Youth a Motive Force for Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime

This year June 16, commemorated as National Youth Day in South Africa, coincides with critical milestones in the history and evolution of our National Democratic Revolution. Among these are:

  • The 21st Anniversary of our democracy and freedom.
  • The two and half years after the centenary celebrations of the birth of our glorious movement, the African National Congress (ANC).
  • Two and half years since the ANC and our government declared these phase of a transition as that of radical socio-economic transformation.
  • The 60th Anniversary of the authentic document of the people, the Freedom Charter wherein the dreams of our people are articulated.
  • The Inaugural sitting of the Presidential Youth Advisory Council two days ago.

We would find it as a monumental betrayal if we omit to share with the nation a touching story that compels the urgency of economic freedom in our lifetime and the moral significance of the call by the ANC for radical socio-economic transformation in South Africa.

In 2011 in the poor settlement of Verdwaal, 25 kilometres from Lichtenberg in the North West Province of South Africa, four black children of Mmupele family, Onkarabile, Nkune, Sebengu and Mapule took to the road in desperate hunt for food and their mother.  These children were aged two, six, seven and nine respectively. Their journey was a fatal 18 kilometers under an excruciating heat. All four perished on their way before reaching their destination. Days later ‘their tiny and lifeless bodies were found in the open field, badly dehydrated and with hardly any food in their tiny stomachs’. During their discovery the police reported that “the children were so badly decomposed, they were nothing more than skin and bones. They lay on the ground facing each other, as if they were plotting their next line of action”. These were black lives in a free and democratic society. This situation is unacceptable!!

It is counter-revolutionary and scandalous for children of that age who were supposed to be playing and attending school, to die of hunger and neglect in a wealthy country like South Africa. This is a compelling case for faster change and radical socio-economic transformation to rid the majority of our people, who happened to be black, from the deep-seated fault lines of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Nkosi Sikelela i-Afrika!!

60 years ago, when our people assembled in Kliptown, in 1955, to adopt the Freedom Charter as a solid foundation for the struggle for economic freedom, their collective efforts and wisdoms was to liberate and protect all children of South Africa from hunger, indignity and squalor regardless of race, colour and gender including Onkarabile, Nkune, Sebengu and Mapule.

It is in this regard that we reaffirm the centrality of the ANC to bring better life for all. The ANC as the leader of society leading the broad forces of the national democratic revolution it has managed to carry all South Africans to this end. It is a known fact that it is only the ANC that can lead our people towards the creation of the national democratic society and a better life for all our people.  Our guiding documents and tools in this journey are the Freedom Charter and the National Development Plan (NDP). As young people of the Republic we thank the ANC for the job well done and know very well that going forward the ANC is the only trusted leader of the revolutionary liberation forces in South Africa that can move us forward.  We know this because it is only the ANC that stood the test of time under difficult situations for the realization of the objectives of the African Claims and the Freedom Charter. This is more so because we are exuberant to witness the supremacy of the Freedom Charter in a new South Africa as the only unifying collective vision of the people of South Africa – forever gaining invincible position within the body politic of our country.

The Freedom Charter and the National Development Plan are embraced by many people in South Africa and claimed by all the social forces of change in our country including those erstwhile enemies of the ANC and the people. We need to remind everybody in our country that the ANC adopted the Freedom Charter and supported all struggles of the youth of our country when it was not fashionable to do so. We must remind them that Freedom Charter and Freedom is not a Christmas gift from Father Christmas. It cannot just be dispensed with ease through boardroom declarations or beer hall conversations without struggle. On the one hand, as young people we must say so, despite opportunistic and grand standing accusations by white supremacists, that this movement of our people has brought to South Africa a communist manifesto. On the other side we must defeat the opportunistic notion and infantile disorder gymnastics that suggests that the ANC abandoned the Freedom Charter, in pursuance of a neo-liberal economic trajectory.  Others in our midst recently went-on to adopt a narrow political party charter in an attempt to delegitimize the nobleness of the authentic document of the People, the Freedom Charter.

The question remains though; what are the tasks of the youth today as a motive force to fulfill the quest for economic freedom and radical socio-economic transition?

