Thursday, June 9, 2011

An open letter to the ANCYL

08 June 2011

Lazola Ndamase appeals to the organisation to vote out Julius Malema 


Lazola Ndamase
Dearest Comrades

I am made aware that some of you will be attending the 24th National Congress of the ANCYL on June 16. You will be doing this in your capacity as delegates of the ANCYL. Lucky you; I, together with Neziwe Bangani (Secretary of my Branch) were also supposed to attend the same conference, but our branch together with others from my sub-region were not taken to Calata for Auditing. The explanation given to us was that our Regional leadership had forgotten our branch files in the cupboard in the regional office.

Some comrades believe that this is deliberate, we do not; at least we hope not. Apart from the fact that there is nothing that our branch can do about the exclusion of its delegates from the National Congress, we also have no wish not to believe the explanation given to us by our Regional leadership. 

Our leaders are supposed to be beyond reproach, isn't it? 

I was requested to write this letter by our BGM which was called to discuss the fact that the views of our branch will not reach the National Congress of the ANCYL. I was therefore requested to give an account to other comrades about the views expressed in our BGM.
This is in order to lobby other comrades to agree with our point of view. If these views are objectionable to you, we will understand. It is your right to hold a different opinion.

Having engaged in such serious discussions on what our branch would want to see in the National Congress of the ANCYL, it is a pity we cannot attend the National Congress, particularly, because the National Congress is supposed to map out a clear plan on how to free young people from the yoke of poverty, unemployment and destitution. These are all things that affect the greater majority of young people in the villages that make up our branch. This is the reason why I have had to use means outside the Congress venue to lobby other delegates on the issues facing young people in my ward.

Just to enlighten you comrades, given the rural nature of the areas covered by my branch, the majority of young people have not passed their Matric. This is not because we do not like school, but because of the difficult conditions under which most study. I for example, studied at Tungwini (a mud school), and classrooms at school ended at grade five, whilst grade six, seven, eight and nine were attended at people's homes. Those that have passed their Matric have found it very difficult to access higher education because of lack of funds.

The fact that the Minister of Higher Education and Zuma say free education will be introduced gradually means for now they will remain where they are. It is with this in mind that our branch resolved to support the call by SASCO for the immediate implementation of free higher education and the imposition of an education tax on all South Africans that earn top-notch salaries and on those that rake millions out of the South African economy as profit, including those that have so much money they go around eating sushi on the bodies of naked women.

Electricity was installed in the villages in my ward last year, but the majority still prefer using candles and firewood because of the expensive nature of electricity, particularly given the fact that the majority just do not have any source of income. The usage of firewood, has already resulted in the burning of people's mud huts in some villages and we are crossing our fingers that the same must not occur in our village.

That is why our branch called for the reversal of the electricity tariffs Eskom imposed on house-hold users and calls for Eskom to decrease the salaries of its executives and to increase its tariffs on businesses rather.

The majority of the people in my ward are unemployed and live destitute lives. They sit at home, and as one SASCO document says: "they watch the sunrise and set". They live on the meagre pensions of their grandparents, and those who have kids augment their lives with this, rather than spend it on their kids. As a result, many of those I grew up with, smoke dagga and can no longer even play soccer, a sport I love the most.

Some have turned to criminal activity. But because this is a village, some steal cows, whilst others are robbing spaza shops, and pensioners and selling dagga. This cannot be allowed to go on. Just two years ago one of our childhood friends, was stabbed to death in my village for completing the roof of a house that was being built by another young person.

That is the extent to which competition for already scarce resources has turned young people against another and has turned our people into criminals who can do anything for money including murder.

Every year, in my branch, we have seen young men and women leave the village travelling distances as far as Grabbor, next to Cape Town (to work in snake filled apple farms), Stanger in KZN (sugar cane fields - risking snake bites), Johannesburg and its surroundings looking for work in the Mines, and we have seen them come back with little more than just money to go back again because of this barbaric capitalist economic system which advances accumulation at the expense of people's survival.

When these young people are either injured or grow old, their pensions amount to just enough to buy a handful of cows and some clothes. So indeed, we have seen mine-workers who have retired still struggling to send their children to school because when working they earned peanuts.

That is why our branch resolved to support the Nationalization of all South Africa's industries and not just mines.

As a consequence, our branch has also called for the abolishing of tenders within the South African state which have already resulted in the impoverishment of thousands of young people in my ward - past and present. These young people are often employed as casual labor during construction of roads by tendering companies.

They are often made to work their lives off whilst they receive peanuts in return. We hear that our President, and some NEC members of our organization are deeply involved in this type of exploitative business activity. So long as our leadership continues to clothe and live off these businesses, we do not see it possible that they would be able to lead a struggle that seeks to abolish this kind of business activity.

