Where to for the ANC Youth League post-Mangaung?

The first in a two part series of articles by Isaac Mogotsi


Seventy years ago this year, the ANC took a fateful and momentous decision. At its Bloemfontein (today known as Mangaung) national conference, in December 1943, on the recommendation of its President, Dr Xuma, "the formation of a youth league was duly authorised." This was "despite a prophetic warning from the veteran trade unionist, AWG Champion, that a youth league would bring about his [Xuma's] downfall." (‘In our Lifetime - Walter & Albertina Sisulu', by Elinor Sisulu, 2003, page 100)

Few internal factors have impacted more on the ANC since then than this historic 1943 ANC decision. Even today the current ANC leadership collective is consumed by and grappling with the reverberations and repercussions of the decision to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

If in 1943 AWG Champion warned ANC President Xuma that the ANCYL would lead to his downfall, in February/April 2011 NUMSA, COSATU and SACP were warning that the leaders of the current ANCYL were planning to oust ANC President Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary general (ANC SG) Gwede Mantashe at the ANC elective conference in Mangaung in December 2012. (See my two-part Politicsweb article on ANC SG Gwede Mantashe here).

There is absolutely no doubt that the ANCYL is currently facing its most profound existential crisis in its seventy years of existence, following the expulsion of its former leader, Julius Malema, from the ANC, and, more crucially, in the wake of the decisions of the 2012 ANC Mangaung conference on the ANCYL. It is very important for the ANCYL to appreciate the enormity of this crisis. After all, it is true that the only thing worse than a crisis is to let a crisis go to waste, instead of turning it into a rare moment of great opportunity.

The reason the crisis of the ANCYL is deeply existential is because it speaks to the important issues about its very existence and essence. At the ANC Mangaung conference there were powerful voices that were calling for the wholesale disbandment of the ANCYL leadership. The reprieve it got hardly constitutes a room with oxygen enough for it to resume its old mode and patterns of revolutionary existence and behaviour. It needs to overcome the sense of its profound alienation from the mother body, to question its understanding of ANC theory and practice post-Mangaung, to interrogate the nature of its political consciousness and ideological self-perception as an autonomous league of the mother body (ANC).

The ANCYL needs to analyse the relationship between its subjective intuition and objective judgment it arrives at. It needs to learn new and different modes of youth leadership by fashioning a more promising interaction with its ANC elders.

It cannot be business as usual.

The ANCYL should review its values, its responsibilities, the basis of its political morality, at an individual and collective level, and its collective sense of duty before its mother body. How the post-Mangaung ANCYL, under the guidance of the ANC NEC, deals with all these challenges will inform and determine both its own actions and character for decades to come. It is not a minor or plastic surgery required. The surgical cut may have to go very deep and very close to some of its vital organs and assumptions.

Mangaung represents the political defeat of gargantuan proportions for the ANCYL. It is its first such historic defeat. How it resolves its existential challenges will determine whether the defeat its one and only, or the first in a series of such defeats.

In brief, the crisis of the ANCYL is the loss of its elevated position as the ANC "kingmakers." From this colossal loss flows every other morbid symptom gripping the ANCYL post-Mangaung.

In her biography of former ANC President Oliver Tambo, 'Beyond the Engeli Mountains', Lul i Callinicos described the ANCYL of the late 1940s-early 1950s as "young kingmakers" (page 188).

Yet by 15 April 2012, the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, was able to tell the ANCYL thus:

"If you are going out there as a kingmaker and saying the next president is so and so, actually you are sowing seeds for resistance - even if you come up with good idea...But if you go around and say 'stop thinking, the kingmakers have arrived', you are going to be surprised because you are bringing that which is not in the ANC tradition." Mantashe further warned the ANCYL that "king-making pride came before fall." (Mantashe: "ANCYL not Kingmaker", News24).

The post-Mangaung ANCYL is not only 'surprised' by the outcome of the ANC conference last December. It is in a state of shock and mourning for the loss of its special and much-vaunted status as "young kingmakers". (Callinicos, ibid).

In his autobiography, 'Long Walk to Freedom', Nelson Mandela wrote that:

"Our manifesto stated: '...The Congress Youth League must be the brains-trust and power-station of the spirit of African nationalism." (1994, page 87).

Can the current ANCYL still boast that it is 'the brains-trust' and 'power-station' of African nationalism, or its mother body the ANC?

