Over the past few months, I have been privileged to be part of the leadership of the ANC Youth League that has been electioneering for the ANC in the Western Cape.
It has been a journey that took us into dwellings that were in informal settlements, townships, rural areas and even middle-class suburbs.
Many of these dwellings were not what one would traditionally call a home. But to its occupants they were home, a place one could view as one’s own space, even if at times there was not a crumb of food, electricity or running water.
The journey through dwellings in the Western Cape to meet young people, view their circumstances, and talk with them about why it was important to register and vote for the ANC on May 8 has been a voyage of discovery.
It was a journey into the hearts and minds of the segment that makes up the biggest part of the South African population: the youth – my constituency, the young ones who one day will be viewed as the older generation.
I was struck by the hunger burning in their eyes. It was not a hunger that said “gimme gimme because I’m entitled to it”. It also was not a hunger that was screaming loudly “we want handouts because the country owes us”.
No, it was a hunger for integrity, self-respect, education and the chance to walk tall in this new South Africa. The youth with whom I had had soul-searching discussions were not part of those who go about bringing educational institutions to a standstill by destroying buildings or blocking access to educational institutions.
The young people I spoke to knew the value of education and were conversant with or open to discussing what drove those young rebels with a cause, such as Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, to add fire to the liberation struggle and form the ANC Youth League.
The example of these firebrands and the story of how they rejuvenated the ANC 75 years ago was appealing. Looking back it was their intervention that ended with Nelson Mandela taking office as the first black president of South Africa.
Today, South Africa is again looking to its youth for inspiration. But a distinction must be drawn between the various youth formations attached to political parties. As the ANC Youth League, we are the true heirs of Lembede, Sisulu, Tambo and Mandela. We carry the hopes, fears and aspirations of our people. We are different from the youth that hang on the words and politics of the divisive Julius Malema and the whinging Mmusi Maimane.
In the Western Cape, the ANC Youth League, aware of the big shoes that we have to fill, is campaigning for a united province, where we will not refer to fellow citizens as refugees, as Helen Zille once did. We are earnest about tackling crime, making our schools safe sites of learning and boosting the participation of youth in business. Youth employment and participation in sport are also important to us.
So, too, is our support for the leader of the ANC and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. He is our leader and one of the most respected presidents in the history of our glorious movement, South Africa and the globe.
However, he faces a multitude of challenges in steering the ANC in the right direction and also taking the country out of treacherous waters. In May, he’ll be asking the electorate for a mandate for the ANC to govern for another five years. We are behind President Ramaphosa in seeking this mandate. We have his back.
It’s in our interest that South Africa becomes a successful democracy that will fill all of us with hope, confidence and excitement about the future. If we want to continue the recovery we cannot be uninvolved when it comes to politics and elections. Our future is on the line and, like 1944, the Youth League is ready to serve South Africa.
The situation, as we all know, is critical. When President Ramaphosa launched the ANC Election Manifesto he said that we live in a country where, by the broader definition, over nine million South Africans are unemployed. Disturbing for us is that out of every 10 young South Africans, four are neither in employment nor in education and training.
This is a situation that mischief-making politicians are all too willing to exploit. No one could have said it better than the president when he remarked: “This is a tragedy of vast proportions, a direct challenge to the promise of our democratic constitution and the cause of great hardship and despair.”
We have launched our elections manifesto. At the core of our electioneering is a resolve to help the ANC win a decisive majority as called for by President Ramaphosa.
Such a win will give him the mandate to introduce changes that only the ANC can, accelerate the fight against corruption, build a developmental state that puts people first and that also has dedicated public servants who work diligently to improve the lives of the people.
As youth leaders, we commit ourselves to support a skills revolution in South Africa. We applaud the president’s undertaking to open up the doors of learning to all to equip young South Africans for the world of tomorrow. We also praise plans to expand fee-free education for students from poor and working-class backgrounds to cover both first- and second-year students.
The Youth League agrees that a priority for our country is the rights of women and ending discrimination and preventing violence against women and girls. We also call on all South Africans to work together to end gender-based violence and the patriarchal practices that give rise to it.
During my engagements with young people in the Western Cape, I have been made aware, over and over again, that our youth are disgruntled with the DA and want to see the change in the Western Cape.
But anger alone will not bring in the New Dawn in our province. Voting for the ANC will. That is why we are campaigning and urging all young people to vote for the change that President Ramaphosa is promising.
- Muhammad Khalid Sayed is the Western Cape Provincial Chairperson of the ANC Youth League
OPINION: Muhammad Khalid Sayed