Youth League Doesn't Churn Out Elites
Mail and Guardian
For some time now a desperate invective has been directed at the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).
Its leadership has been accused of elitism, failure to mobilise the youth and being right wing, among other things. The latest in the comical series is the charge that the league has become a vehicle for churning out elites.
It is alleged that the ANCYL has become a reference point for fortune-seeking business people who regard these business relationships with the league as "giving them special access to the government" (Mail & Guardian, "Inside the ANC Youth League's business empire", March 5). It is further alleged that many "of the league's business ventures, however, have concentrated more strictly on the private sector". This would seem like an absolution, but the authors of such statements care not.
The real intentions of such campaigns against the ANCYL have nothing to do with the involvement of its members, leaders and supporters in business. The point is that the African National Congress as a whole must be portrayed as corrupt and dirty.
Members of the ANCYL are reminded, by people who have never been part of the organisation, how Anton Lembede, Oliver Tambo and other leaders of the youth league spent their time trying to make politics mass-based, whereas their successors — the current generation — have presided over an era of unprecedented turn-off from organised politics by young people. What claptrap.
This is misleading and dangerous. In the past, before 1994, the youth were confined to political activism because the defeat of racial tyranny was the most urgent task for all black people and because racial oppression had closed all other avenues of participation. Freedom created possibilities for the youth to broaden the frontiers of activism to include both political and social activism.
The league has on many occasions made the unequivocal statement that the greatest yearning for the youth of our country is for economic participation — jobs, skills and economic empowerment opportunities. Members of the ANC and ANCYL are not barred from this yearning. For them to be involved in business and benefit from black economic empowerment (BEE) is not criminal — they are simply seizing opportunities made available to everyone in our country.
The ANCYL has grown massively over the past three years. Its current and audited membership is larger than it has ever been in its 60-year history. So it makes sense that many of its members are benefiting from BEE and other programmes.
Also, to create the impression that having a company amounts to being a vehicle to manufacture elites is simplistic. To allege that business people who enter into relations with Lembede [an empowerment company owned by a trust that benefits the ANCYL] to gain access to the government is rubbished by the fact that most of Lembede's business activities have concentrated on the private sector.
What is worse is that the Kebbles of JCI are singled out, on the basis of their relations with Lembede, as having influenced the ANCYL on the matter of the so-called investigation of Deputy President Jacob Zuma by the National Directorate for Public Prosecutions. Again, this is a pure fabrication.
To probe this question further: do companies and business persons that get involved with union companies do so to gain a foothold into the government? Or why, without the influence of the Kebbles, has the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Commnunist Party made the same statements on the matter of the deputy president as the ANCYL? That beats me.
Malusi Gigaba is president of the ANCYL
With acknowledgements to Malusi Gigaba and the Mail & Guardian.