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Viewpoint by Malusi Gigaba

REPOSITIONING THE ANCYL FOR THE FUTURE: A STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVE TOWARDS THE ANCYL NATIONAL CONGRESS BY MALUSI GIGABA

This year, after a two-year interregnum, the ANCYL shall hold its elective National Congress. This shall be a culmination of long political and organisational work that has been done among the youth throughout the country since the decision of the ANC NEC in 2013 to dissolve the ANCYL NEC.

Viewpoint by Rob Davies

STEEL IS A KEY STRATEGIC INDUSTRY FOR SOUTH AFRICA BY ROB DAVIES

The great global economic recession, which was triggered in 2008 by a financial crisis arising from reckless lending by financial institutions in the US, has had devastating and multiple impacts on the global economy. No less for the South African economy, which has been impacted by a series of exogenous economic 'shocks'.

Readers' Forum by Lithalethu Gqoboka

HISTORY AND THE FUTURE: THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUNG PEOPLE AS CRITICAL LINKAGE BETWEEN TROUBLED PAST AND HOPE FILLED FUTURE BY LITHALETHU GQOBOKA

Former American President, Ronald Reagan, once said "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." If Ronald Reagan was correct, who will benefit or suffer most from the extinction of our democracy and consequently, which sections of the generational divide have a bigger burden to protect democracy, if indeed there are differing levels of responsibility?

GOOD STORY TO TELL

 

VIEWPOINT BY MALUSI GIGABA

REPOSITIONING THE ANCYL FOR THE FUTURE: A Strategic Perspective Towards the ANCYL National Congress

Comrade Malusi Gigaba is a member of the ANC NEC and Former President of the ANC Youth League

This year, after a two-year interregnum, the ANCYL shall hold its elective National Congress.

This shall be a culmination of long political and organisational work that has been done among the youth throughout the country since the decision of the ANC NEC in 2013 to dissolve the ANCYL NEC.

Following this unprecedented decision, the ANC established a National Task Team (NTT), which commenced forthwith with the re-establishment of the structures of the League.

As at this moment, all the ANCYL provincial structures have been re-established and the organisation is, accordingly, ready to hold its elective congress.

However, we should hasten to highlight that what matters about this Congress is not merely that it shall be held to elect new leaders for the organisation. We live in an era wherein personalities and consequently individuals are elevated above organisations or even the collectives with which they lead. This is typical of the liberal agenda which emphasises individualism over and above collective interests and perspectives.

It is easy today to manufacture cults that are devoid of content but are just “excellent” leaders of caucus and factions. Songs are sung about them and they inspire great enthusiasm and evoke great passions among their followers, not because they have proven track record in the struggle, have irrefutable credentials of tremendous heroism or because we extol any of their struggle feats or virtues. Their only claim to fame is that they happen to be self-imposed leaders of factions devoid of any big idea as to what they stand for and what must change once they are elected, as they wish.

Of greater relevance about this Congress is that it shall provide the most requisite platform for the ANCYL branch delegates robustly to debate not only the future of their organisation, its political outlook and repositioning, but they shall above everything else deliberate on the future of our country, our movement and the role and place of the youth in the pursuit of that future.

It stands to reason that the ANCYL National Congress must not be allowed to digress towards a petty focus on leadership slates, but it must focus singularly on its content. The people who can ensure this are the delegates of the ANCYL, who attend the Congress not as mere pawns of “slate politics” but as the masters of the destiny of the ANCYL, the guarantors of our future.

As they gather, uppermost in the minds of the delegates must be that the organisation at whose instance and in whose name and honour they will be assembling has, during the seven decades of its existence,

  • become synonymous with the youth - there has never been a day or decade when they had to do one without the other,
  • ensured that since its formation, there never was a decade during which the youth never made a remarkable contribution into the struggle and played a catalysing role in order, indeed, to take it to newer heights,
  • been among the front rank combatants in the struggle, and in the centre of the struggles of the youth, providing them with principled and militant leadership, and drawing them into the struggle under the banner of the ANC,
  • led the youth of South Africa into the struggle for national freedom as an integral component part of that struggle, in the conviction and knowledge that youth interests were inseparable from those of the people as a whole,
  • imbued the youth with a militant political outlook as well as (with) a militant and yet disciplined activities, and
  • taught the youth through united, militant and disciplined action to shed their fear for the tyrannical regime and its repressive machinery and wage a concerted and relentless struggle until total victory was won.

From its inception, the ANCYL was thrust into the very heart of a difficult struggle. From its founding, the ANCYL was preoccupied with three inter-related issues:

  • First, the struggle of the African people as led by the African National Congress,
  • Secondly, the ideological and organisational rebuilding and renewal, as well as unity, of the ANC, its injection with radical African Nationalism, imparting it with a “national character” and its transformation into a militant fighting organ of the African people ready to face the tyrannical regime and conquer it; and
  • Thirdly, the role of the youth in the struggle under the banner of a united and radical ANC.

From its very inception, the founders of the ANCYL believed in the ANC as a vehicle for the unity of the African people in their struggle for freedom. They believed that divisions and factionalism within the national movement had to be viciously defeated as they would detract from its historical mission.

