Aug 4, 2021

Nonceba Mhlauli’s Appointment To Lead ANC NYTT Is A Historic Moment

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It is a historic moment and ought to be celebrated, especially since it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Maxeke.

FILE PHOTO: ANC National Youth Task Team convener, Ms Nonceba Mhlauli during the media briefing at Luthuli House on Thursday afternoon. PICTURE: MyANC/Facebook

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This past week we saw the appointment of Nonceba Mhlauli, a young female, as convenor and coordinator to hold the ANCYL congress, writes Vusumzi Mba and Andisiwe Kumbaca

The appointment of Nonceba Mhlauli as convenor and coordinator to take the ANCYL to congress marks a significant step in the politics of the ANC and South Africa. It is a historic moment and ought to be celebrated, especially since it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Maxeke.

The past 10 years have seen an African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) characterised by nothing truly speaking to the relevant interests, promotion of unity and, more especially, the educational and moral upliftment of young people in South Africa.

Instead, what we have seen is young people championing the interests of their factions, young people using the ANCYL as a weapon to gain individualistic opportunities, and only a few young people with a certain general view were fortunate enough to participate. The leadership style was highly directive, leading to less autonomy, vibrancy, militarism and radicalism within the structure.

This past week we saw the appointment of Nonceba Mhlauli, a young female, as convenor and coordinator to hold the ANCYL congress. This marks a significant step in the politics of the ANC and South Africa. Furthermore, the overall ANC National Youth Task Team (NYTT) structure is representative.  

It is a historic moment and ought to be celebrated, especially since it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Maxeke, a black woman who contributed immensely to the foundation of a free and democratic South Africa. Black women have been entrusted to lead young people to a better ANCYL.

After the disbandment of the vibrant, militant and radical youth league led by Julius Malema and his collective, the ANC appointed a task team led by Magasela Mzobe in 2013.

The team had challenges that led to the ANC deciding to change the status of the elective National Congress into a Consultative Congress. Delegates were told hours after travelling from their respective provinces and entering Johannesburg about the changes in November 2014.

In 2015, the Congress sat and “elected” a leadership under difficult conditions created by the ANC, which preferred a weak candidate over the big guns that were contesting. The Congress elected Collen Maine as president.

He was not known within the rank and file of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) structures. It is often said that his election was a product of ANC factions trying to weaken the ANCYL. Indeed, the strategy worked, because, under the leadership of Maine, there was nothing worth mentioning about the ANCYL.

Young people across the country started revolting, calling for the disbandment of Maine’s ANCYL because he was regarded as part of the “eldership” (above 35 years old), meaning that he was above the youth bracket of South Africa. The collective failed to hold the National Congress because of factionalism in the structures.

The “disbandists” were victorious, their demands were heard, but to their surprise, the ANC, instead of appointing young people, appointed old people to take care of the affairs of the country’s young persons.

The eldership also failed to hold Congress for many reasons including the litigation of the ANCYL and the Covid-19 outbreak. Again, young people got tired and demanded that the youth league be given to young people.

The appointment of this new collective makes a great contribution in the intensification of the fight against patriarchy and its bitter fruit which is gender-based violence that the ANC and the people of the nation it leads are faced with at the moment.

Hopefully, in the next moment of history, the NYTT will not be made by appointment but made through voting because members must demonstrate that they really want a transformed ANCYL, both in form and function. Never before has a woman been given the topmost position in the league. Hopefully, this culture will be preserved in the elected structures in Congress.

The appointment of Nonceba Mhlauli as convenor, making her a pseudo-acting president or acting chairperson, is a historically significant action by the ANC. Acting Secretary Joy Maimela is also a woman. Yes, this is the outcome that came out of the highly controversial and politically charged period when there was a conflict situation between the ANCYL Crisis Committee and the then NYTT which was labelled “eldership” by its opponents.

We are part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we ought to position our struggles against this background and ensure our survival during the period of Covid-19. Furthermore, we should prepare ourselves and prepare for the future with this notion in mind. 

The work of the leaders is to rebuild, renew and unite imihlambi ehlukeneyo (different herds). Generally, women in social, political and economic contexts are good leaders and managers, especially in a crisis. So, it is time that the political and corporate spaces also reflect society’s realities.

The appointment of these women leaders is the realisation that women’s leadership is now needed to navigate through the crisis in which the ANCYL finds itself. The ANC is now tackling gender issues effectively and leading by example as a leader of society.

There is no better time to advance the women empowerment agenda than in the year of Mama Charlotte Maxeke. She was the first black woman to get a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree; the first woman to be allowed by the AbaThembu in their traditional court; she was the only woman at the South African Native National Congress (SANNC – later ANC) inaugural congress; she opened the door for women in the ANC by founding the Bantu Women’s League (BWL), the predecessor of the ANC Women’s League; and she was an active organiser in church and in politics.

The ANC Women’s League should take advantage of the rich legacy of the “Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa” to position women inside the organisation and in society. Its struggles should include the recognition of strong women who can lead the ANC in the current politically troubled waters.

The opportunity has now been presented to the Women’s League to attract and use young women, and this is also an opportunity for young women to position themselves in the ANC itself.

The appointment of a female-led NYTT is an opportunity that the current generation of the YL should take and use effectively in the ANC and in the general political spaces.

We remain hopeful that the journey towards building and repositioning the ANC Youth League will mark the beginning of the end of many elements, elements which have led to the doubting of the very existence of the ANCYL.

We need to go back to the drawing board and establish what the ANCYL meant pre-2011 and what it should mean in 2021 and going forward. What relevance should the league serve for the young people of South Africa?

Young people remain vulnerable in South Africa and are battling with unemployment and barriers to higher education. What does a women-led ANCYL NYTT mean for many young women who had a marginalised voice in the ANCYL and ANC itself?

Does that make one see a very flexible approach in the work conducted by the Youth League in consideration of the full representation of all young people in South Africa? Do current members of the ANCYL know their responsibility and what it means to be a member of the ANC and ANCYL, do they have “umrhabulo?

The current ANCYL NYTT has the responsibility to shape and realign the position of the ANCYL and lay a base, moving forward to the National Congress. This will determine what the ANCYL will be.

The purpose of the ANCYL should not be derailed or forgotten. The current young people in the process of rebuilding the ANCYL should ask themselves the following questions: What is our generational mission? Are we in a battle to achieve our generational mission?

Is our National Democratic Revolution still on track? What happened to our Freedom Charter document? What can we do as a collective to achieve the aspirations of the Freedom Charter and the National Democratic Revolution?

This is not to simply state rhetoric or allude to “kumbaya” tactics but to unite in struggle. The ANCYL should begin a process of reflection which should be the primary basis of our venture. 

We are part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we ought to position our struggles against this background and ensure our survival during the period of Covid-19. Furthermore, we should prepare ourselves and prepare for the future with this notion in mind. 

Dear young leaders, decisive action is long overdue. Your representation is meaningless without decisive action. 

Vusumzi ‘Vusie’ Mba is a researcher for the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders. Andisiwe Kumbaca is a public servant, community activist and former student activist from UCT. They write in their personal capacities.

  • This article first appeared in the Daily Maverick website

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