THE BLOG
27/06/2018 11:13 BST | Updated 27/06/2018 11:13 BST

Not a Happy Youth Month For South Africa's Youth

South Africa's youth need a new champion for their dreams to be actualised

Rodger Bosch/ AFP/ Getty Images
Marc Davies/ HuffPost SA

Why am I not surprised that the ANC has decided to field yet another pensioner to a crucial post? All THE male members of the ANC's top six are over 55! Most presidents on our continent are also on average about 77 years of age — way over the retirement age!

In an era where the whole world is going in the opposite direction and promoting youthful leadership in our country and on the continent, SA seems to still be stuck in the old ages — all puns intended. As we celebrate Youth Month, it is sad that the new dawn has not yet reached our young people, if this situation is anything to go by.

The most recent cabinet reshuffle indicates that we are not about to change this situation. The appointment of Job Mokgoro to replace a 49-year-old Mahumapelo is really a blow to the ANC's commitment to youth leaders.

Getty Images
Supra Mahumapelo and Former President Jacob Zuma during the unveiling of a monument dedicated to Zuma at the Groot Marico site on October 05, 2017 in North West, South Africa. (Photo by Tiro Ramatlhatse/Sowetan/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

One understands that this may be a stop-gap measure until the elections — meant to also manage internal factions. However, a negative message has been communicated by this decision. This is particularly negative after the marginalisation of young ministers in the cabinet such as Fikile Mbalula.

But the ANC is not alone. In most political parties — the IFP, UDM, PAC, COPE, et. — the leaders are so old, and display no sign that they realise they can't produce any more new ideas. What is also sad is to see the youth leaders in these parties seeing nothing wrong with this situation, and instead justifying it as part of factional battles within these parties.

It's exhausting to refer to leaders who have overstayed their welcome and are stunting the emergence of youthful leaders. The DA and EFF stand as welcome examples of practically elevating the gallant leadership of young people. This is the only recipe for change. A youthful intervention in our body politic, in a population so heavily young, is in many ways our only hope for a truly new dawn.

The ANC itself knows this well — this is how it gave birth to the world icon Nelson Mandela all those decades ago. It is when his Youth League challenged the old guard that real gearing up and change of tune in the struggle for liberation happened. When things were falling into a lull in June 1976, it is the revolution led by young people that caused the whole world to take note of the evils of apartheid.

The league has lost its sting, and its lethargic approach to activism resulted in the birth of the EFF, which has taken whatever useful remnants and started a political party that is now a pain on the side of the ANC.

Steve Biko, who died in his early thirties, was a young man who bequeathed to this country a lifelong philosophy of black consciousness. The scant attention being paid to youth leadership seems to need a written reminder of the value that young people can add to our new struggle for economic liberation.

The ruling party has all but destroyed the vibrancy of the Youth League. Because even in the recent past under Mokaba, Gigaba and Mbalula the league was a kingmaker, those hungry for power among the elders of the ANC decided to misuse it by fielding a group of puppets as Youth League leaders.

It was the Brett Kebble era of criminality that birthed the first wave of a corruptible Youth League, followed by the Gupta state-capture version of the league finally killing whatever was left. Collen Maine inadvertently confessed this state of affairs, when he pointed a finger at Supra Mahumapelo for introducing him to the notorious Guptas.

The results are there for all to see. Suffice to note that since Mbalula dared make himself available to be the secretary-general of the ANC in what was known as "generational mix", he has been marginalised firmly.

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Fikile Mbalula. (Photo by Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images)

The current generation cannot even spell generational mix. The concept has virtually disappeared both as policy needed for this country's competitiveness and as a dying practice in the ANC. The league has lost its sting, and its lethargic approach to activism resulted in the birth of the EFF, which has taken whatever useful remnants were left and started a political party that is now a pain in the side of the ANC.

The early example of the failure of the current generation of youth leaguers was the fact that it took ten years after the ANC adopted the policy of free education for it to see serious fruition. This lethargy of attention to matters that are crucial for youth development — like education — happened under at least three cohorts of Youth League leadership.

The ANC throughout the past decade has seemed happy to cultivate a pliable and ineffective league — one which has been told to its face by both Zuma and Ramaphosa that they are good for nothing but to defend the leadership of the ANC.

Sowetan via Getty Images
Former President Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa during Zumas final speech at the partys 54th national elective conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on December 16, 2017. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)

This was said amid huge youth unemployment. The league was shamelessly called to defend the corruption that Zuma was presiding over, including the painful state capture — the full impact of which on the lives of young people is yet to be quantified.

Either way, it is not a happy youth month for South Africa's youth – a new champion for their dreams and aspiration needs to emerge and emerge fast.

The current generation of young people has to unshackle itself from the bandwagon of inertia and determine a radical path for itself. This will not be handed to it on a platter. In my interview with the spokesperson of the league recently, he admitted that various ministers have not even bothered to meet with the league to discuss the youth agenda.

They have not even had a decent meeting with Ramaphosa to discuss the recently launched YES programme, and Ramaphosa's intention to establish yet another youth advisory body!

These signs of marginalisation may have to do with the fact that the league bet on the losing horse in Nasrec, and may only really be fixed once it has gone to its elective congress to produce leaders who are seen as worthy by the "new dawn" brigade.

Either way, it is not a happy youth month for South Africa's youth — a new champion for their dreams and aspirations needs to emerge, and emerge fast.

Zimkhitha Mathunjwa/ HuffPost SA