Not denying weaknesses within the ANC, particularly at the time the ANCYL was formed, they believed that these could not be used as an excuse to divide the African people by dividing the Congress. In their very firm opinion, the task of uniting the oppressed and leading them to national freedom could not be accomplished through a divided ANC and fractious struggle.

Accordingly, throughout its long history, the ANCYL has regarded it as one of its foremost duties jealously and steadfastly to safeguard and advance the “unity of purpose” and “unity in action” of the ANC.

ANCYL founders believed the youth had a decisive and catalysing role to play in the struggle, given their militant outlook and willingness to sacrifice in the name of freedom and the people, and given their energy, death-defying courage and eagerness to sweat for mass mobilisation, organisation and education.

They believed that the struggles and efforts of the youth were integral, rather than independent, parallel or opposed, to those of the masses of the people as a whole. Their own struggles had their origins in the struggles of the masses of our people which dated back to the first resistance wars to stave off colonial incursion.

They could only fulfil this role, both in the broader struggle as well as within the ANC, through an organisation of their own where they would develop organisational and leadership capabilities, as well as experience, in a manner relevant to their own generation. Their dynamising role is greatly facilitated by their organisation and mobilisation around issues that affect them as youth.

It is through such organisations that the revolutionary forces are able to impart skills and experience in a manner fitting the peculiar station of the youth, and to galvanise them into a broad movement attracting all potential participants.

At the same time, they learned from the onset, when they immediately clashed with Dr. Xuma, both in 1944 as well as in 1948/9, that there would be healthy tensions between the young and the old, and organisationally between the ANC and ANCYL from time to time on matters of perspective or even strategies and tactics. These tensions are healthy and ensure progress.

However, at all times, the youth and their organ, the ANCYL, are subject to the overall discipline and political directives of the ANC in whose formulation they participate. This is why youth are represented in all the decision-making organs as a youth political organ and body of opinion.

This then emphasises the pivotal significance of the ANCYL’s “organisational autonomy”, which is narrowly defined in terms of the right to administer their own financial transactions, hold their own national congress, elect their own leadership and adopt their own programme of action under, however, the broad political line and discipline of the mother-body.

This means that the autonomy of the ANCYL, which is often referred to as “organisational” does have bounds; it does not extend to political autonomy or independence.

Yet, whilst it maintains its primary responsibility to provide its Youth League with the overall political directive, the ANC acknowledges the right of the youth to engage in youthful political debates and, through their actions and youthful innovation, to dynamise the struggle.

The ANC does not seek to curtail the youth in their quest for new and more militant ideas, but expects them to exercise this right guided by the responsibility both to listen to the wise counsel of the ANC as well to adhere to its revolutionary discipline.

The ANCYL must act as a direct bridge between the youth and the ANC; to bring the youth into the ANC and the ANC to the youth.

It has twin tasks to rally the youth into politics and the struggle under the banner of the ANC and, at the same time, to champion their political and socio-economic interests.

From the outset, the ANCYL was radical, disciplined, and over time developed a correct understanding of its historical role in relation to the struggle, the ANC and the youth themselves.

Above all else, through their participation in the struggle, suffering feats and foibles, the youth learned the dialectical truth that all our reality is relative and this world is made of plastic material. Everything we know shall come to pass, it is bound to change, either because we make the change or we are the recipients of the change.

From its inception, it threw itself headlong into the struggle for freedom, not merely of the South African people but of the African people continent-wide. From the onset, the ANCYL cast its eyes on the continent and pledged its unyielding support for the struggles of all the oppressed peoples of Africa.

Upon its formation, the ANCYL dedicated most of its time trying to conceptualise the historic mission of their generation as well as the historic tasks of the ANCYL arising therefrom.

At this juncture, most vital was the formulation of the creed of African Nationalism and its injection into the ANC through robust and fearless engagement, as the youth began making their mark on it.

Its militant formulation of African Nationalism was to be refined after the death of its founding President, Anton Lembede.

This gave the ANC its purpose and mission, and began to define the ANC not merely as an organisation either seeking accommodation within the colonial political establishment or an organisation against white minority rule, but, above everything else, as an organisation FOR African national-freedom and self-determination.

Knowing the difficult journey ahead, they defined for their generation the mission - “Freedom in our Lifetime”. They not only vowed, but proceeded, to pursue this vision vigorously and with unyielding zeal, both until they handed over the baton to the next generations and until victory over racial bigotry was achieved. This was to be the mission of every generation of youth until freedom was achieved.

Throughout its different phases, from its very inception, the ANCYL has led the youth to realise their historic mission as the foot-soldiers of the revolution. Not a single decade has passed since the forties that the youth did not participate and make a watershed contribution to the struggle of the oppressed.

Often, history called upon the youth to commit heroic feats of struggle, indeed, to carry on their shoulders the difficult burdens of the struggle in order to propel it forward.

At each moment when history asked of them, the youth, led by the ANCYL, has never been found wanting or acted cowardly.

The period of the forties for the masses was characterised by the radicalisation of the workers, especially in the mines, the black communities in both urban and rural areas, as well as that of the youth in universities.

From 1947, after the death Lembede, the ANCYL began outlining its own political and socio-economic perspective and programme, culminating in the adoption of the “Basic Policy Document” in 1948, which advanced the initial ideas of “African nationalism” and laid the basis for the militant programme of action subsequently adopted by the ANC’s Annual Conference in 1949 which emphasised civil disobedience against and mass defiance of apartheid laws.

