The ANC National Executive Committee held its induction meeting on the 15th of March 2013 to introduce members elected at its 53rd National Conference to the ANC's organizational, political, ideological and constitutional tenets, values and principles. In the middle of this induction, possibly imbued with new knowledge and exuberance of the "watershed" 53rd National Conference, the ANC National Executive Committee unprecedently decided to disband the democratically elected ANC Youth League 24th National Congress National Executive Committee and ANC Limpopo 7th Provincial Congress Provincial Executive Committee. The reasons for the dissolution of ANC Limpopo PEC are not of interest for this perspective, but the reasons provided for the dissolution of the ANC Youth League is that it continued to show signs of ill-discipline.
No political activist worth his salt, including members of the ANC NEC will believe the reasoning that the ANC Youth League NEC was dissolved for ill-discipline, because just a few weeks ago (26th February), the ANC Officials (and the National Working Committee) had committed to work with the ANC Youth League as part of building the youth cadre in the Decade if the Cadre proclaimed by the 53rd National Conference. No sane political being in the ANC can attribute the dissolution of the ANC Youth League to ill-discipline, because the ANC has a Code of Conduct and Constitution which prescribe how the organization deals with ill-discipline. In dealing with ill-discipline, the following questions should be responded to: Who was ill-disciplined? What constituted the ill-discipline? Where and when did ill-discipline occur? Which clauses of the ANC Constitution were violated? The ANC Constitution forbids those in leadership from using disciplinary process to settle political scores, and there clearly was no regard to this factor.
As recent as January 2013, the ANC Secretary General reminded the leadership collective of the ANC Youth League that they could not politically remove its elected Treasurer General for ill-discipline (financial mismanagement and factionalism) through a political decision, because there are due processes on how such should be dealt with. The processes, the SG argued, include taking him to a disciplinary process and expel/suspend him if found to have violated the Constitution and Code of Conduct of the ANC Youth League. Due to this intervention of the ANC Officials, the Treasurer General of the ANC Youth League was reinstated despite the prima facie instances of financial mismanagement and factionalism hanging on his side.
What then are the reasons for the dissolution of the ANC Youth League? To understand this adequately, we have to look into the views of the founding President of the African National Congress Youth League Anton Lembede, who in 1947 said, "It is depressing, however, to observe that the dragon of hostility against the Youth League is rearing its ugly head. Political careerists and reactionary diehards within and outside Congress, view the Youth League with suspicion. The League is unjustifiably accused of being a parallel organisation to Congress, of planning a coup d’état or to seize power in Congress or to usurp the position of high Congress officials. That is incorrect. It is nothing but a figment of the brain of those pseudo-leaders who are only solicitous about their personal positions, pride and interest and not about the national struggle of the masses. The Youth League is not interested in personalities or positions but in the national struggle. The League is the product and child of Congress and has no alternative but to carry out the policy and programme of the Mother Body. This cowardly fear of the Youth League is therefore totally unfounded. According to the Youth league Manifesto, a true leader must be the embodiment or incarnation of the wishes and aspirations of the masses."- Anton Lembede (1947).
The 1st ANC Youth League President made these remarks in response to 'pseudo-leaders who are only solicitous about their personal positions, pride and interest and not about the national struggle of the masses”. It is clearly apparent that many years after he made these remarks, the ANC is confronted with the same challenge of pseudo-leaders, who want to surround themselves with yes-women and men, uncritical Youth League which should defend even the most awful of political, ideological, moral and ethical blunders that defines these leaders. These sentiments perfectly define the present conjecture due to the reality that for the first time in history, the ANC is under an ideologically directionless leadership, with questionable moral, ethical, ideological, and political stature.
Contrary to the public commitments of the ANC Officials and NWC, it is apparent that one amongst these top-six Officials mobilised members of the ANC NEC to reject the determination and view of the ANC to work with the ANC Youth League, but instead chose to cowardly dissolve the NEC because of uncertainty on what would be outcomes if the ANC Youth League 25th National Congress. The dissolution of the ANC Youth League, like the 2012 suspensions and expulsion of its leaders, represents the lowest levels of ideological and political cowardice. Faced with a formidable ideological challenge on the misdirection of the ANC (represented recently through its adoption of the National Development Plan); the only option left for those in control was banishment and criminalisation of different perspectives.
These types of suppression and repression are not new to those who are spearheading them, and they are not happening for the last time. Many of us are silently aware of the bastardisation of capable and ideologically steadfast young leaders of the ANC in exile. The assassination of Thami Zulu (real name Muziwakhe Ngwenya) in 1989, the wrong sniffing out of so called informers (including Cyril Ramaphosa who was declared a spy by the ANC intelligence), and suppression of democratic debates in the Movement are the real foundation of what we are witnessing today. Those who think they are in good books today should never mislead themselves because in the same spirit of sniffing out ideological and political differences, they too will be victims of the 52nd and 53rd National Conferences exuberance and triumphalism.
Now that the ANC YL NEC is dissolved, a group of puppets will be installed to sing praises to the ANC leadership and portray themselves as an alternative to what the youth of the ANC Youth League said are the High Command of Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime. This will mean that the radical and militant character of the ANC will wane and no new forms of struggle, ideological analysis, and innovative political solutions will be infused into the Mother body. But like all previous attempts to suppress the struggles of the youth, this too will never succeed. Reactionary forces that are now at the helm of the ANC will one day be defeated and annihilated through an internal process, because after devouring political opponents, they will devour themselves to total nothingness. History will absolve this generation of Economic Freedom Fighters, which, in less than 20 years, will take leadership of the Movement and South Africa to implement the aspirations of the Freedom Charter.
Floyd Shivambu is an MA-Political Studies Student at the University of the Witwatersrand, and member of the disbanded ANC Youth League 24TH Congress National Executive Committee.