ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA TO THE 66TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANC YOUTH LEAGUE, COEPZENBURG STADIUM, STELLENBOSCH, WESTERN CAPE, October 30 2010
ANC Youth League President, Cde Julius Malema,
Members of the Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League,
Comrades and Friends
Young People of South Africa,
We have come to pay tribute to 66 years of the existence of the ANC Youth League, dedicated to a total transformation of this country from an apartheid state to a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and a united South Africa of which all of us are proud.
Each of these 66 years of the ANCYL has registered irreversible victories for the socio-political and economic emancipation of our people.
We continue to applaud the role of young people of this country, led by the youth league, in always advocating for radical change and progress of our society towards a better quality of life, particularly for the poor majority.
When the ANC Youth League was formed in 1944, youth leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Anton Lembede, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Jordan Ngubane and Robert Sobukwe declared that they were ‘laying their services at the disposal of the African National Congress, in the belief, knowledge and conviction that the cause of Africa must and will triumph'.
The League's first president, Anton Lembede, stated in March 1944:
‘The formation of the African National Congress Youth League is an answer and assurance to the critics of the national movement that the African Youth will not allow the struggles and sacrifices of their fathers to have been in vain. Our fathers fought so that we, better equipped when our time came, should start and continue from where they stopped.'
The ANC therefore took a wise decision to establish the ANC Youth League.
The movement saw the need for energy and militancy in order to add value to the organization and make it move forward.
The ANC Youth League has never disappointed the movement even during the most trying times during the struggle for liberation. The League was always there, providing ideas and initiating activities for the ANC in all phases of the struggle.
Among these was the Programme of Action during the 1950s which outlined the campaigns to be undertaken by the ANC which contained many important elements which changed the character of the ANC.
The ANC Youth League was known for consistency in its manner of doing things, which made the membership appoint them to key positions including the National Executive Committee. The enthusiasm and political clarity of the leadership of the League earned them great respect.
What stood out over the years was the hard work ethic, dedication and commitment of the League. The ANCYL brought the culture that has been admired over the years.
They were involved in all programmes. When the time came to gather views for the drafting of the Freedom Charter they were in the forefront. When the time came for underground work they were also not found wanting.
When the armed struggle was declared it was the youth that swelled the ranks of the uMkhonto Wesizwe and demonstrated bravery.
In 1976, they led the fight against inferior education during the Soweto uprisings. They defied the apartheid police and waged a campaign that became a turning point mobilizing the youth. When we needed to make the country ungovernable and apartheid unworkable, the youth was in the forefront of establishing people's power.
The ANC Youth League has always been the political school of the ANC. Political education was always prioritized at all material times. The ANC Youth League's historical task has always been to organize and swell its ranks with young people who must be schooled in the history and traditions of the ANC.
Given these strong political foundations, the youth thoroughly learned respect and have through the years maintained that culture of discipline, respect, humility and absolute loyalty to the organization and its structures.
It is this history, successes and the demonstration of heroism that makes us celebrate the role played by the ANC Youth League.
On this 66th anniversary we urge the youth not to lose that militancy, bravery and radicalism that characterized the youth league especially during the struggle for freedom. Today, in this era of freedom and democracy, the youth must be in the forefront of current struggles to change the quality of life of our people, including the attainment of economic liberation for the poor.
We have attained freedom and democracy but the struggle continues on another realm, one that requires the same commitment and impetus that was demonstrated by the youth of 1944 - the struggle of attaining a better life for all.
As we had announced in the National General Council, indeed last week Cabinet discussed and approved a new growth path framework, to help us tackle head-on the creation of jobs and reduction of poverty. The Youth League has to become involved in unpacking this Growth Path to ensure that it speaks to the challenges facing the youth.
The growth path is intended to address unemployment, inequality and poverty in a strategy that is principally reliant on creating a significant increase in the number of new jobs in the economy. We have set a new target of creating five million jobs in the next ten years, most of these for young people.