Following the adoption of this POA, the ANCYL lobbied ANC branches for some of its leaders to be elected into key ANC positions, resulting in it spreading its sphere of influence within the ANC, to ensure they can take direct custody of the implementation of the POA. Accordingly, when the defiance campaign was launched in 1952, ANCYL members were found at the forefront of the campaign as volunteers, leading to the commencement of the mobilisation for the Freedom Charter.

Towards the end of the fifties, ANCYL members began agitating for the armed struggle, an argument they were eventually to win as the apartheid-colonial regime was getting more and more violent. The masses needed to begin responding to the growing violence of the regime by returning fire-with-fire.

As the armed struggled became a dominant pillar of the struggle post the Sharpeville massacre, the ANCYL made it its responsibility to recruit the youth to receive military training and become armed combatants. At this moment, the ANCYL decided to cease its organisational activities in South Africa, join the ANC in exile and focus its activities on recruiting youth for military training in exile.

In exile, and because there were many youthful combatants in the camps, it was decided to re-establish the ANCYL as the ANC Youth Section, and focus on the arts and culture, political education and ideological training of the youth as well as to participate, on behalf of the ANC youth, in international youth forums such as the World Federation of Democratic Youth, the World Festival of Youth and Students, and others.

Between 1960 and later in the decade, there was a gaping vacuum in the political involvement and organisation of the youth in South Africa. However, students’ organisations formed in the late sixties, despite being sectoral in character, took it upon themselves to organise the youth at large.

After the 1973 Durban workers strikes, the youth were once again rallied into the struggle, leading to the June 16th Uprising which, for the first time since the December 16th 1960 MK actions around the country, directly challenged the might of the apartheid regime.

After 1976, the terrain of struggle and particularly youth involvement was to change drastically, with the formation of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), representing high school students, and the Azanian Students Organisation (AZASO), representing university students, coming into the picture in 1979. Both organisations subsequently adopted the Freedom Charter and resolutions to work towards the formation of a national youth organisation, which eventually happened in 1987 when the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) was formed.

Like that of the ANCYL in 1944, the formation of SAYCO changed the course of South African history and gave impetus to the struggle, injecting the much needed dynamism and militancy in township and rural struggles in ways only the youth could and can do. This led to the ANC relying on the youth as the cutting edge and the shock-troopers of the struggle when the moment came to make South Africa ungovernable and render its institutions of power unworkable. What the youth lacked in experience, they made up for in death-defying valour.

So valiant were they in battle that the late ANC President, OR Tambo, eventually referred to them as the Young Lions of the struggle. So decisive and courageous were youthful political and organisational interventions after the formation of SAYCO that they unwittingly invited themselves the wrath of the apartheid regime’s repressive machinery. Their resilience prevailed, albeit at a huge cost to many of them, in terms of their lives and socio-economic conditions. Their valour did not go unnoticed among the masses and they occupied pride of place in the hearts of their people.

At the attainment of freedom in 1994, a new era dawned for the ANCYL. During the negotiations, the organisation had grappled with the challenge of a changing political scenario. During this period, as well as maintaining the tempo of the negotiations process, the movement had decided to engage in sustained and at times rolling mass action in order to keep the masses mobilised and involved in the process, in order to tilt the balance of forces in favour of the progressive forces.

The ANCYL was vital in mass and youth mobilisation during this period. During a really difficult time, it maintained both a high level of militancy as well as revolutionary discipline.

After the 1994 elections, the ANCYL faced a serious challenge of having to adjust to the new conditions and adapt, or face death. For 50 years, it had existed as an apartheid fighting machine, with its political programme and organisational structure oriented towards fighting apartheid-colonialism. 1994 occasioned the need to set a new vision, review the organisational machinery and adopt new strategies.

However, what compounded the ANCYL’s political and organisational renewal during this period were three main subjective and inter-related things,

  • The generation of leadership that had taken the youth struggles to this moment, mainly drawn both from the ANC Youth Section as well as SAYCO, had just relinquished their leadership responsibilities in 1993 at the 18th National Congress, which created a bit of a void as some of them had become household names for a period spanning almost a decade;
  • A new group of leaders, although largely drawn from the same generation as above, had come in during a complex and confusing period, and had not had sufficient time to conceptualise the new period and thus be able theoretically to locate the mission and role of the youth and thus the tasks of the organisation during this new phase; and
  • There was a mass and unplanned exodus of this seasoned youth leadership to national and provincial legislatures in 1994, which denuded the ANCYL of seasoned national and provincial leadership and left a huge void, which effectively weakened the organisation.

The first serious seeds of renewal were planted at the 1996 19th National Congress, when a new leadership was elected singularly to focus on rebuilding the organisation and when the Congress resolved to begin grappling with the question of the role of youth post-1994.

It was resolved to explore the strategy of “cooperation and confrontation” with the new ANC-led government.

Of course, there would be no Chinese wall between these two as they could through careful and tactical manoeuvres complement and reinforce one another.

The period between 1996 and 2000 was characterised largely by the painstaking work of rebuilding organisational structures. During this time, critical debates continued to rage as to the role of the organisation and youth in general post-apartheid.