We would prefer that our President not just resign as a director in these companies, but renounce his shares in them and lead a most ferocious struggle to ensure that government brings an end to the system of tenders and instead builds internal capacity.

The increased reports of corruption and the awarding of tenders to a small connected elite which gets recycled raised the ire of some members in our branch who complained that Black Economic Empowerment and indeed Tenderpreneurship have resulted in the accumulation of an elite at the expense of the greater majority of South Africans, many of which include them.

Side by side, with the growing levels of poverty and destitution amongst people in our ward, we have seen, a small elite of connected individuals who do not know the hustle of job-hunting because their friends either won the Regional Congress of the ANC, its YL or the District Congress of the SACP or YCL and in other higher structures.

We have also seen the marginalization and indeed pauperization of those whose views did not win the day in these very same congresses. We have also received complaints from a number of people in our ward some of who refused to vote during the recent local government elections who complained that the problem with our movement is that we employ each other.

If you are not in the ANC or the MDM and you are just an ordinary citizen, you will not smell a job anywhere near you, goes the complaint.

Our leadership has written wonderful documents towards this National Congress and for that we would like to congratulate them. We have our misgivings about some of the issues contained in these documents but these do not take away the wonderful nature of the discussion documents. 

We are particularly delighted by the aspect that calls for expropriation without compensation, in the process of nationalizing mines.

But it is difficult to understand the fact that our leadership is happy to see the expropriation without compensation of mines from mining capital while it is not willing to ensure the expropriation without compensation of areas where it has business interests such as construction. Surely, our leadership, is playing double standards here. This is one of the issues our branch intended for its delegates to raise in the ANCYL national congress.

Our BGM noted that, for an organization to wage a relentless battle against poverty, unemployment and pauperization, our movement needs strong branches. Branches are essential. Our organization in order to succeed, it requires to exist in each and every locality. It requires attracting young people to its ranks in each and every locality. It requires to have fully-fledged branches in every corner of our society.

The presence of delegates when there are no branches presents a picture of an organization full of life when in essence this is nothing but an empty shell. Apart from electing leadership in the National Congress, bogus branches will contribute nothing to the achievement of the above-mentioned goals. The poor will suffer as a result.

An example of how these bogus branches have not been helpful to the NDR was the situation of the Western Cape, when one of our fraternal structures in its National Congress had hundreds of delegates from the Western Cape, purporting to represent hundreds of branches. Unfortunately, because the majority of these branches were bogus, and only existed to install certain people to leadership positions, these branches - and their members - were nowhere to be found when the movement needed them most during the election campaign.

At the end, our BGM paused and reflected at the strengths of the ANCYL leadership  in order to come to a conclusion whether or not there is a need for a change in leadership. Our BGM concluded that our leadership did very well in advancing nationalization. Our leadership is "radical", we are told.

Our BGM noted that the radicalism of the ANCYL leadership has only been seen on TV. We have not seen our leadership mobilizing young people and society towards any of the things they have announced they will do on TV.

Surely, our leadership does not seem serious about any of the things they claim to want to achieve. They just use them to score political points. We need a leadership that will not exist only on TV and in newspapers, but one that will mobilize on the ground. That will require that they should exchange their suits for tracksuits in order to march.

We are indeed happy with the fact that the ANCYL leadership has come out in support of decent work and has expressed its opposition to the youth wage subsidy. But our BGM wondered whether our national leadership in their own businesses. If this is not the case, surely our leadership supported decent work and opposed the youth subsidy simply for the purpose of scoring political points and ensuring that they appear progressive.

Of course, we do not agree with those that say everything about our leadership has been disastrous. That's super-factionalism.

Unfortunately, those who want us to believe that everything is rosy about our leadership are as equally factional. You were poor before the leadership was elected, you are poor now, and you might be poor after it is re-elected, but you support them anyway. That is class suicide.

In the past three years since the election of our national leadership, we have seen the suspension of comrades for nothing else but expressing a differing view. We have seen the disbandment of the hardest working branches. In the past year alone, our sub-region (Nyandeni) was disbanded by the regional leadership just because its branches did not support a candidate in the provincial congress which was preferred by the national leadership.

Many of the branches in our sub-region were also disbanded. These are branches and structures which were not accused of breaching discipline, or acting in manner that brings the name of the organization into disrepute. Rather than strengthen our branches in order to advance the struggle for economic freedom, our leadership has been weakening them in order to get delegates to the National Congress.

The so-called struggle for economic freedom desirable as it is, it can never be achieved with the presence of a national leadership that is willing to kill structures in order to maintain its presence in office.

Since the election of the current leadership, we have seen foreign tendencies taking centre stage. The National Democratic Revolution is essentially about resolution of the class, racial and gender contradictions. Our revolution is not about deepening but resolving racial contradictions. One of the most racists statements was made by the President of the ANCYL when he called SACP stalwart Jeremy Cronin a "white messiah".

