It is that time of the year where South Africa celebrates Youth Day, honouring and commemorating youth of 1976 who protested on June 16 against Bantu education policies. Many were killed and injured when the police shot at them. Many more went into exile.
We usually take time to look at the changing narrative of youth in the country through various slogans and government and political events that, year after year, distort the essence of June 16.
But Covid-19 will change the way Youth Day is celebrated, and it is in that spirit that I want to jaw about Duduzane Zuma, 36. But first I will reflect on the astonishing level of complacency by the older generation in the ANC government and private sector in dealing with the challenges young people face. The response has been lip-service rather than practical measures to mitigate the issues.
Youths have always been at the centre of revolutions; they believed themselves to be emergent political elites and intellectuals. The ANC Youth League of Antony Muziwakhe Lembede, OR Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and others prove my point. They did not only theorise the introduction of new methods of the struggle but were at the forefront of implementation. Youth involvement threatens the power that favours the adult in a mostly male-dominated society, which perpetuates elitism, the exploitation of women and children and the making of economic bad decisions.
The last time we saw effective youth participation was the youth league led Julius Malema, now the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters. The youth-led revolution did not get this far to be ruled by old men and my hypothesis is that Duduzane is the only young person who enjoys a lot of public support and can take command of the ANC and end the rule of the old. Duduzane is the son of Kate Mantsho and the former president, Jacob Zuma. He is an intelligent and streetwise, a seasoned businessman who is surrounded by controversy and several untested allegations. He has presence, charisma and gravitas. Perhaps it is his bad boy demeanour that sent Twitter into a frenzy early this year when he attended the ANC’s 108th birthday celebration.
The sudden appearance and popularity of Duduzane is certainly not coincidental, and there is a short supply of capable young leaders in the ruling party who can ascend to the presidential office. The unexpected emergence of the EFF resulted in youth politics grabbing national attention. The red berets are the reason Parliament is popular and the debates and propositions they brought forth have captured a large amount of youth. The EFF demonstrates the possibility of reducing the qualification age for president from 60 to 30.
The language of the EFF paralyses the ruling party because it has no youth leader who enjoys the support of the structures and the capacity to challenge the EFF. Perhaps Sindiso Magaqa could have been the best man to normalise youth representation in the Cabinet and Parliament. But the general secretary of the youth league was gunned down in 2017 in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal.
Since the dawn of democracy, the lack of succession planning in the ANC has caused a crisis at every elective conference. It’s a myth that it is ANC tradition for the deputy president of the party to become the successor. Rule 5 (5.1.4) of the Constitution of the ANC states that all members can stand for election.
Duduzane should not be dismissed as a leader because his father is Jacob Zuma. Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was tarnished for being the former wife of Jacob Zuma and that a vote for her was a vote to continue the corrupt and patriarchal practices of Jacob Zuma.
It is necessary to mention the role of the media in these instances. Before you take the life of a person you must first kill their image. The way Duduzane has been portrayed in the media is very negative.
Section 8, 9, 10, 12, 17 and 35 of the Constitution of South Africa still apply to him. What was the point of shackling Duduzane when he handed himself over the police? The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture will have to determine what role he played.
Youth Day is a reminder that the youth of today have an important role to play in society. But until the youth hate taking the backseat more than they hate one another, nothing is going to change.
Sello Ivan Phahle is the managing director of SIP Media. He writes in his personal capacity