An organisation that was militant from its inception, how could it articulate its militancy in a period when the ANC itself was the governing party, when a crucial element of “freedom in our lifetime”, that which pertained to the transfer of power from the white minority regime to the non-racial democratic majority, had been attained!

However, militancy was never an approach directed against the ANC leadership or even any government - the ANCYL were not anarchists and aimless rebels against any form of government or authority - but it was directed at the system of apartheid-colonialism.

This perspective had to maintained at all times as it could easily result in describing even the popular democratic government as itself indistinguishable from the abhorrent system of oppression and hence an enemy.

Similarly, supporting the new popular government and State could not in itself mean a rejection of militancy against the system of apartheid-colonialism, which would continue casting its long shadow on the new dispensation being created.

Around 2000, the organisation decided to start embarking on youth mass action around youth economic participation and the HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns.

Prior to this, the organisation had been busy with campaigns around peace, nation-building, youth development, racism and others. It was these campaigns that re-took the ANCYL to the youth and ensured that by the time of the 22nd National Congress its membership stood at 507 889, which was at the time higher than even the ANC’s.

After the 2001 National Congress, the ANCYL NEC decided that both political and organisational focus had to be shifted towards more mass mobilisation around the issues of youth unemployment, guided by the NEC document, “Getting Young People Working: an employment strategy of the ANCYL”.

The Youth Economic Participation Programme was adopted, anchored around creating employment for the youth, raising their skills levels and promoting youth entrepreneurship in both the public and private sectors.

At the same time as the organisation was engaging in mass mobilisation, it began developing policy capacity. It was necessary that it does not just make noise about its proposals, but it would have to formulate coherent policies and programmes to back their proposals up.

One of the issues that became a huge concern at this moment was the toxic correlation between youth unemployment among ANCYL members and their manipulation by some ANC leaders at various tiers who exploited them as pawns in pursuit of their political ambitions. This had a massive impact on the quality of ANCYL members and bred hooligan behaviour in structures and meetings. The process of organisational renewal would thus begin to be marred by the abuse of resources by those who commanded them over those that did not.

Nonetheless, this process of mass mobilisation around socio-economic issues was successful in that it achieved the political re-orientation and re-ideologisation of the youth and ANCYL as an organisation, its organisational renewal as well as its grounding both within the ANC as well as in society as a whole.

The ANCYL once more became a force to be reckoned with, a vital commentator on all important issues pertaining to the youth and the nation.

It succeeded to coin socio-economic issues within a broader political framework and thus extended its sphere its engagement and influence.

However, strong as it became towards 2004, this was about to change.

Its 2004 22nd National Congress took place amidst a brewing leadership succession tussle in the ANC which the ANCYL had correctly anticipated would be vicious, costly and divisive not only within the ANC, but within the ANCYL itself and the broader national liberation movement.

It became a harbinger for impending ANC leadership changes. For over four decades, the ANC had enjoyed peaceful succession, but this was about to change in 2007.

The leadership rift at the highest level in the ANC had become irreparable and a bitter succession battle could not be avoided. In this succession battle, the ANCYL would not sit on the fence; it would be called upon to take sides and play a critical role.

It would take a strong organisation to engage in this decisive battle and yet not be consumed by it, and a strong leadership to guide the organisation through it all.

Whereas after the 2004 National Congress, the attention remained on implementing Congress resolutions, building on the programmes of the previous years, however, the 2005 “release” of the then Deputy President from his government role precipitated a complete change of focus in the ANCYL.

From then on, the focus became the ANC and its leadership succession questions, as the ANCYL crowned itself, with the connivance of the media, as the ANC’s “king-makers”.

This was unfortunate as it was ahistorical, a distortion of the ANCYL’s rich history which deviated it from its twin tasks.

This conception confined its role to ANC leadership elections and bred arrogance and ill-discipline that began to characterise the organisation in later years. The notion of “king-makers” never existed in the minds of the founders of the ANCYL and was never, throughout the ANCYL’s history, a part of the organisation’s culture.

Actually, it took 5 years since the ANCYL’s launch eventually to propagate for leadership changes in the ANC, and even then this was informed by particular objective reasons.

The period leading to and following the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane Conference was sad as it was tragic for the ANC as a whole, and the ANCYL was affected as the divisions in the ANC had permeated all its structures. A gap was created for factionalists and opportunists to exploit and launch a vicious offensive on the ANC’s rich democratic culture.

After 2007, the ANCYL would begin to be consumed by the divisions it had initially actively participated in trying to diffuse. The recognition of the outcome of its 2008 flawed electoral process by the ANC NEC was a huge and uncalculated mistake the consequences of which were to be almost fatal for the ANCYL.

The ANCYL started becoming a voice and very embodiment of gross ill-discipline, vulgarism, anarchy and factionalism. Both in terms of its political posturing as well as its organisational functioning, the ANCYL both became a problem and was in deep trouble, under the firm clutches of political hooligans, if not downright agents.

It developed an increasingly antagonistic relationship with its mother-body, defining itself outside of the political framework of the ANC, embracing alien organisational practices that flouted long-established internal democratic practices of the movement.

This created the conditions for the emergence of a cult tendency in the form of its axed President, who fitted precisely within what was described by the late Soviet leader, Nikita Kruschev at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 that:

“After Stalin’s death the Central Committee of the party began to implement a policy of explaining concisely and consistently that it is impermissible and foreign to the spirit of Marxism-Leninism to elevate one person, to transform him into a superman possessing supernatural characteristics akin to those of a god. Such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behaviour.

