A letter to Madiba – from the 13th president of the ANCYL Cde. Collen Maine

Dear Madiba, Dalibunga, Sithwalandwe


The fourth President of our ANCYL: Uvukayibambe

The Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign

The first Commander-in-Chief of the people’s army: uMkhonto weSizwe

Accused Number One at the Rivonia Trial

The 10th President of the ANC

Together with the world, we marked your 98th birthday on the 18th of July 2016. It was a joyous occasion, but not without a tinge of sadness – for you were not with us.

It has been three years since you left the land of living to join your defiant generation of Martin Luther King, Mxolisi Majambozi, Haile Selassie, Albert Luthuli, Julius Nyerere, Oliver Tambo, Charlotte Maxeke and many other heroes and heroines of the world.

We recalled the words of your contemporary and first President of the ANCYL, Cde. Anton Lembede when he said:

“No man outside asylum can shamelessly maintain that present leaders are immortal. They must, when the hour strikes, inexorably bow down to fate and pass away, for: There is no armour against fate, death lays his icy hands on Kings”

I felt the need to write to you because you are our moral compass; and though you are no longer with us, your spirit lives amongst us, guiding us.

The immeasurable gap left by your departure is still resonates today.

On behalf of many young people, I can say that you were our inspiration.

We, the youth, saw in you Delakufa their liberator and a General who would lead them to victory.

It is due to the sacrifices and actions of you and your generation that South Africa today is a land of opportunity: where we can dream of a land not crippled by poverty, discrimination and disease. It is because of your generation’s actions that young people today enjoy equal opportunity, irrespective of race, gender and other conditions brought about by the unequal socio-economic positions.

You epitomised the best amongst the living; and continue to be an inspiration not only for the people of our country but by many others across the world, who came to appreciate your role and immense contribution in one of the most dramatic events of the 20th century – the fall of apartheid.

Delakufa, we remember the heroism you displayed when you led the Defiance Campaign from the front and when you stood bravely as accused Number One in an illegitimate court of law and said:

“South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery.”

Mandela Day is the most opportune moment to recount our successes, but also reflect on our mistakes. It is a time to start engaging in a national conversation of correcting these mistakes.

I am of the firm view that at the end of this process of honestly reflecting on our mistakes we will come out stronger and strengthened to face head-on the socio-economic challenges confronting South Africa in general and young people in particular.

To begin with Madiba, I must confess: it sometimes seems that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Increasing numbers of South Africans in general and young people in particular are asking the question: What does freedom mean, if anything?

They ask because their expectations of a better life for all are not met and instead they see the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.

This feeling of discontent amongst your people Madiba, has turned your motherland South Africa into a country with protests almost daily.

Many of these protests are directed towards our government, not because our government is failing, but because it is seen buttressing the economic system that excludes the majority and we have a few that are directed to the main culprits – white monopoly capital.

Delakufa, I have no doubt in my mind and heart, that you would be impressed by the good work that the ANC led government has made in transforming the lives of many South Africans.

Your motherland South Africa has one of the world`s most democratic and revered constitution, a bill of rights, and a constitutional court which checks that the laws and courts comply with that Constitution and the just interpretation thereof.

I am also pleased to report to you that recently we passed the test of democracy with distinction, when our president subjected himself to a court of law and adhered to the finding of the courts, without any resistance.

I am certain you pride yourself with these developments, because you have seen that in many states, Presidents elevate themselves to be above the constitution, but this is not the case in your country and lastly because your were part of setting up these systems and frameworks that continue to safeguard our democracy and act as a watchdog where necessary.

Over 3.5 million houses have been built for the poor, giving shelter to over ten million people. 6 million households have gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity has been connected to nearly 5 million homes. In 1994, only 62% of households had access to clean drinking water – today 93% do.

Today 77% of the households have access to decent sanitation and 84% have access to electricity. By 2010, 14.5 million people were receiving social grants.

Delakufa, I know you would be very impressed by this progress registered in 22 short years and extremely proud that the work you started.

