Writing in 1948, exactly 28 years before the 1976 June 16 uprising, Isaac Bangani Tabata made a telling observation on the existence of the youth wing of the oldest liberation movement (the African National Congress), an observation that arguably found absolute manifestation on the eve of the ANC’s 102nd year of existence, through the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), ironically, by the former ANCYL’s national leadership and its constituency. Unbeknown to many and perhaps then dismissed as some form of sensationalism from Tabata, informed by his own cynicism; Tabata said in his letter to Nelson Mandela (the recently departed statesman of the Republic of South Africa), that “Politically, it [Youth League] does not belong to the Congress. It is one of those peculiar anomalies which arise in a political situation where there is lack of crystal clarity in political thinking. If the Youth League followed its political principles to their logical conclusion, it would land itself outside the fold of Congress.” This he justified further by saying: “In fact, the African National Congress is rooted, in the past, whereas the Youth League is the product of modem conditions with a modern outlook. That is the essential difference between them.” For Tabata, it was not a case of the two simply having different approaches, in fact it was precisely because of the political reality and interests the two organisations served objectively. After all, Tabata had argued that the formation of the ANC had only been progressive insofar as keeping up with the times only and given the make-up of the political situation at the time [breaking up with the tribalist outlook the resistance and struggle for liberation had taken so far] than actually with its objective to transform the political and material existence of the African people, something crystallized in the Youth League’s 1949 Programme of Action.
For years now, different leaders of the YL have objected to Tabata’s assertions, citing his lack of comprehensive understanding that the YL was and is the product of the ANC and serves as a “brain station” of the latter, not its political foe or equal. They base their argument on the fact that it was the ANC that took the resolution and indeed the step to form the YL, not the other way round. Of course forgetting that Tabata had earlier argued that what defines an organization’s the raison d’etre is not what “the members say or think about an organisation that matters. It is not even a question of the good intentions of the leaders. What is of paramount importance is the programme and principles of the organisations. It is not the subjective good-will of the leaders that matters, but the objective functions of the organisation, what effect it has on society.” And these basic facts premised his argument. For him of course, these facts proved that YL and ANC were not of the same kinship.
It is then with the above that one is compelled to argue the case that the expulsion of the ANCYL leadership elected in 2011 at its 24 National Conference and the subsequent disintegration of its structures, was as a result of the “Youth League following its political principles to their logical conclusion, therefore landing itself outside the fold of Congress.” Since its unbanning and release of some of its leaders from Robben Island, the ANC has sought of backtracked on its initial stance that:
- The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;
- The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
- All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people;
The above, coupled with the facts that “South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world for people between the ages of 15 to 24, an overwhelming 50% of that age group, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk report. This is in addition to about 4.5 million young people in the same age group, that are neither in any form of schooling and/or education and training.” Required the ANCYL in 2011 to resolve that:
o To reaffirm the ANC Youth League 1st National General Council resolution on nationalisation of mines, this should be appended to the consolidated resolutions as a Congress resolution.
o To adopt the economic transformation perspective as encapsulated in the discussion document “A clarion call to Economic Freedom Fighters: Programme of Action for Economic Freedom in our Lifetime”, as an official programme of the ANC Youth League until all the identified objectives are attained.
This is in contrast to the ANC’s 53rd National Conference Resolutions:
- Transform the structure of the economy through industrialisation, broad-based black economic empowerment, strengthening and expanding the role of the state and the role of state owned enterprises.
- Accelerating shared economic growth by overcoming obstacles to growth and intervening to promote equity.
- Macroeconomic policies that support growth, job creation and poverty eradication on a sustainable basis.
- The national infrastructure plan, which is an opportunity to change the structure of the economy.
- State intervention with a focus on beneficiation for industrialisation is urgently required. Instruments are required to support beneficiation and competitive pricing of these strategic resources include the use of targeted management of exports of minerals. In addition, SA’s share of some resources offers possible producer power which could be used to facilitate backward and forward mineral economic linkages.
- At the forefront of state intervention should be the strengthening of the state mining company which will capture a share of mineral resource rents and equity.
- The state must capture an equitable share of mineral resource rents through the tax system and deploy them in the interests of long-term economic growth, development and transformation.
- The New Growth Path is the economic strategy designed to shift the trajectory of economic development, including through identified drivers of job creation.
It can be argued by those within ANC that this is a skewed and very selective reading of the YL’s position; and also by those outside it, especially those in PAC and to a certain extent, AZAPO, that the economic transformation of the ANCYL (and now EFF) is neither socialist nor has a socialist intent, instead it is just a ploy for state capitalism that will perpetuate the same crimes perpetuated first by colonialism and apartheid and now by the ANC-led government through its protection of white monopoly capital and non-disturbance of the economic production make-up of the country. They argue that, nationalization as Frantz Fanon had noted over a half-century ago; “does not mean placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them, nationalization does not mean governing the state with regard to the new social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage.” That to the YL (now EFF), “nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period.” More recently, NUMSA lamented at EFF’s nationalization as not being “workerist”, meaning not nationalization under workers’ control.
However, to not digress fundamentally from the premise of the article, the argument is not necessarily on the socialist intent or inherent make-up of the EFF, but to qualify Tabata’s assertion that the YL not politically belonging to the ANC, thus the formation of the EFF. The claim is affirmed by the EFF’s cardinal pillars which state that:
v Expropriation of South Africa’s land without compensation for equal redistribution in use.
v Nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation.
v The benefits of nationalising strategic sectors of the economy will include, but not be limited to, the following realities:
a. An increased fiscus for, and therefore more resources for, education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure development, safety and security and sustainable livelihoods for our people.
b. More jobs for our people because state-owned and controlled mines will increase the local beneficiation and industrialisation of mineral resources. This will, in turn, reduce the high levels of poverty consequent of joblessness.
c. More equitable spatial development because state-owned and controlled mines will invest in areas where mining is happening.
d. Better salaries and working conditions in mines because state-owned mines will increase the mining wage and improve compliance with occupational health and safety standards.
e. Greater levels of economic and political sovereignty, as the state will be in control and ownership of strategic sectors of the economy, which produce mineral resources needed around the world.
Something the ANCYL had already advocated for towards it 24th National Congress:
- Nationalisation to increase the State’s fiscal capacity and better the working conditions,
- Nationalisation as a basis for industrialisation,
- Nationalisation as a means to safeguard sovereignty,
- Nationalisation as a basis to transform accumulation path in the South African economy, and
- Nationalisation to transform South Africa’s unequal spatial development patterns.
- State Mining Company to:
■Own and control South Africa’s mineral resources;
■Maximise the nation’s economic gain from the mineral resources;
■Contribute to South Africa’s social and economic development
It is with the aforementioned facts that one may conclude that the formation of the EFF is by far and large, the result of the ANCYL following its political principles to their logical conclusion, therefore landing itself outside the fold of Congress.