In defence of African leadership

Apartheid capitalism was consolidated around the exclusion of blacks in general, Africans in particular, and women from decisive economic participation.

The South African economy was developed with forced cheap labour, mainly Africans and the other oppressed communities classified as Indian and coloured.

Alongside the exploitation of blacks, particularly African labour, the inhuman apartheid system institutionalised an ideological credence among all races that portrayed Africans as incapable of fulfilling sophisticated responsibilities, such as engineering, economics, accounting and mathematics. This continues to be reflected in the drastically disproportionate balance of chartered accountants, engineers and mathematicians across races in South Africa today.

To resolve these realities, the ANC-led national liberation movement uses the national democratic revolution (NDR) to resolve not only the national question, but class and gender contradictions consolidated under apartheid.

The NDR seeks to create a society that is diametrically opposed to apartheid. Such a society should be nonracial, non-sexist and inclusively democratic through the political and economic emancipation of the black majority and Africans in particular.

Emancipation of the black majority and Africans in particular does not only mean service delivery to poor people, it also means that black people, and Africans in particular, should be their own liberators and lead in all sectors of South African society, including the economy.

The ANC Youth League’s emphasis on Africans in key positions in the economy should neither be seen as a form of racial exclusivity nor dismissed as a counter-revolutionary tendency. It is a recognition that South Africa’s stability can be sustained only through addressing racial and class inequalities.

Some within and outside the ANC believe that the actualisation of African leadership will dislodge certain individuals from key positions. Others have internalised the horrible prejudice that Africans cannot fulfil responsibilities that have anything to do with finances at a senior and executive level. Africans constitute less than 5% of chief financial officers of all major state-owned enterprises and the situation is worse in corporations and banks.

When given the responsibilities of chief financial officer and chief executive, Africans are often under close scrutiny with reduced executive responsibilities, as is the case in Nedcor and Eskom.

The economy continues to be run predominantly by white males, with the assistance of indebted black administrators paraded as owners of certain industries.


There should be recognition of past injustices and how they affected various communities, which should be reflected in all streams of government, the corporate sector and the entire society. This does not in any way amount to black domination of other races.

As a youth organisation the ANCYL has every right to engage robustly with the question of nation building. We are vividly aware that in pursuit of real emancipation of Africans in particular, and blacks in general, we should avoid widening the racial gap. We will, however, never retreat from the principle that Africans should lead the transformation of society and the economy.

Floyd Shivambu is the national spokesperson and head of political education, policy and research of the ANC Youth League

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