Young Communist League (YCL) national secretary Buti Manamela delivered a conciliatory message of support to the ANC Youth League’s national congress, calling the league “our revolutionary cousins”.
Manamela used his speech, delivered on the second day of the congress, to extend an olive branch to the league, saying ANCYL members were the “epitome of our National Democratic Revolution”. This was the first time the young communist leader had addressed a major youth league gathering since he was booed by delegates to the league’s national general council last year. Friday’s address received a lukewarm reception from delegates.
Relations between the league and their young communist counterpart have been strained recently by several differences, including among others the view that the YCL was supporting youth league president Julius Malema’s contender.
Widespread reports that the youth league might use this weekend’s congress to pronounce on their leadership preferences for 2012, dumping ANC president Jacob Zuma, also added to the stress.
The YCL is known to be supporting a second term for Zuma as president, as well as of Gwede Mantashe continuing as the secretary general of the ANC. The youth league seeks to replace Mantashe with its former leader, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, and are framing their campaign for Mbalula as a call for a generational mix in the top leadership.
Manamela said it was important that the youth league, together with the YCL, completed the “tasks” set by former veterans of the youth movements that helped fight apartheid. “Our inevitable unity, built in action, remains the fundamental ancestral obligation that we carry not of our own choosing, but imposed by those who built the foundations in which we stand,” he said.
Alluding to a statement by late ANC leader Oliver Tambo, that the ANC and the SACP could not exist without each other, Manamela said the views were true of the relationship between the ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League.
“The campaigns of the YCL will never find resonance without our alliance with the ANC Youth League, and similarly, most initiatives of the youth league will be won if fought together with the reliable ally it finds within young communists”.
Manamela sought to discourage public condemnation of each other by the two youth organisations. “Criticism amongst ourselves as allies will only serve to please our detractors if done with no intention of being constructive. We must never regard as praise accolades presented by those who have no interest in the unity of struggle within the movement, utterances assumed as undermining the integrity and place of each within the struggle”.
Veterans offer caution
The ANC Veterans League, a structure of elders within the ruling party who have accumulated 40 years of unbroken service for the ANC, warned the youth league against discussing leadership preferences for 2012. In his address, the veterans’ league president Sandi Sijake told delegates that the “counterrevolutionary tendency” to talk about the leadership of the ANC was wrong.
“That is the responsibility of the branches of the ANC. Branches of the ANC must be given the respect to choose the leaders. If we decide that we want ‘so and so’ as the president, it means we have polarised the branches”.
Sijake rebuked the youth league for opening the congress on Thursday with the country’s national anthem that is a combination of “Nkosi Sikel” instead of the traditional one sung by the ANC. “There is a national anthem of the ANC, which is different from the one of the government,” Sijake said. “Let’s treasure that and guard it jealously. If we think it’s not sufficient, let’s go to conference and talk about that”.
Senior ANC leaders deployed by the party to oversee the Young Lions’ congress told the media on Friday that they were satisfied that the congress was proceeding well.
In a press conference national executive committee (NEC) members Nomvula Mokonyane, who is also Gauteng’s premier, and Nyami Booi, a member of Parliament, said they were “impressed” at how smoothly things had been running.
“The ANC Youth League has raised the bar, even for the ANC,” said Mokonyane. “The fact that credentials have been presented and all provinces unanimously agreed on delegates says a lot about the outgoing ANCYL leadership. They must be commended for this,” said Mokonyane.
Earlier, a women’s league representative had told delegates that South Africa was not going to be the same after the youth league’s congress because of resolutions that were likely to be taken this weekend, particularly on economic freedom.
Mokonyane agreed. The ANCYL congress was not “a slideshow” and its resolutions would “influence” the ANC, she said.
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