Manqoba Nxumalo
Manqoba Nxumalo

It’s not easy being an ANCYL member these days

Things are getting very interesting in South African politics. They are confusing too. The emergence of the Economic Freedom Fighters has made things worse. Now, imagine that you are a young person, an active member of the ANCYL and also a young worker participating in a Cosatu-aligned union. At every level of your activism you were taught about Marxism and the struggle for socialism. You are so well-taught you can recite Marxist terms and rhetoric without blinking an eye lid. Woken up at 2am and asked to recite the demands of the freedom charter, you can do so word by word. That is how well-schooled you are. You were also part of the young people who enthusiastically bought into the struggle to nationalise mines and redistribute land at the ANCYL conference. It’s a struggle you championed and sold to your branch and community. Economic freedom in our lifetime you chanted.

At work you were seen as a vibrant young worker and became a shop steward. You love Julius Malema. He articulates the things you agreed on at Gallagher Estate so eloquently and passionately. You even stood by him against a “white liberal media witch-hunt”. It was drummed into your heard at most political schools that the media is an auxiliary structure of your class enemies — the bloody capitalists. You know your politics very well and are not fooled by “the media’s role in defending capitalism and its excesses”. You are a real commissar. When they exposed some of your leaders as being involved in shady dealings in Limpopo you knew this was a capitalist backlash. You viewed it as a media offensive against your leadership and by extension the ANCYL for its radical politics.

Just after electing your ANCYL leadership and preparing for “radical change” your president and the secretary general were suspended. Internal bickering starts and your struggle is thrown into disarray. You look at how the ANC dealt with the material issues that led to your leader being expelled and you are convinced that it was more personal than a case of ill-discipline. You know very well that if it was ill-discipline Nelson Mandela himself would have been expelled from the ANC long before his hero status. This gets you angry. How could Jacob Zuma do this to the ANCYL, which got him to power and sold him to the masses to vote for?

You’re gatvol now. You remember it’s an ANC elective year and that maybe there is a chance to remove Zuma. You tell yourself that after the ANC conference Zuma will be gone and the struggle for economic freedom will be in full swing. You begin to use every platform to mobilise for an alternative. You sell Kgalema Motlanthe as Zuma’s ideal replacement. But you are immediately confronted by a problem, the man is indecisive. Every time you mobilise for him people keep asking: What if the man does not stand? What if they are in collusion with Zuma against your expelled leader? Why is he not being clear whether he will stand? Now your campaign has been scuppered. You are frustrated.

Meanwhile, Malema goes on a vengeful tirade against Zuma. He says things that embarrass you. Each time you mobilise for Motlanthe people look at what Malema is saying against a stalwart of the liberation struggle and cringe. They agree Zuma must go but suddenly drift away from Malema. They conclude he is disparaging and unruly.

You get to the ANC elective conference and lose. Your hero Malema is officially in the periphery. Your interim president “sells your struggle out” and apologises to Zuma. You feel defeated. Malema goes out of the political scene. You accept democratic centralism and support Zuma. Then out of the blue you learn the ANC NEC has dissolved your elected leaders and in turn the new national task team has dissolved your provincial/regional leadership.

You’re confused and angry now. Malema makes a dramatic comeback. He reveals he has a new party and you feel nostalgic again. But he starts attacking the ANC, the only party you have known and are prepared to die for. You’re still angry with Zuma but love the ANC. You’re equally bitter about how Malema was dealt a raw deal but won’t leave the ANC because your family, friends and even boss is ANC. In any event you know very well it’s cold outside the ruling party.

Malema starts talking the working-class issues you hold so dear in your heart. Suddenly your body is in the ANC but heart in the EFF. You have cognitive dissonance. You tell yourself you will secretly vote EFF while still in the ANC and then, the horror of horrors, Malema introduces Kenny Kunene as leader of the EFF. You are put off. You can’t help but agree with EFF, it was after all, the very things you were taught by various ANC, Cosatu and SACP leaders in various forums and political schools.

You do not know what to do: Defend the ANC against the vitriolic attacks or silently agree with the EFF? It’s not easy being an ANCYL member these days.

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    • Mihlali Mtoto

      Well put..

      Good to know that i am not alone..

    • Luvuyo Dlamini

      No one comments because we all know its true……a lot has happened and the things that have happened and those that are currently happening are all playing themselves infront of us.. it is really tough….

    • http://none Richard Becker

      When I was a kid I could recite Humpty Dumpty without blinking an eyelid, but I outgrew that and worked out that it was a fairy story. Surely by now ‘the youth’ have worked out the same thing about Marxism.

    • Momma Cyndi


      is the indoctrination really that intense?

    • Sterling Ferguson

      What has been missing in the ANC, COSATU and the ANCYL is their thinking is obsolete and doesn’t work for the 21st century. SA needs capital and investment for the economy of SA to grow and this talking driving people away. EFF is doomed for failure because none of their plans have worked in any other countries such as, Cuba or Russia.

    • michael

      You say ” the very things you were taught by various ANC,Cosatu and SACP leaders in various forums and political schools” You were indoctrinated and no teaching took place, pity the youth did not read a few more books instead of communist pamphlets. Again a lack of knowledge tripping you up. Sorry to say but if africa does not embrace mainstream world view it is doomed.

    • Joseph Coates

      Manqoba, thank you for your article. Read it with great interest. I see your frustrations coming through and your concern for the younger generation.
      Whoever comes to power after the next election in 2014, let’s hope that all basic needs will be met for all those in rural and informal settlements become eventually smaller suburbs of the surrounding cities. Most important of all, we must create a better economy and eventually a middle class society for all who have been less privileged in the last 18/19 years of our democratic government. Let’s make our Madiba proud of the the next twenty years that lie ahead while he is still with us.
      All youth over 18 years and older use your vote wisely.

    • Steven

      This is the truth my cde, but then again,,,this is our opportunity to support Julius Malema as we need Economic Freedom in our lifetime. after all this were the very reason’s they were kicked out of the ZANC. The ANC we once knew died long time ago and its now called ZANC. Lets support EFF its for you and and me!

    • Heinrich

      This, I think, is a very well written essay, Manqoba. Even I can understand the frustration.

      But the question arises : Why would anyone want to be an ANC, ANCYL, EFF or Cosatu member, when these organisations have proven that all they can manage is opulence for their leaders at the cost of the populace? That ordinary membership is merely a tool to be used towards that goal?

      I would say, the frustration can be completely eliminated, and at least personal freedom of thought attained, by forsaking these organisations altogether. Who needs them? Certainly not a thinking and freedom seeking nation.

    • Robin Grant

      Kenny Kunene, king of capitalist excess – Leader of the EFF – That just about sums it all up. Economic freedom for its leaders, and serfdom for the rest – Just like the good old USSR.

      You have to ask yourself: What is Economic Freedom? The closest answer I could find was that reaching economic freedom is a point in your life where your passive income exceeds your expenses – In other words the point where you don’t have to work to survive any more. Economic freedom has always been the privilege of the few. It, by its very nature cannot be something that can bestowed upon the masses.

      Having known a few people who lived in communist Russia, I can tell you with certainty that there is very little motivation for the workers to do anything productive because there can be no incentive for individuals in a collective, especially when the collective is part of a larger collective.

      Capitalism on the other hand incentivises hard work creating a very productive means of production, something which Marx & co could never get right without mass fear, intimidation and brutality.

    • Tofolux

      @Manqoba, chief, there is one bit of vital information that you fail to mention ie CONSCIOUSNESS. If like any member of the most vibrant organisation on earth accepts this as a crucial principle/element that underpins and speaks to a particular ethos, then one needs to ask where were you when they were doing the induction on the part where you come to the pledge that is signed by every member? You see, if any person accepts, as a fact, that their role and relevance will be determined by the material conditions on the ground of those we should serve ie the community at large and not those they idolise, then critically this case scenario must be different. A particular question must be asked why then did you join? What drove your interests? It cannot be that any organisation anywhere in the world will continually tolerate a particular behaviour. This is borne out by the fact that our own Madiba won and became a leading icon in the world based on his ability to win, in the battle of ideas. If you are going to compare the eff’s with Madiba then clearly there is no comparisons to be drawn. Also, critically if members are responsible for electing leaders, why did those very same members not pay allegiance to their own organisation to call a wayward leader to order? What were they afraid of and what would they lose, when they speak in the interest of, wait for it, the organisation?

    • TheNewFreedomFighter

      …and here is your problem: “At every level of your activism you were taught about Marxism and the struggle for socialism.” Marxism is a doctrine conceived by one man and is so far removed from the nature of mankind that it is fundamentally flawed. A horse is sometimes forced to wear blinkers by its master. This is what the ANC and their Marxist allies have accomplished with the NDR – a blinkered following that clings to the doctrine in the SAME WAY that the Afrikaners clung to their doctrine of apartheid based on their false belief that they were God’s chosen people.

      The group-think of the ANC is ultimately self-defeating. We see it in the decline of the ANC’s social fabric all around and it is in fact the central theme of your article because you describe the chaos and regression well. Allow yourself to control your own destiny: you have a choice to cast off the ANC/Marxist blinkers and think for yourself and most of all act for yourself. Cronin and his Communist buddies can’t do it for you; Vavi and his collectivised unions can do it for you; the ANC and their corrupt cronies can’t do it for you. Only YOU can think for YOU!

    • Mohammed

      Have they learnt nothing from Africas continued failures over the last 40 years. Economic freedom comes from hard work and self reliance, not outmoded theoretical rubbish.

    • Mohammed

      All these guys that spend their time on the “struggle” are normally hoping that their faction gets in so that they can enjoy the benefits of the gravy train.

    • ZandileM

      Insighful piece. Well written. Even though those sentiments may not resonate with me personally.

    • Grant

      Well put Mnguni. I am happy that you take the main stream issues and summarise them into something that a lot of people can relate to.

      The problem in South Africa among the youth at the moment is that they lack credible role models. The people that are talking the talk are not necessarily living the talk. Take Julius for example. Here is a man who is screaming even distribution of wealth in SA, but who at the same time is accumulating the same while a mojority of the young people are failing to develop. Not that I am against wealth accumulation, but I have a problem with people growing at exponential rates as opposed to organic.

      Victimisation or not, Julius is now in a crusade to make all believe that he never cheated on tax and all that is happening was a planned victimisation campaign against him. Granted, he has been used unfairly by his handlers who later on failed to control him against them, but the principle of integrity remains stucked against him.

      From where I am sitting, South Africa is becoming just another African country that has potential that will never be reached. All this just because of greed by those in power (as well as those waiting to ascend to power). Corruption is going to take this country down, and it is just a matter of time before it crumbles.

      Thank you for a good piece my brother. Do keep them coming!!

    • A

      Love this explanation of socialism and why it cannot work:

      “An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

      The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan.” All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.

      After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little..

      The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. It could not be any simpler than that.”

    • Heinrich

      I like this definition, Robin Grant : “The closest answer I could find was that reaching economic freedom is a point in your life where your passive income exceeds your expenses – In other words the point where you don’t have to work to survive any more”

      This is perhaps why EFF is so popular : The idea of receiving income without actually working for it ( like the Malema Millions) is very attractive. I suppose you could call these people passive income activists. Bankers. only the B is not What it seems to B.

      Perhaps we need more passive activists – or active pacifists.

    • Toti

      True heey very difficult to be just a black youth in this country, to be 40yrs and never had income of any sort but only be a volunteer to the EPWP projects with a hope 1 day, I will get that tender or that job but all that is reserved for the elite. ANC public representative don’t belong to ANC branches where they own porsch homes but to Lamontville, Meadowland, Soshanguve, Mlazi, Ngangelizwe, Langa.

      These ANC leaders stay in suburban but the chair our Branches as a result the appoint themselves as branch delegates to NGC, PGC, NC, PC & RC.

      If MEC stays in Sandon he/she must be a member in Santon Branch not Alex…….

    • Manqoba Nxumalo

      1. Richard Becker #

      When you say the Freedom Charter is some kind of opium or irrelevant document I cant help asking; the document was endorsed by at least a million people across racial lines. Were all these people high on some nyaope? I refuse to believe so.

      2. Robin Grant #

      Perhaps it is a demonstration of something when characters like Kenny Kunene champion a cause their lifestyle does not reflect. Maybe something is missing or the people are yearning for something and can be hoodwinked by anyone because they are desperate. Equally, should Kenny always be defined by his past? Which one is better, Kenny living a flamboyant dandy lifestyle or influencing the many Zikhothane he was a hero of that you can change and contribute to better good?

      You be the judge.

    • Radical Comrade


      1. Gauteng

      a. Convenor—Pule Matshithse:
      [email protected]: 0790686990
      b. Co-ordinators—Parks Khaiyane and Lufuno Gogoro
      [email protected]: 0784398178

      2. KwaZulu Natal

      a. Convenor—Reggie Ngcobo
      [email protected]: 0822626802 b. Co-ordinator—Nathi Phewu [email protected]

      3. Free State

      a. Convenor—Sam Matiase
      [email protected]: 0824680823
      b. Co-ordinator—Willy Tshabalala

      4. Northern Cape

      a. Convenor—Mbuyiselo Matebus
      b. Co-ordinator—Adri Noble
      [email protected]: 0728608024

      5. Limpopo

      a. Convenor—Michael Mathebe
      [email protected]: 0828749735
      b. Co-ordinator—George Raphela
      [email protected]: 0790598865

      6. Western Cape

      a. Convenor—Gcobani Nozongana
      [email protected]: 0723595937
      b. Co-ordinator—Lephallo Mahoto
      [email protected]: 0767158937

      7. Eastern Cape

      a. Convenor—Themba Kiro
      b. Co-ordinator—Pumza Ntobongwana
      [email protected]: 0724392019

      8. Mpumalanga

      a. Convenor—Ayanda Tshabalala
      [email protected]: 0827594099
      b. Co-ordinator—Dumisani Ncongwane
      [email protected]: 0718217118

      9. North West

      a. Convenor—Alfred Motsi
      [email protected]: 0834314151
      b. Co-ordinator—Papiki Babuile
      [email protected]: 0728608024

    • GVanWyk

      Very well said, Nxumalo…I have a problem with people who think capitalists cannot oppose capitalism. EFF asks a question ‘What is to be done?’ which is a title of Lenin’s book and would encourage everybody to grab this book for illumination of these ideas. Right at the beginning, Lenin shows that Marxist ideas are the product of the capitalist world itself, that the working class is not concerned about these ideas, but about their immediate living conditions. Considering that the likes of Hegel, Karl Marx, Engels are all from the middle class families (some of the advocates of these ideas were actually from the families of self-proclaimed capitalists), I can’t see why Kenny, with no history of wealth like the established bourgeoisie in the country, cannot pursue the ideals that resonates with his reasoning. The same goes for our stalwarts like Joe Slovo, Hellen Suzman, etc who benefited from apartheid but fought the system…its all about the ideals, people

    • God’s advocate

      i hear everything concerned, but your comments and inputs and all you think will ever revive souht africa…is not politics…yes malema is right economic freedom, but again brothers and sisters it is not ourselves but the elite to make powers, what do u think is UN if youn think south africa will ever be a better place for mankind…EFF,ANC,DA,IFP,COPE and you name them are just wasting time they are not the Authority but the foreign policies of the countries like America,britain and the other bigger cartel countries, time is wasted if you think any of your moves are gonna liberate blacks and their consciousness, the events and occasions around the globe are proving global unity and one agenda, so the noises and facts applied from your respective vocabularies are nothing but thoughts in the form of dreams, nothing will ever be done what you see is the fulfillment of prophecy so guys time has come and one redeemer shall redeem , it is because man has become a believer of themselves and lovers of money, take this from me the global government plan is advancing….can’t you see that all has fell apart since the inception of the democracy policy i mean even socialism in the sense of how you live in communities..WAKE UP you claiming education but don’t prove yourselves stop your wrestling and pray almighty as at your door steps, higher politicians are advancing the global plan stop thinking SA it is a satellite state or even a province of america now sold long time ago…the…

    • Brian B

      Manqoba Nxumalo
      I think you know the answers !

      The Freedom Charter is mostly an ideal blueprint for South Africa’s prosperity requiring leadership and hard work not postulation and opportunism .

      Malema and Kunene ? uh uh !

    • http://mailandguardian shoshoMzi

      Hey Manqoba, if you are going to be woken up at 2am and asked to recite the demands of the freedom charter, trust me you are not well-schooled you have been brainwashed.

    • Mark

      I think the most important theme to come out of this piece is the realisation that while the ANC speak about citizens having self determination and independance, what they really mean is that you should believe exactly what you are told (without question) and march around like sheep.

      How do you reconcile a socialist dogma emerging from the backseat of a BMW X6 or jaguar. The real world is very different from what you are told to believe.

    • famanda

      what a well written article. I concure, ANCYL members will vote for the EFF silently.

    • Michael

      Great article! I have never been an ANC member and definitely come from a privileged background (best schools, best universities, massive house with a swimming pool) and I am considering the pro’s of voting EFF. I recently learnt that when Madiba started the armed struggle aka Umkhonto weSizwe ANC President Albert Luthuli was completely against it. Who is more known today? Madiba or Chief Luthuli? Of course Malema certainly does not come across like an intellectual like Madiba did when he was young, but there is nothing wrong with most of the man’s messages, just the messenger does attract skepticism over his intentions though. At the very least, few but the EFF stand a real chance of breaking the ANC’s majority…and let’s be honest, the ANC is not doing their job. I meet top ANC government cadres on a fairly regular basis, with few exceptions they are extremely nice people, but sorry to say most simply don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves as evident by their total lack of proactive work ethic on tax payer money. The ANC needs a good kick in the ass, and the balls, before they will even think about improving their poor performance…who better than the EFF?


      i have decided that instead of voting jacob as presidednt, even if I know he will still be president, i will vote ffor ANC in the provincceee buut voite EFF nationally, unless buy ssome mmiraacle, the ANC decides that jsaccob should not stand. i cant stand to see him for a second term and hiis looting through my vote. Never.

    • marty

      not a great choice – a crook or a thief !

    • Charlotte

      No, Marty. Both thieves and crooks.

    • Fonebone

      Your honesty is refreshing Manqoba.
      Must be terrible waking up one day and realizing you are just brainwashed vote-fodder.
      Sorry, man.

      At least you now see through the charade and understand that the source of your confusion comes directly from the duplicity and hypocrisy of the players.
      “Honest politician” is an oxymoron.

    • http://[email protected] azaniastar

      We have suffered for more than 350 years under apartheid and we are still suffering under the leadership we hoped would free us,so we’d rather adopt the Zimbabwean approach and have no one exploit our resources even if it means we must starve.After all we have always been starving as it is,the freedom charter says we must benefit from the wealth of this land but only a few families and their friends enjoy that right and the masses still have no proper homes and we still are forced to pay for education.Malema might have done the wrong things they accuses him of,we don’t care and what matters is his views on the problem we are faced with and what he is doing about it.The ANC leaders often say there are no holy cows because they are as corrupt and they don’t even shine the light Malema is shining into the darkness of the poor and hopeless.