What created conducive conditions for this tendency was the declining political and ideological capacity of many of the ANCYL structures and activists. They could not stand up to this cult tendency because they themselves were easy fodder for his charismatic and rhetorical prowess, who pounced on the raw passions of the youth arising out of their socio-economic marginalisation in order to drive them towards his own personal agenda. His cult, as all cults do, grew to a point where he confused himself for the organisation and mistook his personal agenda for that of the ANCYL itself and the youth as a whole.

Like Stalin, as described by Kruschev, he,

  • “accumulated in his hands immeasurable power” which he was not always able to use with “the required care”,
  • “absolutely did not tolerate collegiality in leadership and in work”, and exercised ‘brutal violence’, “not only towards everything which opposed him but also towards that which seemed to his capricious and despotic character contrary to his concepts”, and
  • “acted not through persuasion, explanation, and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Whoever opposed this concept or tried to prove his viewpoint, and the correctness of his position, was domed to removal from the leading collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation.”

This period became so toxic and unfortunate toward the ANC’s 2012 53rd National Conference that even debates introduced such as “nationalisation”, which could have seemed interesting and legitimate to genuine and unsuspecting ANCYL and ANC members, had the covert purpose of achieving the opportunistic ambitions of the cult.

The ANC 53rd National Conference was to set in motion the processes to put paid to this malaise which had so permeated the ANCYL structures that it would take a painstaking effort to exorcise it and free its members and the youth in general from its effects.

Even those youth that opposed his anarchy still believed that his was a genuine “militancy” and that his ideas were worth pursuing.

The 53rd Conference instructed the incoming NEC to “urgently intervene to address the situation of the ANC Youth League” and to take “all the necessary measures to ensure that the League plays its proper role and acts within the policy and Constitution of the ANC.” After much agonising, the ANC NEC resolved to dissolve the ANCYL NEC.

This created a gaping political vacuum in youth politics that has been particularly painful for the youth in general, who look up to the ANCYL for political leadership, as well as for the ANC itself that has witnessed the political and organisational decay of the once-mighty, influential and coherent ANCYL and its standing among the youth.

Having considered the above historical account, the question arising, for the next edition, is, what then should be the strategic perspective of the ANCYL for the future and what tasks and programmes arise therefrom!

TO BE CONTINUED…

Viewpoint by Rob Davies

VIEWPOINT: ROB DAVIES

Comrade Rob Davies is a member of the ANC NEC and Minister of Trade and Industry

 

Steel is a key strategic industry for South Africa

The great global economic recession, which was triggered in 2008 by a financial crisis arising from reckless lending by financial institutions in the US, has had devastating and multiple impacts on the global economy. No less for the South African economy, which has been impacted by a series of exogenous economic ‘shocks’. Taken together with a range of domestic shocks - especially electricity supply constraints and prices - these external factors have had very serious negative consequences for economic growth, industrial development and job creation. These exogenous shocks include a sharp decline in demand for exports in South Africa’s traditional trading partners and more recently, an end to the commodity super-cycle. The latter has led to a significant decline in demand and prices for commodities, which has and will in the near future; negatively impact the domestic mining sector with considerable knock-on effects for the domestic economy. The latest ‘wave’ in a series of negative shocks arises directly from the global recession and impacts directly on the domestic steel industry.  Some of the facts which provide a context to this crisis are as follows.

The global steel market has been dominated over the last decade by the People’s Republic of China which has installed capacity to produce 1.1 billion tons of steel. The PRC’s steel exports account for well over half of the global steel market - presently estimated as 800 million tons. However the global recession and depressed demand all over the world has recently led to a glut of steel in the global market.  In these circumstances and on the back of low production costs highly competitive Chinese steel exports have penetrated a large number of export markets in developed and developing countries alike, including the South African steel market.

The South African steel industry is a key strategic industry, directly representing 1,5% of the country’s GDP and indirectly supporting strategic sectors of the economy, the top five of which, it is estimated, support 15% of GDP and employ 8 million people. Steel adds R26 billion to the economic value of South Africa’s iron ore and if this capacity was lost it would add 1% of GDP to South Africa’s trade deficit. The domestic steel industry is the only one in Sub-Saharan Africa; there is a positive correlation between GDP and steel production for developing countries around the world and the loss of our domestic steel production capacity would constitute a grave threat to the growth drivers set out in the National Development Plan, the Industrial Policy Action Plan and government’s President Zuma’s nine point plan for economic growth.

It is estimated that the landed price of imported steel is currently 12% below the cost of production averaged across a range of steel products in South Africa, seriously undercutting the competitiveness of South African producers and constituting a direct threat to the domestic steel production sector. But global over production; depressed demand and import penetration are only one side of the story. 