This target is projected to reduce unemployment from 25% to 15%. We are certain that working together with labour, business, community sector, women, youth and other social partners, we will achieve this critical target by addressing key structural challenges in our economy.
Other than economic transformation, another task for us is to continue protecting the rights of the poor and marginalized in our country. We have noted trends where certain people think they can lecture the ANC about human rights. Even people and organizations with no track record of fighting for human rights now appear to feel they know better and have to protect this country and its people from the ANC, the very organization that has fought since 1912 to bring about society where the rights of every South African would be protected and respected.
The ANC formulated a Bill of Rights long before even the United Nations. The 1923 and 1943 ANC Bill of Rights were ground-breaking documents.
The ANC Bill of Rights demonstrated the foresight of this organization that has always been driven by the quest for justice, human rights and a better life for all the people of South Africa.
Some of the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic are not being respected and some of the citizens, especially the poor, suffer because of inability to fight for their rights in the courts of law.
One of these rights is access to the media and the protection of the rights and dignity of ordinary citizens who cannot afford to employ lawyers when their human rights have been violated by the media. It is for this reason that the ANC in its wisdom, calls for the exploration of the need for a media tribunal.
The National General Council meeting in Durban, acting on the directive of the 52nd national conference in Polokwane, took us a step further in this regard.
The organization will continue processing the resolutions of both Polokwane and Durban in this regard. We have indicated that the process will be undertaken through parliament and that all affected stakeholders, including the media industry, will have a role to play.
We resent the lectures that we are given currently, that the ANC is hell-bent on violating freedom of the media.
Some people even compare the ANC government to the apartheid government which is offensive and extremely ridiculous. The ANC fought for media freedom and will always protect it and promote it. Any society without a free media is a dangerous society as it allows an opportunity for the violation of human rights and other social ills. We know this from the apartheid days, which is why we fought for media freedom.
At the same time, we need to define media freedom properly in our context. It should mean a media that is free from commercial or political interests, whose sole motive is the good of the country.
It is also freedom of the media for every citizen, not just media workers and practitioners, which is why issues of diversity of ownership and staffing are important, as well as access to the media for the poor and marginalized.
The stories of the poor hardly make news, except when defined through the eyes of those who are powerful. Once the majority in the country starts believing that the media has a sinister agenda or does not share the vision of building a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa and a better life for all, the media is in trouble.
We therefore need to have a continuous debate about the freedom of the media and what it means for a developing society like ours. Fortunately the media is also keen to have this continuous debate.
The ANC Youth League should also engage in this debate within its own structures and contribute to the building of a diverse media, with which all South Africans can identify, whether urban or rural, rich or poor, black or white.
We congratulate the ANC Youth League on this milestone of celebrating 66 years in 2010. The League has a critical responsibility of taking forward the wonderful work of the founding fathers and mothers. Let us not let these heroes and heroines down.
Let us build the ANC, swell its ranks, and ensure that it continues to lead this country to true emancipation. Over the coming months and towards our Centenary in 2012, all members of the ANC in branches and at deployments will work harder to ensure we reach our goal of a million registered members by 2012.
In particular, we will rely on our youth to lead both the Imvuselelo Campaign and our recruitment drive ahead of the hundred years milestone since our organisation was formed in Bloemfontein in 1912.
Your work has only just begun, to serve the mission and purpose for which the League was founded, which was to organize young people and contribute to strengthening the mother body.
We trust that the League will build its structures here in the Western Cape, and set a target that by this time next year, much progress would have been made to build the ANC on the ground in this province.
There must be no part of South Africa where the ANC does not lead our people towards a better life.
Let us build the ANC, the ANC Youth League, the Alliance and the entire mass democratic movement, for us to take the national democratic revolution forward.
The ANC Lives, the ANC Leads!
Issued by the African National Congress, October 31 2010
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