/ 29 June 2008

What the youth want

Less alcohol, more economic opportunities as well as more condoms, free broadband and free sanitary towels. These are some of the key recommendations the ANC Youth League would like to see passed into national policy by government.

In addition, the youth have thrown their weight behind the revival of the idea of a basic income grant to support the poor. They want to be given a full section of contracts for the 2010 World Cup and will encourage their membership to learn to speak French, Spanish and Mandarin. And, perhaps the most laudable goal: to ensure a zero HIV infection rate by 2014. South Africa’s rate of infection is still stubbornly high and, sadly, a world-beater.

Mail & Guardian reporters have drawn up the following walk through the key recommendations contained in the league’s policy discussion documents.

Social transformation
To drink or not to drink.

This is a question that will be debated by the ANC Youth League in its commission set up to discuss social transformation. Alcohol abuse among its members needs urgent intervention: the league wants restricted trading hours and tougher regulations against advertising.

Alcohol abuse, it says, is linked to crime, violence and moral decay.

“It does not require rocket science to notice the extent to which the abuse of drugs, alcohol and substances negatively impacts on the struggle to politically and economically emancipate the black majority and Africans in particular in our construction of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and united South Africa.”

The league will ask for laws to govern the trade and usage of alcohol in communities. It wants serious consideration given to banning the sale of alcohol on certain days and beyond certain hours; and to the regulation of trading hours of taverns and nightclubs.

The league also wants stricter rules to apply to liquor outlets within or close to institutions of teaching and learning.

“The trade and consumption of liquor should not hamper the process to provide quality and sustainable education for all.”

Other issues that will come up in the social transformation commission:

  • Land should be distributed among those who live on it;
  • Food parcels should be distributed to families without income;
  • Free sanitary towels for females;
  • Income generated from sin taxes must be given to rehabilitation centres;
  • Contracts for the printing of all 2010 World Cup paraphernalia must be reserved for youth enterprises;
  • Youth are encouraged to learn foreign languages such as French, Spanish and Mandarin;
  • A national youth development agency must replace the currently dysfunctional youth commission and Umsobomvu Youth Fund;
  • Free abortions must be popularised;
  • One Round One Condom campaign must be kicked off;
  • Zero percent HIV infection rate by 2014; and
  • Basic income grant must be considered again.

Organisational renewal: the born-frees
The ANC Youth League has to decide how the organisation will ensure that young people who are born after 1990, the so-called born-frees, are integrated into the ideals of the league. The leadership reflects an older youth cohort while the younger group (18 and under) makes up the bulk of the young population.

Born-frees are defined by the league as “the group that will not have experienced apartheid and its effects on the African majority in our country”.

“The assumption made about this section of youth is that, by mere fact of having been born on the eve or after the advent of democracy, equates to being apolitical or less interested in the political life of society,” says the discussion document on organisational renewal.

“This youth is born out of a generation that not only suffered under apartheid but is still affected by its legacy.

“The fact that this youth lives and grows up under conditions created by the system of apartheid [means] it is equally conscious of its history and shares that same passion to end it.”

This generation is increasingly being reflected in the membership and leadership of the league, the document says, and therefore needs to be included in the decision-making of the structures.

“We must ensure that the emergence of this generation is guided by congress tradition and culture that seeks to harness its potential. Politically we must prepare them to undertake challenges of struggle and development as pursued by the movement.”

Some branches report they are feeling the effects of the youth league’s decision to support ANC president Jacob Zuma.

“In some places, branches and regional structures of the YL are not supported or recognised by some in the ANC based on what and who they supported particularly on the leadership question within the movement. This is a demon we must defeat to enable a proper growth of YL cadreship and ensure a free environment that encourages independent political thinking and choices by our members.”

Other issues that will be raised are:

  • Continuing incidents of racism among some sections of white youth compels the league to engage meaningfully with white and Indian youth;
  • Youth have become victims of patronage politics where their access to jobs is based on their support for President Thabo Mbeki; and
  • The building of female cadreship remains a priority to create a broad base of capable female leaders.

Battle of ideas
The ANC’s proposal for the formation of a media appeals tribunal (MAT) is expected to gain new momentum when delegates at the ANC Youth League conference debate it.

The youth league, more militant and radical than its parent body, will question whether the proposed tribunal will go far enough to curb what the organisation describes as “excesses by the media and [the] undermining [of] individual rights”.

The proposal for the MAT was adopted by the ANC Polokwane conference last December and has since faced a barrage of criticism, especially from the South African media establishment.

“Do we believe the establishment of a media tribunal as mooted by the ANC’s 52nd national congress can be an effective instrument to mitigate against such excesses?” asks the organisation in its policy discussion document titled Information and Communications Technology and the Battle for Ideas.

The league will also discuss the SABC, which has hogged headlines when it should only be reporting these.

“Congress should demand of the new SABC board to focus the resources of the public broadcaster towards building democracy and development as opposed to political adventurism,” says the document. It also accuses the public broadcaster of being “politically opportunistic”.

  • In addition, the commission will consider the establishment of a national youth radio talk station, new ways to communicate with members and a radical proposal for free broadband access for all South Africans, especially those in rural areas.
  • The youth league wants the development of interventions to ensure that the youth become engaged in public discourse as opinion leaders.
  • The league wants measures to be put in place to make the media more responsible and objective in order to support South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
  • It wants the regulation of the media and supports the formation of MAT.
  • It wants a transformation of newsrooms to help advance of the national democratic revolution.
  • It wants more ownership of the media by the youth.
  • It wants to empower the youth to be able to be more involved in the science and technology field.

Economic transformation committee
At more than 50%, youth joblessness is double the national rate of unemployment. The youth league has tabled a number of resolutions to deal with this most vexing of problems.

Black economic empowerment
Young people should be specific and differentiated beneficiaries of BEE in the setting of targets by the sector charters and the national law.

Youth also want a stake to be set aside in government procurement contracts. This should be given to youth-owned companies and organisations.

Second economy interventions
This is the most detailed set of proposals and they include financial support for small-, medium- and micro-sized enterprises; micro-finance support; business support; incentive schemes; technology transfer and skills transfer.

Monetary policy
Don’t tell Tito, but the youth league wants an overhaul of the Reserve Bank’s inflation-targeting policy.

It proposes that the inflation target be scrapped and suggests a broader approach such as that of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, whose targeting measures include employment creation and economic growth.

The other policy recommendation is the revision of the target to 9%, thus retaining a single-digit target.

Banking and access to capital
The government should start a bank — a “state financing house”.

The youth league has argued that the job opportunities created by Asgisa since its establishment have not had a meaningful impact on youth unemployment. The organisation has made a number of proposals, which include:

  • At least 100 youth enterprises and 100 000 young people should benefit from specific strategic agriculture and agro-processing initiatives formed by 2008/09;
  • At least five call centres should be created in each province with special focus on rural areas, and at least 200 000 youth should be employed by 2007;
  • At least 1 000 youth-owned enterprises and 50 000 youths should benefit directly and indirectly from strategic mineral beneficiation initiatives of the state; and
  • At least 20% of all small contractors in 2010 should be youth-owned and -managed enterprises.