young people. The arguments proffered by the Crisis Committee are therefore superfluous.

Rather what is needed is for these group of activists to suggest to us, the rest of South Africa’s youth, what they believe are the issues that must be championed by and on behalf of young people. This group of activists, indeed who have taken the courageous decision to champion the cause of young people, must be able to articulate for young people their role in South African society. This is what Anton Lembede and his generation did.

For example, as a PhD candidate in artificial intelligence, can these group of activists explain to me what my role is in furthering artificial intelligence in South Africa and the African continent at large?

Like China, the Youth League has undergone many winters. It was in the winter of the ANC that the Youth League itself sprung into being like blue honey-bells in the Highveld. It was in the winter of the banning of the people’s organisations that the spring of the Youth and Student Section was established in exile. It was in the winter of Bantu education that the flowers of Soweto and throughout the country, though nourished in the blood and sweat of students, could blossom and demand free, decolonized quality education for our people.

Yet as we know the winters in the Youth League were not restricted to the pre-1994 dispensation. The ANC Youth League experienced many challenges during the era of political freedom including its questioning not only of the economic demands mentioned earlier but also of tackling racism in sport and in particular the use of the springbok in rugby. Today, twenty-years after that debate was squashed by the mother body, as young people, we must ask whether rugby and sport in general have transformed given our compromise to allow the springbok emblem to remain. This should be championed by the Crisis Committee.

The young people inside and outside the Crisis Committee must ask some serious questions that pertain to the very existence of the ANC Youth League today. The fact remains that the cadre within the ANC today is so weak precisely because the Youth League did not serve as a preparatory school for ANC membership but as a lobby group for ANC infighting.

Today the majority of young people in South Africa remain unemployed and will remain unemployed for the rest of their lives simply because the interests and aspirations of these young people were not championed by the youth league of the governing party in South Africa.

Surely learning from Lembede and his generation, these are the real crisis rather than creating a crisis that envisages only benefitting a few. When Lembede and his generation proposed the launching of the Youth League, one of the matters of urgency he raised was that the character of the ANC was far away from who it claimed to represent. Lembede approached the ANC with their manifesto and plan already defining the radicalization of their call, not being influenced nor having any proxy from the ANC in advancing their call to fight in its factions.

The Crisis Committee must propose something new. Their approach is simply not different from the “disbandist” group. It cannot make demands that centres around one committee replacing another. Then once the committee is replaced and the Crisis Committee is put in charge, what then? They must tell us, the young people of South Africa, their agenda now already.

Despite the winter of Covid19, China’s spring target of eliminating poverty remains on track. In a matter of four decades, the Communist Party of China has been able to lift 850 million people out of poverty. Never in history has this been achieved before; so many people in such a short space of time. Indigenised socialism works. It is time the ANC Youth League champions it but indigenised with Lembede’s character!

Sibusiso Reuben Bakana is completing his Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence at Beihang University, Beijing. He is also a member of ANCYL Ivory Park Central branch, Greater Johannesburg, and writes in his personal capacity.