If this kind of racism is allowed, what will follow next? Is it "Xhosa messiah" or "Zulu messiah"? 

This kind of behaviour has to be nipped in the bud. The attacks against leaders of the MDM has to come to an end, particularly the attacks against the leadership of the SACP.

Our branch does not say that SACP leaders must not be criticized, but there is a clear difference between insults and criticism.

Our President and our National Leadership must bear some responsibility for contributing to the creation of a picture in society that our MDM is a movement at war with itself. They were the first to fire the first salvo when they went on every platform attacking ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe as early as 2009. Surely, an innocent bystander asks themselves what type of a movement goes to war as soon as elections are done.

Zwelinzima Vavi, Blade Nzimande, Zola Skweyiya (the list is endless) all did not escape insults and innuendo from our leadership. We are not saying these comrades and others must not be criticized but the culture of insults and disruption of meetings owes more to our National leadership than to anybody else. This must also come to an end.

Our comrades in other branches going to their BGM's were forced not to express their opposition to the re-election of the current President for fear of their branches being butchered before even reaching the National Congress. This climate of fear is exactly what our movement fought against in defeating apartheid. It is the same climate that they fought against when they supported Zuma towards Polokwane.

Now, they are forced to fear the current national leadership. No more.

We were also warned by the BGM of our branch that we should not shirk this responsibility of raising these issues, hard as they are. We were also requested to point out to other delegates that: As they travel in accident prone busses to the Congress, there are those that would have flown business class to attend the same congress.

Whilst they will sleep in Congress accommodation, there will be those who will be staying in five star hotels and will be prancing around during the Congress in their designer labels and will be driving expensive cars.

These people, although they will sing the same songs as you, although they may eat from the same tables as you do, they are not like you. At the end of the Conference, you will go back to your poverty and they will remain with their opulence. As you go back to your shacks, they will go back to their posh houses. They may speak the same language as you, but both their immediate and long term interests are not the same as yours.

Just before you participate in the voting process, look back and think, will you not elect to power the same elites whose economic circumstances have nothing to do with your daily struggles. Is your vote not being used by some who claim to understand your situation but do not live it, in order for them to continue their lives riding on your vote? Will they not do this again after three years?

Our branch deliberated about the possibility of a contestation in the National Congress, our delegates were given one mandate, whatever they do, they must not re-elect the leadership of the organization. We were told to look for working class candidates. We were also told that if there is no working class candidate, we should ensure that we disrupt the current leadership (by electing new leaders) because it has already bled the movement enough.

We were told that, comrade Maile is not a working class candidate, and we should look for an alternative to the current leadership, but not comrade Maile.

We were told that if we cannot find someone else, we should vote for comrade Maile not because we believe he is a saint, but because we want to defeat the rot already under way.

One thing is for sure, my branch was dead against the current leadership. It was clearly going to vote for change, but it was not granted that opportunity, which just tells clearly what we are dealing with. Now we are forced to plead with you who have made it as delegates to consider our views.

If efforts to effect change in the ANCYL congress do not succeed, please do not throw chairs, do not disrupt the Congress as our President suggests there are some who want to do so, come back and work in your branches. Do not work to build branches for the next Congress, but build branches that will advance the struggles of the working class youth under the current circumstances of suspensions and disbandment.

Yours in struggle

Lazola Ndamase

NB: Lazola Ndamase is a member of the ANCYL Ntlangano branch (Nyandeni Sub-region), and was elected together with Neziwe Bangani to attend the ANCYL Conference but his branch was not taken to the Audit.

1 comment:

  1. My friend,

    A very well written piece. I enjoyed reading it.

    Corruption undermines the entire economic foundation of a country, and PARTICULARLY hurts the poor. What is tragic is that South Africa appears to me to be more corrupt over time since gaining independence.

    Political dissent is critical as you point out. In this situation I think the US (where I live) does a good job. Obama replaced Bush very peacefully, and when he leaves it will also be peaceful. Not that many countries can say that it is so peaceful.

    We suffer from radicalism though in my state, where each political party have made the voting districts such that once someone is the winner of the political party they will win the election (because the district is made up of that parties members, even if the shape of the district is very strange).

    In the next year we will have our first maps drawn by citizens, not politicans who will not pay attention to the political parties in drawing them. I'm very excited about these maps, even though they may hurt the party I support, as I think we will have more balanced and capable winners of elections as a result.

    I must disagree for your calls for following the Zimbabwe model on expropriation without compensation. This will be like a very larger version of BEE. I would urge you to consider who will then be in charge of the land once it is nationalized, and will this group treat everyone fairly.