By Jordan du Toit: The ANC Youth League held a debate at Rhodes University on 30 April to discuss the League’s controversial proposal on economic freedom.
The debate was opened by the statement that they were there to discuss economic freedom, which was the policy adopted at the ANCYL Congress last year. The League supports the notions of free education for all South African citizens, the nationalisation of mines and land expropriation.
Before the speakers came on stage, clips from the 2011 Congress were presented. Julius Malema was greeted with loud approval from League members as he declared, “Without land we are nothing.” In the video clip, Floyd Shibamvu goes on to say, “We must confront imperialism!” The fact that neither of these men are part of the League anymore was not mentioned.
Vashna Jagarnath was the first speaker for the night. As a history lecturer at Rhodes University, she was tasked with giving historical background to the discussion.
Of particular importance to Vagarnath was that fact that Cecil John Rhodes, the University’s namesake, was a key mining power and as Governor of the Cape, he was crucial in implementing the initial laws that would later become the infamous Land Act of 1913.
The creation of homelands and the implementation of more taxes forced black people into the cash economy. The Land Act cemented this economic dependence. As Vagarnath explained, “The Act was one of the big nails that really weakened black people in South Africa. It smashed African peasants.”
Vagarnath felt that free education today might well not be as successful as the League was proclaiming. “In 1990 we tried to replace the system with a much more progressive one, but the problem is not that [education] is not free today, rather there is no situation where it is implemented… There is no use in having change for the sake of having change.”
Richard Pithouse also spoke and offered his opinion as a politics lecturer with a history of vocal opposition to the ANCYL.
He complimented the ANCYL stating that historically they have played an important role in challenging the status quo of ANC, but went on to stress that young people encompass a much larger space than just the League.
Pithouse applauded the ANCYL for making these issues “politicised”.
“For the ANCYL to say that economic freedom will be difficult is just, and this is absolutely correct. If we say it is political we have to do something about it. Youth here face an uncertain future,” he said.
Pithouse did caution that the League’s demands may not be enough. He quoted a political manifesto from Europe in the 1930s that held a similar stance. It belonged to the Nazi party. He pointed out that, “On its own, the platform of [free education, land expropriation and the nationalisation of mines] is not certain of attaining economic freedom.”
He added, “No one should be barred from education because of not having money. However, what kind of education would they be getting?”
Pithouse concluded by saying “There will always be resentment from above. We need mass participation of the ordinary people in mass political public protest. We have an incredible number of protests [in this country]. But they are not becoming sustained movements to sustain power on the ground.”
Last to speak was Andile Hoyi, the ANCYL sub-regional Chairperson. He greeted the crowd with the words “Forward economic freedom, forward.”
“It is inconceivable to have a democracy without the return of land to its people. We have suffered more than national humiliation. We are here not by mistake, but by the system of imperialism,” Hoyi said.
He went on to defend the ANCYL position from the attacks it has received in the media. “Media say this is for individual gain. It is for liberating the people and assisting national government. [This movement] is non-racist and non-sexist and so we support them in trying to liberate people of South Africa.”
View on Oppidan site: http://oppidanpress.com/ancyl-our-youth-is-in-dire-need-of-economic-emancipation/