In 2003, to summarise a far more complex process, the democratic government sold off its remaining equity in the former ISCOR to global steel producer Arcelor- Mittal (AMSA), save for 7,9% held by the Industrial Development Corporation.  AMSA accounts for 75% of domestic steel production. Notwithstanding a highly advantageous cost plus 3% price for iron ore, and in the face of every effort on the part of government to arrive at a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship aimed at  securing a steel price in the lowest global quartile of steel prices, AMSA followed a policy of import parity pricing (IPP) for its locally produced steel.  In so doing the company extracted, what many independent analysts regard as excessive returns, repatriated from South Africa. A lack of maintenance, capital equipment investment and upgrades to ageing plants contributed to 7 catastrophic plant breakdowns at various of its plants across the country. All these and other factors, taken together with the addition of significant premiums by intermediate steel distributers, contributed to a lack of competitiveness of domestic steel production capacity and uncompetitive steel prices for downstream, labour intensive, domestic manufacturers and users of steel products such as those involved in construction and infrastructure. 

Under these circumstances, to increase competition in the steel market and to lower prices for downstream manufacturer’s government successfully intervened to support a lowering of tariff protection for steel - an intervention which did in fact bring down the aggregate domestic price of steel by 5%. In addition, it is a matter of record that government continued to do everything in its power to arrive at a more collaborative approach, which would accommodate both a reasonable return on investment for steel producers and serve the national interest.

Of course South Africa is not the only country that has been affected and neither is it alone in its efforts to manage the problem. A large number of countries have imposed or are in the process of imposing import tariff and anti-dumping measures to protect their domestic steel production capabilities. This includes the US, countries in the Eurozone and a range of developing countries, some of whom are BRICS countries. In this complex environment, in which vested interests most often have to be separated from the national interest, how has and how will the South African government respond?

Firstly certain processes before the Competition Commission must of necessity remain confidential to protect the legal integrity and independence of the outcomes which may flow therefrom. This is true also of the numerous applications before the International Trade Administration Commission - the independent body responsible for trade measures - tariffs and anti-dumping specifically.

That said the South African government has and will step up all its efforts to secure and grow the strategic steel sector in South Africa. These measures will include in principal support for the tariff and anti-dumping applications filed by steel producers with ITAC; conditional upon reaching agreement with such producers that tariff protection does not lead to inflated increases in steel prices, which could be highly deleterious to downstream users. In short a solution which leads simply to ‘passing the problem on’ to users will be no solution at all and a reciprocal package of measures, which takes into consideration all critical factors, including the vulnerability and needs of the other smaller steel mills is required.

In fact such an agreement, which is both fully compliant with the prescripts of the law and secures binding commitments to other government concerns such as maintenance and investment is not only possible but is in reach. Other government support measures include:

  • The possible Designation of steel for local production to raise aggregate domestic demand
  • stronger measures to limit the unencumbered export of scrap metal which both increases the carbon intensity of the economy and is associated with the theft of metal products from vital economic infrastructure and the illegal export of precious metals from South Africa

Government and its agencies such as the IDC are also involved in a range of interventions to address the concrete challenges faced by individual steel producers. In the case of Highveld Steel for example, this includes a R150 million funding facility made available by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and processes through business rescue to identify viable new technology and equity partners for the company.

Finally government is involved in a rigorous process to consult with and engage with all the stakeholders - steel producers, traders and suppliers, downstream users of steel and labour- in a collaborative effort to seek concrete practical solutions to secure South Africa’s strategic steel production capabilities. It is imperative that such an approach secures agreement and a set of interventions to weather the existing storm and place the steel sector and the economy as a whole in the best possible position to optimize the enormous opportunities that are evident when the market conditions improve.

But if there is one lesson to emerge from this complex and sometimes highly charged process it is this.  Working together in a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship will always bring better and even optimal results, which marry the needs and economic realities of the private sector with the national interests of the country - economic growth, re-industrialisation and employment retention and creation.

Readers' Forum by Lithalethu Gqoboka

READERS' FORUM: LITHALETHU GQOBOKA

Cde Lithalethu Gqoboka Is a member of the ANC Fourways Branch

 

History and the Future: The importance of young people as critical linkage between troubled past and hope filled future

The historical role of the youth as a strategic bridge in connecting troubled pasts with futures filled with hope & prosperity: Reflections for African National Congress Youth League Leaders

Former American President, Ronald Reagan, once said "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." If Ronald Reagan was correct, who will benefit or suffer most from the extinction of our democracy and consequently, which sections of the generational divide have a bigger burden to protect democracy, if indeed there are differing levels of responsibility?

This article will seek to understand the existence of material conditions that in the past have compelled young people to thrust themselves in the centre and sometimes the front of societal struggles for certain revolutionary outcomes, at times with the co-operation of their elderly counterparts but sometimes diagonally at odds with those who are older. The review is partly inspired by the determined and demonstrable role that young people have played over decades if not centuries in reshaping the course and destinies of their societies by responding to challenges faced by their societies at those particular moments in their histories.

This assessment is also inspired by the realisation that in a short while, thousands of leaders of the African National Congress Youth League from across the country will gather in a seminal and definitive elective conference. Amongst other things in this conference, I am certain these leaders of the ANC Youth League, conscious of their monumental historical role in the evolution of our society, they will critically assess the strategic role they should play in responding to some of the pressing questions that face our country today, a country whose collective leadership they are consummately enjoined to.

There is an accepted norm in African societies that young people should seek and accept the wise tutelage, guidance and education from older generations to capacitate them to comprehend, confront and surmount the major obstacles in the natural lifecycle of their development. Coupled with the wise counsel of elders, young African people are brought up under a strict dogma of obeying older generations. But even in the African strata of clear and accepted deference by the youth to the old, it has always been understood inter-generationally that being respected by the youth is not a natural inheritance that comes with old age. Africans of old age had always been immensely clear of what they needed to do cultivate and maintain respect from their younger counterparts.

