Political Input by Limpopo ANC Chairperson Cde Cassel Mathale during the ANC Youth League, Provincial Conference

Political Input by Limpopo ANC Chairperson Cde Cassel Mathale during the ANC Youth League, Provincial Conference

20-22 April 2012, Polokwane, Peter Mokaba Region

The provincial leadership of the ANC
The NEC members of the ANC Youth League
The Provincial Leadership of Youth League
REC`s
The leadership of the Progressive Youth Alliance
The leadership of the ANC Women`s League
Former leaders of the ANC Youth League
Veterans of the movement
Invited guests

Comrades!

Receive revolutionary greeting from the provincial leadership of the living and leading African National Congress. We are meeting in this important parliament of young people in the province to offer political support and guidance to the organisation whose contribution to the life of the movement has been incomparable since its formation.

This conference is very important, not because it belongs to the Youth League of the African National Congress, but because it belongs to one of the few trusted opinion makers in the country. The difference between the Youth League and other normal opinion makers is that the League does not just provide lip service to the public discourse, but also injects action into its words without any fear. Every member of the Youth League should be encouraged by the fact that they are marching in the footprints of great leaders who were prepared to face the bullets of the apartheid machine guns with their bare chests.

The generation of AP Mda, Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Congress Mbatha, Mxolisi Majombozi, Jordan Ngubane, David Bopape, Wilson Chonco, Johannes Matlou and many others was more than determined to face the brutality of the apartheid regime. When many leaders of the African National Congress were still prepared to continue negotiating for equal opportunities and the rights of the people to vote, the foresighted leaders of the Youth League realised that the white minority regime was not ready to change its attitude towards black people.

The Youth League, after realising that the white apartheid regime was hard at work building a permanent foundation to sustain the racial segregation system, strongly began to push for an alternative path of armed struggle. Some leaders of the movement were not ready for that type of confrontation, but the Youth League remained resolute.

The good thing was that although a sizable number of senior leaders of the movement were not yet convinced about the armed struggle, they allowed the Youth League to articulate its position. In actual fact, when President Nelson Mandela went to receive military training in Algeria, the armed struggle was not the official position of the ANC.

Therefore, the ANC was ready to listen and engage with the Youth League. The leadership of the movement understood very well that they were not principal custodians of knowledge. They were ready to allow themselves to be persuaded by the Youth League, as much as they correctly expected the Youth League to be open for persuasion and correction.

At some point there were serious hostilities between the leadership of the ANC and the leaders of the Youth League. The Youth League under the leadership of Lembede called for and promoted the idea of boycotting the Native Representative Council against the position of the ANC. Furthermore, Lembede called for the boycott of a royal visit by the British King and Queen a decision that angered the leadership of the African National Congress.

Therefore, the contradictions between the ANC and its Youth League are part of the legacy of the movement. What is important is the political management of such contradictions in a manner that will see the movement emerging even stronger. If we approach political contradictions in a way that promotes personalities, then disagreements and divisions will continue to grow further.

We have a political responsibility to ensure that we avoid any personalisation of political differences, because the moment we drift towards that direction then degeneration of political tolerance and engagement will take over. Politics of the movement must never be treated like our personal property.

In most instances, the degeneration of our politics is caused by things which are not political or have anything to do with our people. The ANC has a political responsibility to teach the Youth League correct politics of the movement. When we say the Youth League is a preparatory school of the movement we do not mean the Youth Leaguers are preparing themselves. But the ANC must be at the centre of that preparation and such a preparation must be made in such a manner that it discovers and builds future ANC leaders.

In the process of preparing members of the Youth League to take over when the moment comes, the ANC must be tolerant and understanding. The Youth League on the other hand, must be ready to learn and be prepared to be guided, without losing its historical character and meaning.

It should be appreciated that it will be difficult for us as the ANC to educate the Youth League through external mediums. On the other hand, it will be difficult for the Youth League to engage the ANC through the very same external mediums. This means both of us have a political responsibility to sit down and discuss politics of the movement.

We should also state that when we speak about the ANC teaching the Youth League politics of the movement, we do not refer only to a formal political session, but we also mean ANC leaders conducting themselves in a manner that educates Youth League leaders and members.

