SIZOPHILA NTWENHLE MKHIZE: The ANC cannot be liquidated, and neither can the critical voice of the ANC youth
When delivering the January 8th Statement on behalf of our glorious organisation, the ANC, President Oliver Tambo had this to say, “The ANC is at once the life, the national awareness and the political experience of the popular masses of South Africa. As the people cannot be liquidated, neither can the ANC.” (8 January, 1984). These words are relevant in the current discourse, amid the threats faced by the ANC as a party in power.
There are forces both internally and externally which are hell-bent on liquidating the ANC and ultimately dislodging it from power, as entrusted by the popular masses since the democratic breakthrough of 1994. Some might argue that the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) as led by the ANC-Liberation Alliance is off the rails as a result of the triple crisis of mass poverty, deepening inequalities, and escalating rate of unemployment.
This can ring true in the eyes of many, given the high unemployment rate faced by working-class and poor youth; the continued retention and reproduction of inferior wages by workers; a collapsing healthcare system, and an inferior education system that renders our people cheap labourers of our stubborn and growth-less economy.
The above reality triggers the ANC, as a leading party in power, to rethink its economic policies, and decisively break away from disastrous and failed neoliberal policies that continue to produce poverty, inequality and unemployment, as prescribed by the West’s ratings agencies.
The ANC needs to walk the talk and champion policies that are consistent with the popular aspirations of our people, as encapsulated in the Freedom Charter. In order for the ANC to champion such policies or agenda, we need a leadership collective that has the political will and authority to drive ANC policies, as opposed to a collective that is managed or co-opted to drive policies that are anti-ANC, and only serve the interests of White Monopoly Capital. While we are observing the ongoing skirmishes and internal fights involving senior leaders, our liberator, the ANC, is bleeding and hurting.
This sends a painful picture about the organisation and gives credence to our enemies that the ANC is in disarray and there’s a leadership vacuum. Even more worrying is that we don’t have the courage and strength to draw leadership experiences from President Oliver Tambo and his generation to rescue or steer the ship towards a correct path and direction.
But the question is, how can we seek guidance from our seniors in the party today. Aren’t they the ones leading the queue to the perishing of our movement? I deliberately put forth this question because it has been quite obvious that they are the ones who are leading the factions that are destroying the ANC. They are the ones who have divorced the struggle of the poor and marginalised masses of our people. Why would they choose to destroy us like this? What happened to the ANC that invests in its youth, rather than destroy it? What really happened to the ANC that cares for the people; the ANC of the people? These are the things we must grapple with as a generation and respond without fail.
These days all we seem to care about is our self-infused egos and financial wellness. We have forgotten what the people put the ANC in power for. We are slowly becoming an organisation of rhetoric and empty promises. In the supposed Year of President OR Tambo we are killing each other unabated over the scramble for resources and positions. This year alone we have buried many comrades, most of them young and dedicated comrades whom we’ve invested in and regarded as the future of our movement.
The financial perks and resources we have today ranging from employment, tenders and deployment will be of no use if we inherit a rotten and powerless ANC. We need to rise above our differences which to the youth are artificial proxy wars of the old guard. We need to begin reinforcing loving one another as comrades, we need to reinvent the same militancy of Peter Mokaba and the courage of Chris Hani. As a matter of fact if we as young people don’t stand up to protect our movement, none will do so. As we all know, history leaves no blank pages and it will judge us harshly for failing in our mission.
We should not be prepared to be remembered as the generation which could not fulfil its generational mission. We must refuse to be a generation that shall be remembered as the generation that sold out young people.
As we move forward to reclaim and build the ANC, from below, youth in the ANC must resist any temptation to be bought or be in the pockets of senior leaders or factions. During the forthcoming ANC National Conference in December 2017, we must vigorously fight for at least 70% of the NEC collective to be youthful and sober-minded activists prepared to serve the ANC. Their unflinching loyalty and dedication to the ANC, and its overarching goals of building a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society, should never be sold at the altar of gaining riches and ill-gotten wealth.
The youth activists in the ANC must unite and stop being entangled in battles that are not going to advance the National Democratic Revolution. The old guard in the ANC suffers from fatigue and they are only heading towards retirement. Let’s refuse them the opportunity to collapse our movement, we can’t inherit a dead ANC. We need to stand up and do what is right now.
As the youth activists in the ANC-headed alliance we need to connect with the genuine struggles of our poor masses. Our claim to be leader of society should find expression in our campaigns and programmes of the ANC. The struggle for land expropriation without compensation must never be abandoned. The struggle of free education for all; the struggle of economic freedom in our lifetime, must never be abandoned. It is now more than ever that we need to rise up to the occasion and defend the hard gains of democracy; protect and preserve the ANC. Take the ANC back to the people.
Let’s draw wisdom and inspiration from President Nelson Mandela’s closing remarks during the ANC’s 48th National Conference, held in Mahikeng, 1997, when he offered the following words of caution and counselling to the delegates and broader membership,
“Here are the reins of movement – protect and guard its precious legacy; defend its unity and integrity as committed disciples of change; pursue its popular objectives like true revolutionaries who seek only to serve the nation.”
It’s our duty to give meaning to the words of our icon and liberation stalwart, we have a revolutionary duty to “protect and guard the ANC’s precious legacy”, and we should do so as “true revolutionaries who seek only to serve the nation”.
Any inability to adhere to this call will mean our political nemesis will celebrate the liquidation of the movement and massive gains scored by our people since the advent of democracy. In the words of President Oliver Tambo, the masses of our people organised under the banner of our glorious ANC cannot be liquidated. Neither can the critical voice of the ANC youth. DM
Sizophila Ntwenhle Mkhize is an NEC member of the ANC Youth League and ANC member from Musa Dladla Region (previously known as North Coast Region). She writes in her personal capacity.