The existential challenges facing the ANCYL

The second of a two part series by Isaac Mogotsi on the League post-Mangaung

There is no doubt that the post-Mangaung ANCYL gets embarrassed and irritated by the repeated narration of their less than stellar history between 2007-2012. Some amongst them do not want this history retold and retold ad nausium. They suspect such re-telling of their embarrassing recent history has, as its sole purpose, the disruption of their carefully-orchestrated and minutely-choreographed efforts to build a new post-Mangaung ANC/ANCYL entente cordiale and unity of purpose.

But, as Joseph Stiglitz correctly pointed out in his seminal article entitled "Capitalist Fools":

"Behind the debates over future policy is a debate over history - a debate over the causes of our current situation. The battle for the past will determine the battle for the present. So it's crucial to get the history straight." (Vanity Fair magazine, 01 January 2009).

Karl Popper put it more philosophically, but maybe also more tellingly, in the context of our debates on the state of the post-Polokwane ANCYL, when he wrote that:

"I assert that whenever a dispute has raged for any length of time...there was at the bottom of it never a problem about mere words, but always a genuine problem about things." ('The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Preface to the First Edition, 1934).

The debate over the ANCYL political behaviour and conduct post-Polokwane is "never a problem about mere words." It is debate "about a genuine problem about things" - namely the kind of vision our youth desire for themselves and for SA as a whole. It is a debate about whether this country can or cannot attain its true promise by or without resorting to radical economic and political prescriptions.

And finally, it is about whether the post-Polokwane ANCYL behaved in a principled manner when it advocated nationalisation and forceful land-grab, or whether, as its opponents and bitter enemies suspect, it was driven by a crass power lust and a infantile desire to repeat history, "the first time as a farce" (which objective it seems to have achieved in Mangaung), and "the second time as a tragedy" (which might have been obtained had it triumphed in Mangaung last December, had the ANCYL again become "the ANC kingmakers."? It is a debate about whether or not the ANCYL was blind-sided by the allure of media glamour attracted to those who play leading roles in now almost inevitable and predictable ANC factional and succession battles.

What is also "never a problem about mere words" is that the ANCYL has fallen from grace, like never before, a precipitous and lemmings-like fall best captured in Mogomotsi Magome's angry, unforgiving and contemptuous article entitled "From kingmakers to scramblers after crumbs", which appeared in The Star Africa Edition of 31 October 2012.

Nothing best captures the height from which the ANCYL has fallen from grace than the following quote of the current City Press Editor, Ferial Haffajee, regarding the expelled ANCYL leader, Julius Malema's future, made four years ago:

"I do believe he will become Limpopo premier in 2014 and then take a step at the presidency come 2019 - that's the date our political team puts on it, at any rate. I think it may be sooner. And he stands a bloody good chance of getting it if he doesn't self-destruct." (Article "The meaning of Malema", City Press).

Four years in politics is eternity!


Here are some of the existential challenges before the current ANCYL post-Mangaung:

- Will the ANCYL suffer the demeaning and wholly unacceptable process of "infantilization" at the hands of the hegemonic post-Mangaung ANC leadership cohort led by Jacob Zuma and Gwede Mantashe? In this scenario the ANCYL members will be treated like naughty kids at a boarding school - censored, curfewed, and tightly leashed. The ANCYL would then become a glorified version of 'Masupatsela' or Boys Scouts of the ANC, whose most important duty would be to dance and sing for, and give flowers to, visiting foreign VIPs at OR Tambo International Airport. Seen, but never heared from.

- The deliberate "juniorisation" of the ANCYL and, in stark contrast, the elevation of the Young Communist League (YCL) within the Tripartite Alliance and broader SA progressive youth politics. One of the major failures of the ANCYL was its inability to strategically deal with the SACP's decision to form the YCL, which heralded the start of the decline of ANCYL's unchallenged dominance and hegemony over SA progressive youth politics. The formation and growth of the YCL has been one of the decisive causes of the ANCYL's current and deepening existential crisis.

- Whilst the ANCYL was happy to condemn the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, for conflicted allegiances to the ANC and SACP (as its chairman), it was happy to wear two hats as an advocate for tiny black middle class, on the one hand, and the spokesperson of the working class youths and the black poor, on the other hand. It thus lacked a clearly defined power base in society. No wonder not a single window was broken, nor a single strike called in protest, nor a single bullet fired, when the ANC finally expelled Malema from its ranks. Life went on unperturbed, peacefully.

- The ANCYL may find that the impulse for revenge against it, and the desire to humiliate it, are too strong within the post-Mangaung ANC to be controlled. So whatever it may seek to do to turn a new page, or to redeem itself in the eyes of the current post-Mangaung ANC leadership, the ANCYL may fall far too short to quench the victors' desire for revenge. In her letter to the Sunday Independent SA's Forum of 11 September 2011, under the title 'Ruling party's war is worse than Polokwane', Ann Pillay wrote that "now Zuma and Mantashe want to impose unity and hegemony by weakening the ANCYL."

Time will tell if her allegation proves true. On the other hand, in a controversial and provocative piece in The Citizen of 27 May 2008, the conservative columnist, Andrew Kenny, asked as to "why do Africans reserve their most furious hatred for each other?" He further stated that "there seems no consistent explanation of the hatred in terms of class or wealth differences." Will the ANC, after forgiving some of the most vicious and brutal apartheid killers, be unforgivingly "furious" when taking action on the now pathetically fawning and groveling post-Mangaung ANCYL?

- Short of becoming a nauseating propaganda and insults-factory for the hegemonic post-Mangaung ANC faction, what, in light of the defeat of its nationalisation and forceful land-grab campaign, will become the new signature campaign for the post-Mangaung ANCYL? Will it still advocate the "one cadre, one partner" campaign, for example? Will rudeness and outrageous conduct still be its defining features?

- Will the ANCYL tone down its unsettling and, in its own words, "blood-curdling" rhetoric, whilst it ups its more thoughtful substance? Or will it live in the "twilight" of what Karl Marx described as "a mixture of high-sounding phrases in conjunction with actual uncertainty and embarrassment." (Ibid, page 30).

- Will the ANCYL be able to restraint itself from participating in future ANC succession battles, for fear of again betting on a losing and or reluctant-to-race horse? Or does the ANCYL require another, fourth ANC leadership succession coup (after successfully dethroning former ANC presidents Dr. Xuma, Dr. Moroka and Thabo Mbeki), to regain its balance, composure and self-confidence, in a way a Dracula cannot calm down unless it drinks one last jar of human blood before it sleeps? Is its appetite for big succession fight still as sharp as it was for much of last year? Or does it now realize the price for its participation in ANC succession battles too politically prohibitive for it?

- Will the ANCYL learn to confront its own power abusers in its name and within its own ranks, to first seek to overthrown its own future 'Frankensteins', before it can dream to do the same to the broader ANC, its mother body? Before it seeks to speak truth to the ANC leadership, will the post-Mangaung ANCYL ordinary members and leaders learn to first utter truths to their own wayward leaders, if only for consistency's sake?

This is the second in a two part series of articles.

Isaac Mpho Mogotsi is Executive Director, Centre of Economic Diplomacy in Africa (CEDIA). He can be followed on Twitter @rabokala1

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