But if we as ANC leaders conduct ourselves in a way that confuses the Youth League then we would have failed in our responsibility. We must be consistent and tolerant in our approach to issues and lead by examples. As leaders of the ANC, we must not be obsessed with proving a particular point to the Youth League, but we must educate you and be shining examples to you.

As the ANC, we must be consistent in our actions so that you as members of the Youth League are not left confused and lost. When we speak about acts of ill-discipline, we must be consistent in the manner in which we identify and address such acts. What is accepted today as normal revolutionary political action that does not warrant disciplinary action, cannot suddenly become ill-discipline tomorrow and be punishable because it is convenient to do so.

Those who are considered to have performed acts of ill-discipline must be corrected and guided back into correct politics of the movement. In the event we go all out to punish a particular member for acts of ill-discipline, especially a political candidate who is still in the preparatory school, it will reflect a weakness in our political education systems. We are advancing this point because political disciplinary processes of the movement are meant to correct ill-discipline rather than to destroy the offender. This becomes more compelling when a member is still in the preparatory school of the movement.

The word preparatory school defines itself better. The other meaning of the word preparatory means introductory. This means members of the Youth League are still in the introductory stages in the movement.

However, this does not suggest that they cannot be subjected to the disciplinary processes of the movement. Therefore, the ill-discipline that is performed by a member who is no longer in the preparatory school must not be treated in the same manner with that of a member who is still going through the activities of the preparatory school.

Just like in the criminal justice system, a juvenile who is an offender, regardless of the seriousness of the criminal action committed, cannot be treated in the same manner as a senior person in the same situation. The manner in which they are treated during the interrogation, trial and judging is not the same.

Comrades

This should not be viewed as a promotion of ill-discipline amongst those who are still in the preparatory school. We have chosen to speak in length about discipline and ill-discipline, not because of what some of the leadership of the Youth League are going through. But we are doing this because we fully understand the importance of discipline in the movement.

Compatriots

As mentioned earlier, the African National Congress Youth League was central in transforming the ANC from being a moderate organisation into a mass based militant formation that was no longer requesting permission to vote from Britain, but demanding the right to equality, equal opportunities and freedom.

The ANC Youth League was instrumental in swaying the ANC into a new direction that was radical and confrontational. It is important to note that the ideas of the Youth League played a crucial role in defining the new path for the movement. The Youth League is a trusted revolutionary component of the movement and therefore, it must not be liquidated.

The Youth League did not just provide oral service to the struggle for freedom without action. In actual fact, it lobbied and mobilised other leaders of the movement to agree with the fact that the new path was no longer an option, but a must.

There always comes a time when normal and moderate talk does not produce any further change and transformation in a desired manner when effective change is needed, like we have witnessed before the Youth League stepped into the fight for the right to equality and freedom during apartheid. Therefore we also have to appreciate the energy that is being brought by the Youth League in the transformation of our country 18 years after attaining democracy.

We cannot speak or celebrate the centenary of our glorious movement without acknowledging the decisive role that was played by the Youth League in building this giant liberation force.

It must be emphasised that the Youth League under all generations has been led by brave leaders who were prepared to die or lose their professions for the sake of liberating the oppressed masses of our people. Some of them compromised even their families to ensure that your generation of young people lives in a free and democratic society where there is no exploitation of one by another.

The Youth League aided in rebuilding the movement which at some point was beginning to disintegrate and disappear from the frontline attack against the white brutal regime. This means that it is possible for the Youth League to advance its arguments about the direction of the movement. This also means that as the ANC we must be alive to the fact that the Youth League can be correct in certain situations, and this makes it necessary for us to listen to what is in your mind from time to time.

This approach will also assist in enabling us to correct you in the event we strongly think you are holding a totally wrong position.

The Youth League is the youth formation of the African National Congress and it is within your right to request a meeting with us. The ANC also has the right to summon the Youth League to a meeting to discuss certain issues. However the Youth League cannot summon the ANC to a meeting, but it can request a meeting with us. We will give you a hearing so that you do not become frustrated and start to be out of order.