The ultimate vision of the Freedom Charter has not been fully achieved; our task, therefore, as this generation of youth in the 21st century, is to accomplish this mission with great sense of purpose and urgency in honour of the successive generations of youth that came before us especially the mission for economic freedom in our lifetime. We must do this in response to the cries of Onkarabile, Nkune, Sebengu, Mapule and many thousands of our children in South Africa who continue to die of hunger, malnutrition and rape.

We will fail in our historic duty of economic freedom in our lifetime if we don’t raise our levels of political and ideological consciousness on broader historical and philosophical underpinnings of poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and inequality especially in this phase of a transition.

We will not win the struggle for economic freedom if we do not break ranks with the culture of consumerism, individualism, self-centeredness and crass materialism. We will not live up to the dream of Nelson Mandela if we submit ourselves to the current dominant frivolities of voracious greed and vulgar sense of entitlement including infantile chase to milk the state resources to the detriment of the people.

Wealth exhibition and utter disregard for the future of our country and the current conditions of our people is detrimental to the noble principles of economic freedom in our lifetime. Those who indulge themselves to such acts as well as those who get tenders from the state to do shoddy work including those who give exam papers to our youth to copy thereby risking their future should be declared enemies of the revolution and are traitors.
In practical terms, the youth as a critical sector of the motive forces in the struggle for economic freedom should contribute meaningfully towards the construction of a more humane and equal society based on values of selflessness, integrity, mutual respect and constructive engagement. They must be seen at all material times grappling with the day-to-day challenges facing our people. They must commit the entirety of their existence towards the revolution and contribution to economic development and industrialization of our country. They should utilize science, technology and innovation to support government efforts to breathe life to the National Growth Path (NGP) and to re-industrialise Africa once and for all. The youth must use Information, Communications and Technology at their disposal to the good of the nation. They must use it to unite not to divide our nation. It should not be cool to parade naked bodies of young women on social media; in Marxist-Leninist thesaurus, it is anti-social. These are some of the minimum tasks of the youth today.

But, the broader task of the youth in the 21st century is to commit themselves to take the resolution of the National Question in South Africa to its logical conclusion.  In that struggle for the actual resolution of the National Question in South Africa, the youth in general and working youth in particular through struggle and intellectual capacity must entrench the centrality of the working class towards the ultimate resolution of the Class Question in our country. They must do so imbued with the sense of urgency in resolving the struggle to defeat patriarchy as a revolutionary determinant for ultimate peace between man and women – Gender Equality. We call these macro tasks of the youth today.

In the end, the youth should reject the emerging narrow sectarian posturing of the right wing liberal conservatism that continue to breed a sense of hopelessness among our youth. In the same vein the youth must reject the ultra-left junta of personality cult. The youth must defend the poor, the down trodden and the unsuspecting unemployed from abuse by those who are merely pondering on the present challenges without any clarity or providing any solution. In fact, the youth must know that without the ANC, there can be no economic freedom in our lifetime.

The youth must be vigilant of the emergence of individuals and organisations in our society that are established only to pursue narrow programmes without a proper vision to take South Africa forward. In their individual and collective capacities, the youth should uplift the weak, the vulnerable and the poorest of the poor in their communities by leading social programmes that can go a long way in denting the current realities of poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and inequalities without an expectation of gain. The youth together with the ANC must take South Africa forward!

In conclusion, I want to borrow from the words of a young writer, scholar-activist and a revolutionary comrade Jerome Roos when he said:

“The idea of (any) revolution cannot be condensed into a singular event – like the overthrow of a tyrant or a mere seizure of state power. Revolutions are processes by their very nature. They take place over a period of time – over a time span of years – if not decades – and arise out of a complex web of historical currents and global interconnections. They have external and internal manifestations – in the streets and in dialogues – in the hearts and minds of all those individual people constituting the masses. In other words, real revolutions do not occur – they unfold. They unfold both mentally and materially; (both in form and in content); both individually and collectively”.

Therefore, as we march together with all our people towards the creation of the national democratic society, we know that the national democratic revolution in South Africa is the work of the masses to liberate themselves from the chains of poverty, unemployment and inequality, they conduct this revolution led by their only reliable vehicle, the African National Congress.

The People Shall Govern!

Economic Freedom in our Lifetime!!

Nkosi Sikelela i-Afrika, Ngoba uSolomon Mahlangu wayelisosha loMkhonto!!!

Comrade Bongani Mkongi is a ANC member of Parliament in the National Assembly

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