Zapiro cartoon "despicable and racist" - Julius Malema

Address by ANCYL President on 64th anniversary of Youth League September 10 2008


Comrades, friends and compatriots

The hour of youth has struck once again. As we return to the cradle of this glorious youth movement, we must re-affirm its founding ideals and rededicate ourselves to the ideals that shaped our relentless struggles for liberation from the bondages of oppression. As we pursue the noble ideal of a free society that is truly non-racist, non-sexist and truly emancipated, we must be guided by the tasks we have set for ourselves to make sure that we deliver a better life for all our people.

It was 64 years to this day when that extraordinarily able group in their mid-twenties to early thirties gathered in this hall, which was then known as the Bantu Men's Social Club, and brought to life a youth movement that was to become a powerful force behind the ANC.

As we travel down memory lane retracing the steps of our youth movement in time, we must continue to build on the legacy of the great giants of our revolution. The ANC Youth League of Anton Lembede, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Peter Mokaba and many others that took the baton from these founding fathers remains relevant today as it was that historic moment 64 years ago.

We salute the founding fathers of the ANC Youth League which include Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Anton Lembede, Mxolisi Majombozi, Wilson Conco, Arthur Letele, Bigvai Masekela, Dan Tloome, Peter Mda, Jordan Ngubane, William Nkomo, Congress Mbata, Victor Mbobo and David Bopape.

We stand at a place where time seems to have stood still, and allowed us a moment to reconnect with that founding conference that took place in this very hall in 1944. As we return to the birthplace of the ANC Youth League, we pledge our commitment to its founding ideals that have served as a beacon in all the years of its existence. A vibrant, militant and disciplined youth movement remains the Youth League we commit ourselves to.

The founding of the ANC Youth League was a culmination of a process that led to the resolution of the 1942 National Conference of the ANC, which effectively established our militant youth movement. The formation of the ANC Youth League was truly a watershed in the history of South Africa and a defining moment in the evolution of our struggle.

The ANC Youth League provided successive youth generations with a purpose and mission, and each generation rose to the occasion in defining and realising its mission. As we took the baton from those that came before us, we are equal to the task to advance the historic legacy of this glorious youth movement and craft our own path by defining our own mission as the latter-day generation of the ANC Youth League.

The pamphlet that Anton Lembede authored in 1944 read, "The hour of youth has struck! As the forces of national liberation gather momentum, the call to youth to close ranks in order to consolidate the national unity front becomes more urgent and imperative".

Today, here and now, we reiterate that call to the young people of South Africa. Every corner of our country must hear the young lions roar; every citizen must feel the vibrations of their energy. The hour of youth has once again struck!

Close ranks and defend the gains of our revolution and become a driving force in consolidating national unity and the total liberation of our people from the scourge of poverty, disease and unemployment. Our democracy is under siege from the counter-revolutionary forces that seek to undermine the hegemony of the ANC and destroy its legacy.

These forces characterise themselves in the form of liberals and private capital who believe the ANC has lost its soul, and have arrogated themselves the task of salvaging our democracy from what they perceive as savages.  

The despicable and racist cartoon published by the Sunday Times suggesting we are savages whose sole aim is to rubbish and rape the justice system perfectly captures their levels of desperation and how low they are prepared to stoop to achieve their narrow political ends. We must express our collective disgust to such depiction of our leadership disguised as free speech and reject it with the contempt it deserves.

Our criticism of judges can never be equated to undermining the integrity of the judiciary. Our struggle was never about canonising individuals and treating them as gods who are beyond reproach and criticism. When judges err and conduct themselves in an unbecoming manner that undermines the very credibility of our democracy, we must decry such behaviour and remind these individuals that they are not above the Constitution.

If we fail to raise alarm at the conduct of judges that has the effect of eroding the very integrity of the judiciary they claim to protect, then we will be failing the nation. Our respect for the institution of the judiciary, the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution has never been in doubt. However, we need to be assured that those who are given the responsibility to become custodians of the institutions established to defend our democracy are up to the task.

The continued persecution of the ANC President, Cde Jacob Zuma and the relentless attack on the ANC and its leadership demonstrates the determination of these forces to break the back of the ANC and reverse the gains of the National Democratic Revolution.

We will fight these forces with everything we have, and we will jealously guard our hard-won freedoms.  We will descend on Maritzburg in numbers later this week in solidarity with our President as the Judge hands down judgement on the case before him.  

We remain confident that our march to the Union Buildings is unstoppable, as the case against the ANC President is nothing more than a political ploy to prevent him from becoming the country's President.

We similarly pay our respects to the leaders who steered the "young lions" of Oliver Tambo; the death defying youth; the militant youth in the ranks of Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK); the 1976 generation.

For us, the present generation, we take our orders from these gallant young revolutionaries. Like them, we are yet to earn our place in history as the young lions of the 21st century.

We are under no illusion of what is expected of us by South Africa's youth in 2008. In attaining our liberation in 1994, our primary role became that of consolidating the gains of our struggle and defending our freedom and democracy. More importantly, the ANC Youth League had to position itself as a political home of choice for South Africa's youth.

In advancing our task to groom a cadre that is responsive to the ideals of the NDR, we must ensure that our youth have access to education and are adequately capacitated to provide our national with intellectual capital.

It is on this premise that we continue to campaign for free and compulsory education for all. Similarly, we must double our efforts in building a generation that sets the agenda in public discourse through a culture of reading and writing.

As we make steady advances towards improving our track record in youth development, the process of establishing the National Youth Development Agency which will emerge out of the merger of Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Commission is gaining momentum.

We believe the implementation of the Integrated Youth Development Strategy will go a long way in accelerating youth development and ensuring that interventions in this regards are tangible and sustainable.

South Africa's youth must draw inspiration from our tireless struggles for a truly liberated society and must join our ranks to make contribution in building a South Africa we can all be truly proud of. Let us together build a patriotic cadre whose commitment to the NDR is beyond doubt.

As we prepare for the next general elections in 2009, young people must be at the forefront of our election campaign and mobilise their communities in defence of our revolution. We must all work hard to ensure that every young person of the voting age cast their vote in favour of the ANC in the next election.

We continue to advance our campaign for the creation of decent jobs for our youth. We encourage the youth to take advantage of opportunities presented by our democracy, and take advantage of programmes like learnerships and the National Youth Service Programme.

At the end of the year, the South African Police Service will be embarking on a major recruitment drive targeting the youth, and we must mobilise our youth in our localities to take advantage of this opportunity and contribute to the defence of our communities and the fight against crime.

Issued by the ANC Youth League September 10 2008

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