The outgoing provincial leadership of Youth League can give testimony to this fact. We have always been available to listen to them even where we knew that we were not agreeing. They told us their position and we told them our position and further declared to them that our position is supreme and ought to be respected. They were successful in persuading us on certain issues and could not succeed in others and that is how a health relationship is maintained in the movement.

We will continue to have that kind of a relationship with the Youth League regardless of the election outcomes of this conference. It is now public knowledge that certain leaders of our Alliance partners have resorted to address us through the media, including hurling derogatory words and unfounded allegations against us, but we have never responded through the same channel and neither did we throw insults back and we have are always been prepared to meet with them.

Comrades

Members of the Youth League must be in the forefront in the implementation of the programme of action of the movement. The Youth League members must be community development activists who are motivated by the desire to make a difference in the lives of our people.

You must be the vanguard formation of young people in the country, especially the rural and township youth. You must also recruit young people from all class backgrounds focusing also on young people from other racial groups. The Youth League must be an organised formation for change, not only within the structures of the movement, but also within society as a whole.

Members of the Youth League must be true agents for transformation who are interested in the actualisation of the objectives of the national democratic revolution.

The membership of the Youth League must be able to understand our responsibilities towards our brothers and sisters in the African continent. This means as the Youth League you must dedicate time to learn about our international work, including understanding our relationship with some of our international friends in particular other liberation movements and countries that stood with us during the dark days of apartheid.

Our continent is still engulfed by many challenges which range from political to socio-economic difficulties. Many of our brothers and sisters, including children are in refugee camps on account of problems in their own countries.

We have our fellow African brothers and sisters in our country for various compelling reasons. Most of them are exploited and brutalised for reasons which are unknown or unconvincing. But we must never beat, burn or stone to death our fellow Africans for that will be against our moral standing, values and mostly international law.

In the event a person is suspected of any criminal action, he or she must be reported to the police regardless of whether he or she comes from another country. The fact that we are fighting against criminals must not drive us in to committing further crimes. The crime rate that we are having cannot be solely attributed to our fellow Africans who are in the country. A crime remains a crime regardless of who committed it.

Therefore, as members of the Youth League you must be able to provide direction in this regard. Yes, we have limited resources in the country, but we cannot move away from our moral responsibilities. We must find space to live in harmony with our fellow African brothers and sisters.

Comrades

You must participate in the political life of the movement. Youth League members above the age of eighteen years must be members of the ANC in good standing. You must assist in strengthening the branches of the movement and constructing a solid movement to advance forward the interests of our people, whilst on the other hand securing a bright future for the coming generations.

Young women who qualify for membership of the Women`s League must become full members of the League. They must aid in ensuring that the League is a formidable women`s movement that propels forward the needs and aspirations of all women.

Comrades

The Youth League must be composed of volunteers who are prepared to make a positive difference in the lives of our people without expecting any reward. President Thabo Mbeki when addressing the 21st National Conference of the Youth League said:

"We must teach every member about how to build the Youth League, and expose them to the culture of our movement of commitment, dedication to serve the people without expecting any reward, comradeship and working together as a collective, courage, truthfulness and a readiness to sacrifice, democracy and openness within the League accompanied by discipline and respect for the decisions of the organisation."

On the other hand, President Jacob Zuma when addressing the 23rd National Conference of the Youth League said:

"Young Lions, let me re-emphasise that the Youth League is the custodian of the future of the ANC. The Youth has provided the insight, direction and capacity to bring about radical changes in the scope and intensity of our revolution throughout the recent history of our movement. You are therefore playing your rightful role when you participate actively in the processes of the ANC, including influencing the leadership composition, as the League has been doing for decades. You also continue to guard the ANC, ensuring that we do not stray from the democratic traditions of the movement."

Therefore, comrades, the words of both President Mbeki and President Zuma, were relevant yesterday, they remain relevant today and they will remain relevant tomorrow going into the future. You must be motivated by these words which mean that you are not just passengers in the life of the movement.

On behalf of the Provincial Executive Committee of the African National Congress, we are wishing you a successful 9th Provincial Conference which must amongst others provide answers to many socio-economic challenges facing young people, especially unemployment.

Thank you!

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