Despite these great achievements however the struggle for economic transformation, which is in the main about changing the colour and gender of capital in South Africa and ensuring the majority of your people benefit in their rich country’s wealth, remains a difficult task.

Many young black South Africans still live in abject poverty, with no prospects of acquiring a job, a home or land. Now, 22 years into democracy, the majority of black people remain the producers of wealth, but they produce this wealth for the consumption and enjoyment by a few white men and their families.

Many congresses of your organisation, the ANC and forums of government have extensively discussed the matter of private capital, its agenda and the role of the state in the economy, but these discussions have not yet yielded the desired results.

A historic congress of the organisation you were part of forming and had the privilege of becoming its fourth president, the ANCYL in 2011 made sound and practical resolutions to resolve on this matter and these resolutions were affirmed by the 25th National Congress, which bestowed in me the honour to be called upon to serve, joining the distinguished my forbearers, among them Anton Lembede, Ashby Mda, Godfrey Pietjie, Joe Mathews, Robert Resha, Patrick Molao and all other presidents of our ANCYL after its unbanning.

Delakufa, the demands of young people are not new, but a continuation the struggles you dedicated 67 years of your life to. For the purpose of this letter, I will discuss the following:

While standing in the dock in 1964 you boldly stated that without nationalization of mines and other industries, racial domination will continue. It is for this reason that the ANCYL resolved that the democratic government must nationalise mines which are in the hands of a few foreign owned multinationals and have recently co-opted a few blacks in their daylight robbery of the South African community.

Our conviction is that, once the mines are nationalised the state will be able to control the distribution and beneficiation of our natural resources.

Delakufa, the ANC 52nd and 53rd Congresses resolved on the creation of a state owned bank to finance development, but very little has happened in implementing this resolution. Because of in-access to capital young people cannot start businesses and other black people have been emerging business people for 22 years.

While young people are frustrated by looking for capital to start their businesses, the IDC AND PIC continue to give established white businesses money. They invest in malls which upon their arrival in townships wipe away local business people, in favour of food monopolies like Shoprite and Pick n Pay.

The ANCYL you formed and led has been consistently calling for the establishment of a state owned bank by the beginning of the next financial year, so that we expedite the process of funding young entrepreneurs and to support emerging black industrialists.

Delakufa, one of the reasons we admire you so much is your courage in demanding access for black people to land.

Sadly, 22 years after democracy the youth of South Africa both in urban and rural areas are struggling to access land which was forcefully taken from us through the barrel of a gun and an unjust act of 1913.

The youth justifiably say they have waited for too long and the implications of unavailability of land are cutting deeper by the day. Rural youth want to be in agriculture but are struggling, because the land they live in doesn’t belong to them, but those who stole it.

Madiba, it is with greatness to report to you that politicians have reduced the importance you placed on education to slogans used to appeal to the masses with no intention of making education accessible to the masses of our people, which cannot afford it.

In late 2015 the youth had to take it upon themselves to coerce politicians to implement your vision of making education accessible to the poor under the banner of #Feesmustfall. The demand for fees to fall and free education to be provided up until the first degree is genuine and legitimate today as it was when you were still president.

Sadly our government accepts the absurd neoliberal logic led by national treasury that basic education should free and even provide meals to pupils before passing their grade 12 exams, but refuses to make higher education free.

This neoliberal thinking has its base on the idea that education benefits the individual acquiring it as opposed to how your generation and the liberation movement understood it as a tool for the development of society.

Delakufa, kindly pardon me for burdening you with such a verbose letter on your birthday and at a time wherein you should be sitting with your peers like Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Mxolisi Majombozi, Robert Resha, Alfred Nzo, Robert Sobukwe and many others, concluding debates you could not conclude while on this side of the universe.

I wish I had more space, time and ink to seek your wisdom on other political developments in the country, which include the DA, an organisation you stood against till your last breath, using your voice as a tool to mobilise votes for a racist neoliberal agenda, but for the purpose of this conversation, I will stop here before my ink runs dry.

Happy birthday Delakufa!

Yours in struggle,

Collen Maine, 13th President of the ANCYL.



Posted in Phambili
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