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It is said that leaders need to be measured on the premise of their vision, ability to create strong organisations, and their tenacity to nurture trust and understanding towards a shared understanding.

A writer, communications specialist and former Business Day editor Songezo Zibi makes a compelling contribution on the subject of leadership:

“… Leaders are supposed to represent what is good about any society and sometimes make  the difficult choices that set their communities on the right path, often at cost to themselves[…] we have deluded ourselves into believing that anyone who promises to help the poor is inherently fit to represent us.”

Zibi spoke like a clairvoyant, able to foresee that this moment will unfold right before our eyes.

Today bruised and battered, the ANC Youth League in its quest to reclaim populism and toxic masculinities has been imbued by the Guptas’ British PR consultants’ use of ‘radical economic transformation’ and ‘white monopoly capital’.

Their chords, like an old cassette, have come to be like confused treble clefs and crochets in a musical show. In its recent media statement the League hastened an uncompromising commitment as a requirement for radical economic transformation.  Perhaps misinformed, the League insisted on the following:

1. Build a State Bank to finance industrial and agrarian reform among others

The Youth League and its penchant for amnesia pay no attention to the fact that government remains the largest financial service provide in the country.

There exists the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Post Bank’s 1,400 branches, and the Land Bank. In addition to this, other business assistance institutions such as the National Empowerment Fund and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency were conceived to help fund black business start-ups.

As to why another State Bank is needed is mind-boggling.

If financial institutions decide not spearhead a person’s business plan, in the League’s opinion, a new bank must therefore emerge. This is a thumb-sucking conjecture masquerading as an amelioration for ‘…our people’. Indeed, if a bank decides to not fund a person’s business plan, the solution should be to craft a better business plan.

If the Youth League cared about transforming the lives of our people it would insist on the government to fast-track infrastructure development, which would in turn grow the economy. It would also call for the removal of regulations that stifle competition and entrepreneurship and keep the one-third of the labour force unemployed or too discouraged to seek work.

In their discussion document released in 2011, the Youth League conceded the following:

“The State capacity [sic] to manage enterprises is doubted due to sheer criminality, mismanagement and patronage, which characterised the most of these entities and very weak accountability systems.”

Why then, today, should we trust the ANCYL that it will be different this time?

2. Expropriation of land without compensation

There have been calls by many civil society groups for the unused land that remains in state ownership today to be given to previously disadvantaged individuals and families. But there seem to be no political will.

Perhaps if the Youth League was committed to radical economic transformation, it would prompt government to give the land it already owns to disenfranchised communities under the system of private ownership. This can also be achieved through the awarding of title deeds.

This would take many out of the crevasses of poverty. Heed no advice because the ‘clever blacks’ are unpatriotic South Africans. This is indicative of a leadership with no clear vision but empty rhetoric and racial demagoguery.

3. Free and quality education

In keeping with the rhetoric, in March 2017, the Youth League emphasised that all public universities should be controlled by the State (News24, 2017).

This means that universities will fail to adhere to the constitutional principle of academic freedom, as the State will intervene in the space. This is also evident in the Higher Education Bill that was adopted in 2016 which vested too much power on the Minister of Higher Education.

In addition to this, the League does not make clear in its statement how they believe free education should be funded. Let me also remind the League that the ANC voted against the R2,2 billion proposal made to Parliament to ensure poor students receive funding. How else do they believe this should be implemented remains a mystery.

Conclusion

While the Youth League continues to dupe the public by dishing out its quixotic economic promises, we should take them with a pinch of salt. The primary goal that should occupy South Africa’s agenda must be to build a stronger, inclusive and resilient economy for young people in particular.

We must imagine ourselves beyond the factional ties and parochial interests of those who want to help themselves.

Now that would be true radical economic transformation!

  • Klaus Muller

    On university education, not to many years ago University of Cape Town was rated in world ratings in the 20’s
    I believe same dropped from 140’s to 180’s in the space of a couple of years – University Cape Town being the highest rated RSA university, what a shame!

  • Alex J Nagel

    Very insightful piece Kamogelo. When one refers to a “youth” league one would expect that the hierarchy would be representative of youth, in order for them to speak with authority on youth matters, not in their mid 30’s

    • Steven van Staden

      Perhaps the word ‘youth’ in their name refers to their state of mental development rather than to age in years.

  • Harald Sitta

    The wrinkles and the beard of the YL are older and uglier than Karl Marx’s one…..

  • bengine

    Thank you Kamogelo, some very useful insights here. Wish there was more like this that we can get behind.