In her book, '100 Years of Struggle - Mandela's ANC', the journalist, Heidi Holland, wrote that (first ANCYL President) "Lembede's imaginative views left AP [Peter Mda] in 'a state of high exhilaration." After suffering political defeat in Mangaung over its economic proposals for nationalisation and forceful land-grab, will the ANCYL still be in a position to advance views and proposals that leave the ANC and SA society in "a state of high exhilaration"? Or will it increasingly be defined by theoretical absurdities and practical political comics?

Can the post-Mangaung ANCYL relocate itself back to the golden space within the ANC and broader SA society, a space best defined by the USA anthropologist, Margaret Mead, when she said:

"The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown...The children, the young, must ask the questions we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on answers"?

Instead of being distracted by the schadenfreude of its political opponents and ideological enemies, both within and outside the ANC, the ANCYL would do no worse, in light of the loss of its "kingmaker" status, than to acquaint itself with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's book "Death and Dying", and visit her Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It would be utterly understandable if the ANCYL finds itself in denial, angry and depressed by the outcome of Mangaung. But time compels it to already now bargain and quickly accept its downwardly reduced status within ANC and SA politics. The loss of its "kingmakers" status is nothing less than a painful political death for it.

But for it to effectively bargain for a new consensus political status and to be seen to have accepted and come to terms with its new status as "non-kingmakers", the ANC needs to have a very sober and correct understanding of three important factors, namely, what led to its current existential crisis; how does it understand the current dire moment it is in; and lastly, how can it restore its prestige and integrity.

The 1949 ANCYL/ANC Programme of Action - Origin of the current ANCYL existential crisis.

USA President John F Kennedy once said that "the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."

There is no doubt that the current ANCYL generation has permitted itself to construct many myths - 'persistent, persuasive and unrealistic' around the astonishing successes of the ANCYL generation in the period between 1949-1955. This is the period between the adoption by the ANC of the ANCYL-inspired Programme of Action (1949) and the adoption of the Freedom Charter (1955).

This period is the ANCYL's Golden Age because of how leading members of theANCYL were able to correctly read the state of the ANC, national liberation politics and SA's repressive politics at the time; were able to adopt and recommend correct strategies and tactics, embodied in the1949 Programme of Action, including the need for mass mobilisation for opposing Apartheid; were able to turn the new ANCYL into a veritable preparatory school for future ANC and SA leaders for decades that followed; were the first to organise the ANC youth collective to mobilize within ANC structures for successful leadership changes on the basis of a clearly argued platform of definite ideas, (both in 1949 and 1952);and later were able to lead the charge to embark on armed struggle and to form and lead Umkhonto we Sizwe ((MK), the ANC's military wing)); and were able to themselves lead the ANC (and later also the Pan African Congress, PAC), SA national liberation struggle and ultimately to help defeat Apartheid white racism and bring about post-1994 SA freedom and democracy.

They are undoubtedly SA's Greatest Generation.

Luli Callinicos, in her biography of former ANC President OR Tambo, says the following about this first ANCYL generation of the 1949 Programme of Action:

"From then on it was to be the YL's leadership that would dominate the ANC. Its emphasis on prioritising action to 'raise the standard of national consciousness' through popular participation was to mark the decade of the 1950s. In the process, it would alter permanently the balance of black opposition." (Page 164).

In many respects, it is this ANCYL's Golden Age to which the current post-Polokwane ANCYL generation often uncritically panders to, viscerally hankers after, sometimes irrationally glorifies, and often mindlessly profanes, thus occasionally allowing for "a grotesque mediocrity to strut about in a hero's garb." (Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte).

However, the ANCYL Golden Age has inspired many subsequent ANC youth generations to sublime and great acts of valour, honour and self-sacrifice for freedom and democracy of their oppressed people.

But, as indicated above, it is also a Golden Age whose perverse misunderstanding, egregious misinterpretation and mock re-enactment, since 2008, helped knit the strangulating knots now tying down and suffocating the current ANCYL in its current existential crisis.

To help the current ANCYL unravel the historical knots which now act to imprison, and not liberate, its collective imagination, one needs to clarify how, according to existing historical literature, the ANCYL's Programme of Action, one of the much-celebrated signifiers of the ANCYL's Golden Age, came about in the 1940s, and how it was caricatured to transform the current ANCYL to now seem like a confused rabbit caught in the middle of the road at night, trapped by the bright lights of an oncoming truck.

After all, it is the Programme of Action that is supposed to have inspired the current ANCYL's now politically defeated campaign for nationalisation and forceful land grab. So there should be more than a passing academic curiosity and interest in the 1949 ANCYL Programme of Action, not just on the part of the ANCYL, but the broader SA public as well.

In his biography, 'Bram Fischer - Afrikaner Revolutionary', Stephen Clingman states that the CPSA (the forerunner of the SACP)'s general secretary Moses) "Kotane's credentials were impeccable, for he had, among other things, helped draft the 'Programme of Action' alongside Oliver Tambo." (Page 190).

In his autobiography, 'Long Walk to Freedom', Nelson Mandela wrote that "Moses Kotane, the general secretary of the party and a member of the executive of the ANC, often came to my house late at night and we would debate until morning." (1994, page 104).

In her biography, 'Beyond the Engeli Mountains', 2004, Luli Callinicos stated the following about the ANCYL Programme of Action:

"Although an ambitious programme (and one deprived of Lembede's lyrical style), it was one that managed to sell itself to Congress. While it borrowed liberally from other organisations, including the Communist Party and the Unity Movement, it was advanced in many ways" (page 164).

In his biography of former President Thabo Mbeki, 'Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC', William Mervin Gumede wrote the following about the meeting between the ANCYL delegation and ANC President Dr Xuma on the proposal for an ANC Programme of Action:

"They suggested a programme of action similar to Gandhi's non-violent protests in India..." (Page 17).

[In her biography of Walter and Albert Sisulu, Elinor Sisulu states that "the Youth League had long recognised the need for the adoption of a more positive line of action...This document, a proposal for a detailed programme of action, was drafted by the National Executive of the Youth League (consisting of Sisulu, Mandela, Mda, Tambo, Njongwe and David Bopape." (Ibid, page 116). In her biography, 'The Nelson Mandela Story', Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob also provides a contradicting [to Stephen Clingman's] explanation regarding the drafting of the Programme of Action. She wrote that "the National Executive Committee of the Youth League - Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu, AP Mda, James Njongwe and David Bopape - drafted what they called a Programme of Action..." (page 69). In his 'Young Mandela', David James Smith broadly agrees with Elinor Sisulu and Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob by writing that "a year later the Youth League drew up a Programme of Action" (page 72). In his autobiography Mandela also confirms that "the Youth League drafted a Program of Action..." (Ibid, page 99)].

So the ANCYL's Programme of Action was not just the product and result of some anti-communist thread in the minds of young ANCYL hotheads, but also the result of joint political collaboration and theoretic cross-pollination between the ANCYL and the CPSA and the Unity Movement. It was also influenced by the broader Congress zeitgeist of the time - namely, the growing collaboration between the various racial Congresses of oppressed and progressive South Africans at the time (ANC, Natal & Indian Congress(es), etc), as epitomised by the December 1947 Doctors (Dadoo-Xuma-Naicker)' Pact.

It is legitimate to therefore pose the crucial question as to whether the ANCYL alone and on its own then, just only five years old in 1949, could have been that successful in drawing up a Programme of Action, get the ANC to adopt it as its own, and at the same time proceed to use it as a platform to successfully effect national leadership succession ( succeed to overthrow both ANC President Dr Xuma and ANC secretary general Rev James Calata in 1949; and ANC President Dr. Moroka in 1952)? In effect, the question is also whether the new ANCYL could have achieved such massive political advances, in such a very short period, without relying on, and taking recourse in, long-existing and tested struggle structures and networks of SA's major SACP/trade union leaders at the time, who were also leading ANC members such as JB Marks, Moses Kotane, Dan Tloome, Alex la Guma, Edwin Mofutsanyana, Govan Mbeki and others? To focus only on the entertaining theatrics of the personality clashes between the young ANCYL leaders at the time, on the one hand, and ANC President Dr Xuma, on the other, over the Programme of Action, is to doom oneself to repeat history either as "a farce" or "a tragedy", as Karl Marx would say.

The mass political mobilization that ensued, subsequent to the ANC's adoption of the Programme of Action in 1949, would in all likelihood also not have been so effective, successful, mass-based and country-wide, if it had not relied on ANC, CPSA, trade union and other Congresses' structures and traditions ( eg Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses), which existed, were developed and tested long before 1949.

For the current ANCYL to overlook this fact is not only shallow ahistoricist revisionism, not just subjective voluntarism, but also to claim easy victories which belong to other past generations as your own, which thing must inevitably set one up for spectacular political failure. It is also dismal failure to parlay mechanically, un-dialectically and in a linear fashion, historical ANCYL achievements into today's and future ANCYL accomplishments.

Secondly, the quick rise to positions of great prominence and influence within the leading ANC structures by the new ANCYL leaders (like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela), or "generational mix" in today's political parlance, owed much to a unique set of circumstances. The most important one of these unique circumstances was that until 1951, the ANC had only no more than 20 000 members nationwide (See Nelson Mandela's 'Long Walk to Freedom, 1994, page 115). It was not a mass organisation in the year the Programme of Action was adopted. By no means. The ANCYL pushed for the adoption of the Programme of Action to precisely make the ANC both mass-based and militant. The ANCYL had consequently a small leadership talent pool to draw from, especially as regards a tiny stratum of educated blacks belonging to the ANC. Compare that small and 'elitist' ANC to the current mass-based ANC of close to a million and half members.

There are probably today more black African ANC members with matric certificate than the entire ANC membership in 1955, when possession of a matric certificate was such a rarity and a mark of distinction. After the Defiance Campaign of the early 1950s, the ANC membership grew to 100 000 (Nelson Mandela, ibid). So it was easy for young, ambitious and impatient ANCYL leaders to quickly rise up the ANC ranks at the time and assume positions of leadership prominence, than would be the case today.

But even then politically it was not always easy for the young, ambitious leaders within the leading ANC structure. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela narrates an episode when he and a few others clashed with the ANC elders, ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli and ANC Cape Province President Professor 'ZK' Matthews, a leading ANC NEC member and heavy-weight ANC intellectual, at an ANC NEC meeting, over the latter two's 1953 meeting with 'white liberals' and their refusal to share a report of their 'privileged' meeting with the rest of the ANC NEC. An angry Professor Matthews told Mandela:

"Mandela, what do you know about whites? I taught you whatever you know about whites and you are still ignorant." (Ibid, page 138).

[At the Mangaung conference last year, Gwede Mantashe, as if echoing Professor 'ZK' Matthews, said of the current ANCYL: "Some people say nothing has changed since 1994. You say this ANC [is worse]. You are 25 and 35, which ANC do you know?"].

For his part, Walter Sisulu is quoted in Luli Callinicos' biography, 'Oliver Tambo - Beyond the Engeli Mountains", as saying:

"We were regarded as upstarts. There would be older people who would not be interested in supporting us at all because we are claiming we want to take over and all that." (Page 163).

Mandela further wrote that when ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli felt offended enough by the scurrilous accusation and threatened to thenresign, "...I now greatly regretted it. I immediately withdrew my charge and apologised. I was a young man who attempted to make up for his ignorance with militancy." (Ibid).

It still remains to be seen if the current post-Polokwane ANCYL leadership will admit that some of their over-the-top actions and utterances prior to Mangaung were just attempts "to make up for...ignorance with militancy." (Nelson Mandela). Or, if you like, whether the mistakes were misdirected political agitation and ideological perturbation born of youth's unguarded haste to leave an enduring historical impression and lasting footprints.

Another myth being assiduously entertained by the current ANCYL generation revolves around how the campaign to mobilise masses for the Freedom Charter was a template of how the ANCYL's defeated campaign for nationalisation and forceful land-grab unfolded. In my Politicsweb article "On the question of nationalisation in South Africa - Part One", which appeared early last year, I cautioned that this particular ANCYL campaign would not succeed, unless it enjoyed broad consensus within the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance, unless it could divide SA's white big capital and the SA white community, and unless it could get a strong buy-in from some powerful sections in the West.

I indicated in the article that at the time the campaign was having the opposite effect, namely that it was engendering divisions within the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance, that it was uniting white big capital and the white community against the current ANCYL signature campaign, and that it was alarming the West. I further used the example of how the Patrice Lumumba revolution in Zaire in the early 1960s was crushed by the forces opposed to Africa's radical economic transformation, cautioning that if anything the current ANCYL generation faced a bleaker prospect because the world no more had two competing Superpowers which Lumumba managed to play off one against the other, that at least Lumumba's own Congolese party supported him, and that the then Swedish UN secretary general at the time was sympathetic to the causes of the Third World. None of these conditions obtained for the current ANCYL, I pointed out in the article.

At its adoption in 1955, the Freedom Charter and the Congress of the People united SA races, tribes, classes and strata like nothing before in SA history ever did. At their height, the ANCYL's campaign for nationalisation and land-grab, as well as its 2011 Economic Freedom March to JSE, and by foot from Johannesburg to Pretoria, divided the post-1994 SA's races, classes, strata, generations and inflamed public opinion, arguably like nothing else ever did since the end of apartheid. And at best the support of the ANCYL's mother body, the ANC itself, for the Economic Freedom March, was tepid and grudging.

The mass campaign for the Freedom Charter took place at the time the young ANCYL leaders were abandoning their narrow and chauvinistic ideological form of African nationalism, thus reaching out across SA's racial and nationalities' divide to form strategic alliances with the CPSA/SACP and the other Congresses. (It was this reaching-out that laid the basis for the PAC breaking away from the ANC in 1958).

On the other hand, the nationalisation and forceful land-grab campaign of the current ANCYL in the last few years unfolded under conditions of growing enmity, open antagonism and mutual recrimination between the ANCYL, on the one hand, and the SACP/COSATU on the other, starting at the special SACP special conference in Polokwane in December 2009.

What complicated matters further for the ANCYL was the post-apartheid emergence of a very tiny strata of a black middle class, who so far lack a clear definition and articulation of their common class stance or interests, beyond their insatiable avarice and venality, and their abominable tendency to ape the worst tendencies of their white masters in their political/voting attitudes and preferences. Often the clash of the ANCYL with other SA stakeholders seemed like a beauty contest for the perverted and grotesque gratification of this tiny, soulless black middle class, whose political importance is so inordinately over-rated.

As a result, in the use by the current ANCYL of idioms, symbols, war- cries, and outdated vocabulary of resistance drawn from the ANCYL's Golden Age (1949-1955), the ANCYL was always going to be alienated from this politically unreliable tiny black middle class, or "black diamonds."

Such an infantile and futile chase after the middle class by the post-Mangaung ANCYL, in turn, unchecked and self-sustaining, was bound to lead the ANCYL into its current post-Mangaung existential crisis, and into the loss of influence within the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance.

Nothing illuminates better the existential crisis of the ANCYL than the ease with which any political force in SA can today label the ANCYL as either "fascist" or "proto-fascist", or the facility with which SA commentators and opinion-makers can compare the (former) expelled ANCYL leader, Julius Malema, to either Hitler or Idi Amin or Emperor Bokassa or Benito Mussolini. (See Bredan Boyle's The Times SA column 'Politics, policy and Power', where he wrote an article entitled "Moral of the Juju puppet show", 07 February 2013, page 11).

For an ANCYL that was the leadership school for SA political icons like Anton Lembede, Peter Mda, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nthato Motlane,Thabo Mbeki, Peter Mokaba and others, this is an unpardonable public relations regression on the part of the current ANCYL leadership, even if the accusations are unproven or tenuous. But when the same accusations against the ANCY L come from within the ANC mother body, the Tripartite Alliance and the broad SA democratic movement, it is time for the ANCYL to sit up and take notice.

How can the ANCYL explain away the following, written about them by Professor Steven Robins of the University of Stellenbosch's Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology:

"Of course, not all citizens and political actors have been duped by Malema's revolutionary rhetoric and performances. For instance, the left appear to have dismissed this as smoke and mirrors. While Malema embarked upon his 'study visits' to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and issued calls to nationalise the mines and banks, some influential voices in the Left dismissed Malema's radical posturing.

"They called him a chauvinist, African nationalist, proto-fascist and tenderpreneur. For the leadership in the SACP and Cosatu, Malema and his youth league comrades pose as revolutionaries while being fronts for black economic empowerment interests." (The Star SA, article "Smoke and mirrors for Malema", 21 June 2010).

[It is also true that the words "fascist" and "proto-fascist" are often bandied about unthinkingly, like words such as "racist" and "tribalist", in SA's shrill political discourse, more as a form of swear and a political delegitimation device, than accurate description, without any 'objective judgment' value to either their epistemology or etymology or their existing and precise true meaning. The ANC itself, and its leaders, have in turn been accused of "fascism". (See Christi van der Westhuozen's article entitled "See no evil - the ANC flirts with fascism, Pretoria News, 01 February 2012). Or have been accused of being "proto-fascist". (See Sarah Britten's article "An advert that became political dynamite", which deals with the recent ANC-FNB public spat". See Sunday Times SA, 27 January 2013).

These terms have lately been also used by the new dominant political and economic ruling (and multiracial) elites of post-apartheid SA to smear any political force, falling and defining itself outside SA's post-1994 "elite pact and consensus", and which threatens SA's big white capital and its compromised alliance with self-serving, tiny and irredeemably corrupt BEE and bureaucratic/parasitic strata, which includes some of the more shameless ANC political power-brokers].

To the best of my knowledge, the ANCYL has never developed a coherent theoretical paper rebutting the charge that its leaders(s) or it is either "a fascist" or "a proto-fascist" political formation within the ANC, thus allowing for its nationalisation and forceful land-grab campaign to be thoroughly discredited by wrongful, calculated, and hurtful historical association. It is an amazing dereliction of ideological and intellectual duty on its part, as if these damaging terms it is being associated with will just walk away into sunset on their own.

This downgraded status of the ANCYL post-Mangaung bears little resemble to what ANC President Jacob Zuma once characterised as the Youth League that "did not shy away from issues of leadership succession; they played an integral role in influencing and shaping the decisions of the movement." (Moshoeshoe Monare, 'A case of "selective" amnesia'. The Star SA, 29 September 2010).

The Soviet poet, Robert Rozhdestvensky, once wrote that "in my view, the most important thing is to know where to stop." (From his "Everyday Miracles - Selected Poetry, 1956-1980', 1983).

 At a point, the post-Polokwane ANCYL failed "to know where to stop", until its train -smash in Mangaung last December.

On the other hand, the 1949 ANCYL generation had both the knack and panache for listening when advised "to know where to stop" was provided to it. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela writes the following about the ANC's Defiance Campaign of1952, for which he was elected Commander-in-Chief. (It was thus that the current ANCYL would unctuously give its former leader, Julius Malema, the title of Commander-in-Chief of Economic Freedom Fighters):

"As it was, we continued the campaign for too long. We should have listened to Dr. Xuma. The Planning Committee met with Dr. Xuma during the tail end of the campaign and he told us the campaign would soon lose momentum and it would be wise to call it off before it fizzled out altogether. To halt the campaign while it was still on the offensive would be a shrewd move that would capture the headlines. Dr. Xuma was right: the campaign soon slackened, but in our enthusiasm and even arrogance, we brushed aside his advice. My heart wanted to keep the campaign going but my head told me it should stop. I argued for closure but went along with the majority. By the end of the year, the campaign foundered."(Page 121).

With regard to nationalisation, Nelson Mandela wrote the following in his 'Conversation with Myself':

"There was already a furious reaction in South Africa to the statement I made from prison where I said nationalisation was still our policy; we had not changed...Of course there was a reaction from the business community; and that reaction set one thinking because one thing that is important is...[to] have the support of business...When I came out [of prison] we concentrated on explaining to business why we adopted the policy of nationalisation and, of course, American businessmen...put a lot of pressure...on us to...reconsider the question of nationalisation... From the point of view of encouraging investment in South Africa, one had to think seriously about the matter...The decisive moment... was when I attended the World EconomicForum in Davos, Switzwerland. Where I...met the major industrial leaders...who made it a express their views very candidly on the question of nationalisation, and I realised, as never before, that if we want investments we will have to review nationalization without removing it altogether from our policy...we had to remove the fear of business that...their assets will be nationalised." (2010, page 381)

Like all youth political formations, the ANCYL will have to learn to walk on two legs, one of defiance, the other of subservience. To imagine it can limp only on one leg of defiance is pure folly. But in the wake of its Mangaung political defeat, to even attempt to limp along on only one leg of grovelling and fawning subservience will be outrageous. Insisting to walk only on either of the two legs will again inevitable lead it to stumble, fall and crash. Knowing when to walk on both legs, or to temporarily limp on either for a short duration, will assist the ANCYL "to know where to stop."

Can the post-Mangaung ANCYL regain its past glory and prestige as the 'brains-trust and power-station' of the ANC? More crucially, can the ANCYL learn from its near-fatal errors and miscalculations during the period between the Polokwane ANC conference (2007) and the Mangaung ANC conference (2012)? Can the ANCYL achieve another Golden Age, this time around under conditions of freedom and democracy?

This is the first 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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