Egypt: The ANC must pay heed

Thembinkosi Zondi says youth frustration could explode into a 'third revolution' here as well

Protests led by young people in the Middle East and North Africa must serve as a wake up call to the ANC-aligned Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and the ANC-led government!

As active members of the African National Congress and its Youth League whose responsibility includes championing the interests of young people particularly in the rural areas, we ought to be concerned but inspired as well by reports of protests in the Middle East and Arab led by the youth.

We reliably read with mixed feelings of sorrow, concern and inspiration the story of an intelligent Middle East Mohamed Bouazizi who burnt himself in front of government buildings.  The basis for his suicide is believed to be linked to the frustrations arising from unfavorable socio-economic conditions that confronted him and many of young people around the globe.

Youth frustration is partially informed by the failure of the "invisible hand" of free market economics, as Adam Smith argued, to address its crises of unemployment etc. The fact is that the material condition faced by this young man, whose untimely death has triggered "a third revolution", could find resonance with many South African youth.  Hence this brief article seeks to caution everyone purporting to be involved in youth development in South Africa.

The caution is more directed to our Progressive Youth Alliance (ANCYL, YCLSA, SASCO, COSAS etc) and our mother body (the ANC). We want to warn ourselves that the lack of sustainable youth programmes in South Africa could results in what Lenin called "a third revolution" wherein people revolt against a people's government because of frustration and a lack of access to basic stuff such as food.

For instance, the service delivery protests have already indicated the extent to which young can organize themselves. Unemployed youth are like a time-ticking bomb that could explode anytime. It's just a question of time and space. We must however note and congratulate the PYA for pushing for the reconfiguration of Umsobomvu and the Youth Commission into the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).

We however note with concern that there appears to be resistance (even from our own ANC ranks) in finalizing structures related to NYDA and the tendency to treat the youth agenda as a charity case or a "by the way issue". As we approach the local government elections, we hope that the ANC manifesto will clearly spell out implementable interventions that speak to the challenges that young people are facing.

The biggest of all these challenges is unemployment even for those who rose above challenges to receiving qualifications, while we are told that there are more than 200 000 vacant posts within the public sector. However the fact that we are unemployed has not made us passive citizens and the 2009 Independent Electoral Commissions statistics proves it.

For example, above 50% of registered voters are between the ages of 20 and 39 particularly women. It is partially for this reason that our PYA and the ANC must ensure that local government councils reflects the voting trends so that we are able to determine our own destiny.  Moreover, the majority of ANC branch leaders and volunteers (doing door to door under scorching sun) means that the ANC must really confirm all the youth that has been nominated as number ones in their wards.

However, confirming them does not automatically solve anything since history teaches us that the nature of our state has a tendency of transforming even the most radical comrades to being reformist or understand that "the struggle continues".

Confirming these youth as possible candidates will also ensure that we do away with useless and "career-crosstitutes" councilors who are threatened by the emerging youth leaders hence rely on struggle credentials and politics of patronage to either silence or destroy us. 

It is only the PYA and ANC in particular that can avoid "a third revolution" since the correct understanding that the ANC fought for political freedom can no longer be used as the main reason for supporting the ANC. For instance, recruiting a child of a freedom fighter or anybody for that matter that has attended a former Model C school is becoming difficult. The barometer by which they measure the PYA and the ANC is our response to their challenges and the quality of leadership that they can identity with.

Liberation politics are good for political classes and anniversaries. But they cannot continue to make sense to the current generation of youth if young people continue to be financially excluded at tertiary institutions; if those who happen to rise above challenges and graduate end up stealing cars etc; if young people continue to languish in jail because municipal cops arrest those selling vegetables for refusing to pay a bribe; and, if young people continue to be used as political condoms who are forgotten once the election mood subsides.

The youth must rise up and imitate Solomon Mahlangu by joining the PYA and the ANC so that we claim our space in order to be economic freedom fighters for economic freedom in our lifetime. After all, "a nation that does cater for its youth does not deserve the future" so observed O.R. Tambo. 

Thembinkosi "Geurrilla" Zondi, uMshwathi ward three ANC and ANCYL branch Secretary and a Masters student at the University of KwaZulu Natal writing in his own capacity

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