So what lessons, if there are any, does history have that could help the young leaders of South Africa to comprehend with the perceived contestation of ideological positioning in the contested championing of the articulated aspirations of young South Africans by their elders ?

Here are a few stories of inspired youth leadership:

  1. Amilcar Cabral formed the “African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) in 1956 whilst he was 35 years old and PAIGC under his leadership was going to be a continental well from which there was intellectual crafting of political and military strategies, strategies that partly helped in the final decolonisation of many of the colonised regimes in Africa in that period.
  2. Fidel Castro led the Cuban revolution and in 1959 (and at the age 33) defeated the illegitimate, dictatorial and corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista (who was 58 years old).
  3. Patrice Lumumba led the revolution of the Congolese people against the excesses of their Belgian colonial oppressors, culminating in their liberation in 1960 and Patrice Lumumba being democratically elected its Prime Minister at the age of 34.
  4. President Samora Machel at the age of 36 was already the Commander in Chief of FRELIMO’s armed wing which successfully led and attained the liberation of Mozambique from the colonial Portugal, with Samora Machel eventually becoming Mozambique’s president in 1975 at the age of 42.
  5. Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko who are both internationally recognised as intellectual giants and scholarly leaders and authorities on the interplay between psychology, consciousness and the struggle for liberation. They were respectively aged 35 and 30 when they passed on.
  6. President Jacob Zuma, President Thabo Mbeki and Chris Hani, were all in their 30s when they were elected into the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress in the 1970’s
  7. Meles Zenawi was also 36 years old when he eventually defeated the military junta that was led by the dictatorial Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam, to ultimately become the President of Ethiopia in 1991.

The above are just some of the examples that painstakingly portray the positive and momentous role African youth have played in delivering, restoring or strengthening freedom and progress in their societies. The list is obviously, whilst not exhaustive, positively and linearly biased in its selection and depiction.

The point that needs to be highlighted is not the obviously gallant role that youthful leaders have played in some of history’s most memorable achievements, but rather to question why such responsibilities had fallen to such obviously younger generations, in stark contrasts of the cultural expectation of expected deference by younger generations to older generations especially in the African context.

Robert Pogrund writes in the biography of Robert Sobukwe titled “How can a man die better” about events leading to the funeral of Robert Sobukwe in February 1978. Contextually, one might be reminded that in 1978, the ANC, PAC and the SACP were banned, underground and exiled, Steve Biko had died the previous year and a year before Steve Biko’s death, there were the Soweto uprisings led by young school children. It could be argued that it some respects; there had been a deepening of the internal leadership vacuum in the struggle for liberation inside of South Africa. The death and burial of Robert Sobukwe then could be argued that it had the potential to present another source of despair and deepening hopelessness in the internal mass movement. But back to the events leading to the funeral, Robert Pogrund, who was a close friend of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, together with Helen Suzman were invited to be speakers at the funeral by the family of Sobukwe. But by the morning of the funeral Robert Pogrund got a message that said “The children have taken over and they won’t have Mr Pogrund and Mrs Suzman speaking.” The “children” were youth activists mostly from Port Elizabeth and Soweto. So the question is: What transpires that is so grave that even the funeral of a national icon can be hijacked away from the wishes of the family to the wishes of “children”? What conditions lead to where the leadership of elders is deliberately ignored and overruled to the point where “the children have taken over”?

Now I imagine, the leaders of the African National Congress Youth leaders, as they gather in their thousands, for their upcoming elective conference, would be seized by plethora of vexing questions. These considerations would largely be influenced by a number of pressing intra political/organisational matters. I would imagine also that, external to the organisational matters, amongst other things, the monumental triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality whose impact is disproportionately severe on the youth of South Africa, would get significant attention and proportion of their deliberations.

But I would also think, that given the fact that the ANC Youth League celebrated 70 years of existence in 2014, under the leadership of a National Task Team, would in itself be a point of serious introspection, reflection and refreshing assessment. I would, in my small appreciation, expect these leaders, who play a vital leadership role in the global real estate of our body politic, to ask themselves how their glorious league had got into such a state of organisational being, that the national leaders of the African National Congress were left with no option but to help rebuild its leadership structures from scratch.

The upcoming elective congress of the ANC YL also comes shortly after our movement, the ANC, was just visited by the “CUBAN FIVE”. I would imagine that, in the context of the integral part that international solidarity played in overall offensive against the eventual defeat of the Apartheid system, in the struggle that was led by the African National Congress, the significance of the visit by the “CUBAN FIVE” is not lost to leaders of the ANC Youth league. The broad, impactful and definitive impact of Cuban intervention and assistance in the many wars of liberation in Southern Africa should also illicit some reflection on the part of the leaders of the African National Congress Youth League. Certainly amongst other questions, they should be asking, what role should members and leaders of the ANCYL be playing in advancing total and complete emancipation for all peoples of the world who, unlike us South Africans, have not tasted the sweetness of complete and unfettered emancipation, freedom, dignity and equal opportunity.

