Take care of the youth; they are the future of South Africa! ‘A lesson from OR Tambo’s message’


This article was co-authored by Doctor Maepa and Jimmy Keketsi. It is as relevant today as it was when they penned it in 2013.

OR Tambo once said:

“A country, a movement, a people, that does not value its youth does not deserve its future”

As we celebrate June 16 today, on the 37th commemoration of the 1976 student uprising; we do so with a deep sense of appreciation for what was achieved on our behalf, by a legion of gallant youth fighters for liberation and independence, who had a motto: ‘Freedom in our life time’ – their battles ushered and yielded a new dawn in our country, a vigorous democratic crusade that started in 1994.

The 1976 generation will always be credited and regarded as the fighting force that faced apartheid head-on at the coalface; these magnanimous and fearless fighters surrendered their youth and many perished as a result. During those dark days, it was NOT fashionable to be part of the struggle and to be called a comrade or a revolutionary – the political environment was dangerous, only the brave and committed survived.

However, the history of the fighting youth in the ANC does not start in 1976, it was first the generation of the 1944 ANCYL (50 years earlier – before democracy in 1994) under the leadership of Anton Lambede (who became the League’s first President), Nelson Mandela, Ashby Mda, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo who were joined by Duma Nokwe, Barbara Masekela, Ida Mtwa, Lillian Ngoyi, James Njongweni, William Nkomo and Dan Tloome and others, that started a radical revolution in the ANC.

These revolutionary heroes and heroines of our struggle changed the character of the ANC from a mere passive resistance movement, to a guerilla movement for liberation – with the formation of Umkhonto weSizwe on 16 December 1961. Many other generations of youth followed in their footsteps to join the ranks and in 1967 at the Wankie Campaign, our movement got engaged in what was termed ‘The ANC’s first armed military operation: The Luthuli Detachment’ with Chris Hani as the group`s Commissar – at the age of 25 years.

But the real turn of events intensified after the 1976 student uprising, when young people decided to vigorously reject ‘bantu education’ and face apartheid system head-on at the coalface. Immediately after the student uprising, hundreds and thousands of young activists, declared that ‘enough is enough’ – freedom or death. Many left their homes and went to exile to get military training in ANC Umkhonto weSizwe camps in countries Lusaka, Tanzania, Angola, Swaziland, Uganda and many other places in Africa and abroad.

Key young people in the 1976 uprising include among others Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotso Seatlholo, Murphy Morobe, Seth Mazibuko, Elias “Roller” Masinga, Billy Masetlha, Zweli Sizani (veteran MK soldier and my colleague at the ANC Gauteng Provincial office), Super Moloi, Daniel Sechaba Montsitsi, Trofomo Sono, Sibongile Mthembu Mkhabela, Titi Mthenjane, Thabo Ndabeni, Jefferson Lengene Paul Langa, Hector Pieterson, Mbuyisa Makhubu (the comrade carrying Hector Pieterson in the famous picture), Hastings Ndlovu, Antoinette Sithole (lady seen with Mbuyisa and Hector Pieterson) and many more.

In the ANC discussion document titled ‘Role and Place of the Youth in Society, the ANC and the Struggle’. The ANC clarifies the role of the youth in its ranks, it says:
‘The youth does not act as a separate organism but as a reliable reserve and shock force of the movement. Since the growth of the movement lies in the recruitment of new forces, mostly young, the youth section should act as a nursery of the revolutionary upbringing of those who come into the movement. It should provide the material requirements for the fulfillment of a cadre policy designed to meet all the demands of our struggle’.

Therefore, the link between the old and the new in the ANC is a necessary condition for us to meet the demands of our struggle for ‘Economic freedom in our life time’. It is therefore important to articulate the Ten (10) key factors, as we move towards rebuilding and renewing the ANCYL. These are key factors that will provide the material requirements for the fulfillment of a cadre policy designed to meet all the demands of youth struggles, in the 21st century:

– to undergo ideological political education, personal academic training and technical skills development and to educate the youth about genuine revolutionary spirit;
– to help the ANC achieve its historic mission and strategic objectives by imparting to the youth league, a rigorous political consciousness, ANC’s character and nature of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) for a National Democratic Society (NDS);
– to help the ANC in building a kind of society as visualized in the Freedom Charter;
– to build the ANC as an instrument for social transformation in society;
– to foster and defend the UNITY of the ANC, its policy positions and revolutionary morality;
– to build a United, Non-racial and Non-sexist democratic South Africa
– to fight poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment;
– to be active and partner with communities; and to support community based projects and programmes;
– to live by the ANC values and help the ANC in its modernization programme;
– to work hard, remain disciplined and be a good example to other fellow Cadres in and outside the movement.

Generally in life, young people need those who come before them (elders) to help them propel forward – in particular the working class core and community leaders in general. Over time, life and human experience has taught us that students in particular and young people in general are helpless without the support of their parents and politically they are found wanting without proper nurturing by the working class (in Sepedi they say: ”mahlaku a maswa a ema ka mahlaku a matala”).

ANC’s political and revolutionary experience shows that young people in most instances turn to the working masses if they have to achieve results. This is because it is only in alliance with and by the working class that students and youth can display their revolutionary initiative to the full – the 1980’s COSAS, SAYCO, COSATU and UDF (Mass Democratic Movement – MDM) remains a perfect example in this regard. Actions by students and youth have to be coordinated with political action by the working class.

It is a critical consideration for the ANC to make sure that it integrates the youth in the political and other social activities including its work in governance, because the future of any movement or nation depends on the youth; a politically conscious youth equals to a strong and conscious movement and nation. When the ANC fuses the youth in their work, they are unconsciously grooming people and citizens who are ultimately going to ensure that the genuine aspirations of the people are fully realized.

The grooming of young cadres must be a conscious effort on the part of the revolutionary movement, the ANC. As it has been a culture for many years, the ANC must continue taking bold decisions in giving heavy responsibilities to the youth, and mentor them along the way; because the future is in their hands.

In the end, our revolutionary glorious movement of the people the ANC, the alliance it leads and its government must take care of the youth because they are the future of South Africa. Remember what OR Tambo said:

“A country, a movement, a people, that does not value its youth does not deserve its future”

Allow me to render a revolutionary song of yesteryear’s – which was popularized by the fighting youth of our country, when the 1976 generation left home to the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe military camps in foreign countries, and it goes:

Siphuma sangena kwamany’amazwe
Lapho kungazi khon’ubaba nomama
Silwel’inkululeko Sithi salani, Salan’ekhaya

(Our parents we will leave behind – We will tread in foreign lands, – Where our fathers and mothers never stepped – Chasing the freedom dream – We bid you well, we bid you well – At home stay well)


Show More

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: