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Political parties — part of the solution or the problem?

By Amukelani Mayimele

As a young woman determined to fight an unjust system that worked against the poor I joined South African Students Congress (Sasco) during my first year at university. The number of people we helped each year did not represent half of the people who needed the help. We spent the rest of the time organising parties, entertaining young people, and then towards the end of the year we campaigned for next elections. Needless to say, I left Sasco and joined both the Young Communist League (YCL) and the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), in the hopes that I could actually help people within these organisations.

Initially I participated more in the YCL meetings but even this was short lived. I realised that the leaders were constantly leading a life that was contrary to the theories. They did not practice what they were teaching us; instead they went out of their way to contradict themselves. I realised that I was being taught how to be modest, and how to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situations. We spent more time in the classroom than where the problem was. I got tired of learning I needed more implementation.

I then decided to participate more in the ANCYL. We only met to discuss leadership. We then organised the best parties, of course they had to be the best, comrade Mahoota organised them. I was taught how to master the game of cabals, fractions and Squabbles (the language of the ANCYL). Our primary role was to recruit. Door-to-door campaigns were exciting, it united us. We spoke in one voice, yet all this was reduced to being just T-shirt politics. At the end of the day we all agreed that “the ANC rocks!”.

I joined politics to help solve people’s problems and we never had time for that. I never got the opportunity to devote all my energy towards these endeavours. My experiences have led me to wonder if the political organisations and groups that we have today still relevant? Are they still serving the purpose they were intended to?

All I know for certain right now is that I have been loyal for far too long. I joined politics to change the status quo. Nine years later I am still playing games; people are still poor and the system is still unjust. You risk being unpopular when you speak the language of enhancing peoples lives. People would rather talk about enriching their own lives through tenders. However, the ruling party and its allies are not the only ones plagued problems.

The Democratic Alliance appears to be addressing only the issues of a selected few. Congress of the People is embroiled in its own power struggles and the Inkatha Freedom Party appears to be resistant to transformation. The remaining smaller organisations remain obscure and out of the public eye. Most, if not all, parties seem to have forgotten about the movements and causes we are meant to be fighting for. We defend our leaders to the point of death, even when they wrong. Maybe we should all ask ourselves if we have become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Amukelani Mayimele is BCom accounting honours student and a student of ethical practices. She is also a young leader who is determined to lead her generation to transformation.

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