Again, we have read that, the conference is going to be seized in part with difficult organisation and political questions, questions of political identity and purpose, of political form and political content, of political meaning and organisational relevance. In this context I thought it could be helpful to remind our leaders in the African National Congress Youth League, of a question that President Samora Machel once asked, in a speech in Zimbabwe in the 1980s : He said “ Aluta Continua” meaning the struggle continues” … then he asked “ Against what must the struggle continue? He answered by saying “the struggle must continue against tribalism, against illiteracy, against ignorance, against exploitation, against superstition, against misery, against hunger, against lack of clothing…. The struggle must continue so that one day we can all be equal.”
Now over three decades after President Samora Machel made his clarification call, that was instructing Africans what they should be fighting for and fighting against, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that the majority of young Africans all over the continent are still in their daily lives, visited by hunger, misery, illiteracy, tribalism, ignorance, let alone the burden of disease and war. As our leaders meet in their elective conference, agonising about the content around which their politics should pivot, they could do well do remember what President Samora Machel said we should struggle for and struggle against.

Our broad Congress Alliance has over the last decade, been forced to deal with a tearing attack on the unity and cohesion of the movement including the unity of our broad alliance partners. If unity had not been central and principal in the organisational and ideological development of the African National Congress over the last 103 years, I somehow doubt that the ANC would have lasted for 103 years. In my mind, the question of organisation unity, centred on unity of purpose, should also be a critical item of robust engagement and contestation by our leaders in their upcoming elective conference. The emergence of many break way parties, both to the left and to the right of the ANC should be a springboard for robust self-examination and intuitive reflection. The youth leaders should be inspired more than others to work to inherit a united and cohesive movement, as opposed to a fractious entity that could have mutated itself many times before they inherit it. However the leaders of the ANC Youth League should imbue themselves with the irrefutable and comforting fact that the ANC and the ANC Youth League both have inbuilt capacity for learning and self-refreshment and self-correction. Both the ANC and the ANCYL would have not lasted for 103 and 71 years respectively, if their politics were not centred on their noble and life-long mission of creating a better life for all South Africans.

In particular, leaders of the ANCYL, as they gather in their upcoming elective conference, reflecting on the sustained attack on our movement by political opponents, especially those who have popularly positioned themselves to the left of our ideological positioning, our leaders in the youth league would be inspired by what Khalil El-Anani said. Khalid said this in a published article entitled “Egyptian Revolution Reconsidered”. He said: “Not every outburst of collective anger and frustration is a revolution. Not every defiance and overthrow of an old regime and its legal edifice is proof of a successful revolutionary act. The sole guarantor of the success of a revolution is society itself. Herein lays the crux of the dilemma: the performer of the revolutionary act (the agent) needs a revolution so that the act and the agent can be brought into harmony, and so that the results are consistent with the beginnings.”

Our leaders in the ANC Youth League should therefore not pre-occupy their attention too much with our political opponents whose brand of politics are inspired by “outbursts of collective anger and frustration” and premised on illogical and unsustainable political economy considerations that play on the emotions of the desperate youth and the indigent of our country. Some of our opponents are self-styled revolutionaries but have no sense of the revolution they are waging.

In summary, in the above narrative we have illustrated a number of points, in order to reflect on the role young leaders have in shaping futures of their societies, in conjunction and sometimes in conflict with the elderly in society who are in the levers of power.

Firstly we denoted that the African story which is littered with countless numbers of youth leaders in Africa and the diaspora who emerged to jettison out of power, elderly leaders who were not championing the genuine aspirations of the masses of African people, or who rose to work with the elderly leaders in pursuit of the noble goals of freedom and progress. This listing of these achievements of young African leaders was to emphasise our conviction, that there isn’t anything amiss with young leader’s agitation for active influence and participation in the overall governance of national affairs. The central thesis of our narrative is that if it wasn’t for young leaders, Africa wouldn’t be where it is today.

Secondly, young leaders in general, but ANC Youth League leaders in particular should be examining closely the role they should be playing in capacitating our country and her people to significantly and urgently overcome the pressing challenges they face. In doing so, it would be unwise to want to pretend that they alone are best poised to provide appropriate and lasting solutions. The collective wisdom and experience of great elderly leaders coupled with the innovative ideas and energetic drive of the youth would be a formidable combination.

Thirdly, ANC Youth League leaders should be acutely sensitive to the enormity of the challenges that face South Africans in general, and the youth in particular, and therefore the urgency required to respond appropriately and in a determined manner. Each and every day left without attending to these pressing issues, allows wider and wider breathing space for our political opponents to opportunistically capture the imagination of our supporters.

Fourthly, the ANC Youth League, should be the bedrock around which the lifetime unity of our broad Congress movement is built and ANC YL leaders should resist the temptation to be swayed into divisive factional pondering activities that serve narrow personal interests as opposed to long term organisational interests.

Lastly the ANC Youth League leaders, must reorient themselves away from the imminently attractive, populist and short termism of being “king makers” but rather aspire to the long, honourable and hard slog of “building castles”. They must do so being mindful of the fact that democracies “must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”

In conclusion, may the upcoming national conference of the ANC Youth League and the coming months thereafter be the pivot from which the denunciation of the cancerous and destructive politics of “Phuma Singene” begin and ends where the politics of our glorious movement are reoriented of to their age-old ethos that said “Umfutho kubantu”.

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