By Tiisetso Makhele
In his article; ‘On Motjha_Palong, generational mix and the correctness of the autonomy of the ANC Youth League’, Sizwe Zingitwa, writing in response to a written submission by Kgosto Morapela on a similar topic, says; “Generational Mix appealed to the consciousness of the elders to include the younger ones but Motjha_Palong is rather more radical and militant. It commands the Youth to contest! It emulates the spirit of the founding generation of the Congress Youth League who were tired of begging for space to participate in the revolution”. The above is a basis for this input, and
Motjha-Palong, which is Sesotho for ‘youth on the pole’, seeks to call for the inclusion of youth in elected positions in the party and the state, at least in the context of the literature I have gone throu. It is a campaign initiated by young people in the Free State province who are aligned to what is referred to as the Progressive Youth Alliance (ANC Youth League, SASCO, Young Communist League, COSAS, etc.). Whilst it started like a miniature smoke, Motjha-Palong has spread like a raging fire and has caught the attention of all and sundry. It has even appealed to those who are outside of active politics, and in faraway provinces.
The anatomy of the South African youth
According to StatsSA’s 2020 mid-year population estimates, the median age of South Africa’s population is 27, meaning that South Africa is generally a young nation. Out of the country’s population of 59.6 million, a staggering 20.7 million, or 34.7% comprise of youth between the ages of 15 and 34.
Despite being the majority, the youth in South Africa is the most excluded in terms of economic and employment opportunities. Whilst the South African unemployment rate stands at 28.5%, the rate of unemployment amongst individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 is 74%. This rate has seen a staggering increase of 35% from 55% in 2019. This shows that the plight of youth, at least in the labour market, is not only catastrophic, but is worsening. It is common knowledge that employment income is the primary buffer against poverty, and young people, especially young blacks, are the most vulnerable to poverty and destitution.
Statistics South Africa further reported that between 2018 and 2019, the youth graduate unemployment rate increased by 37% from 19% to 31%. This reality further injects hopelessness amongst South African youth, and their frustrations are indeed justified.
The limitations of the generational mix narrative
In an attempt to address the challenge of youth exclusion both in the party and the state, the ANC and the broader Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) formations crafted what became known as ‘generational mix concept’. The above anatomy of youth, as well as the extent of youth participation in the echelons of power, both in the party and the state, is but evidentiary proof that this concept did not achieve its intended goals.
Firstly, the absence of a clear blueprint or discussion document led to different interpretations of this noble concept. While others argued that generational mix referred to the integration of people younger than 36 years in the echelons of power, others felt that it was about people who participated in the struggle as part of a particular generation, and that the concept was not based on age.
Secondly, the concept was easily misused by comrades who handpicked some young people in order to entrench their hold onto power. It is therefore not surprising that young people, especially those below 36 years of age, felt the need for a more radical, potent and expressive campaign.
Perspectives on Motjha-Palong and its usefulness in the revolution
Having read the discussion document on Motjha-Palong, and also having interacted with young people advocating for this campaign, I have no doubt that this is a noble political, social and economic pilgrimage. The above appalling statistics further justifies the frustrations and impatience of young people in the Free State and elsewhere in the country.
It is a fact that young people know and understand their challenge more than all of us. They live the challenges raised above, and many more. To them, these are not just statistics, but reality. Young people therefore need no permission from any of us on the path to take. I am also glad that, despite this fact, young people are also willing to be engaged on this concept. This is a display of revolutionary character. No concept or idea is beyond engagement,
I only hope that this concept will benefit the youth as a whole, and not just a few individuals, as it would have betrayed the goal. I also hope that its beneficiaries, like those who emerge as councillors and MECs, will not rest in their slumber once elected, but will continue the struggle for youth empowerment. Gravy is dangerously hypnotic. I have witnessed people metamorphose from militant, disciplined cadres into slay queens and kings just after accessing gravy.
Lastly, I hope that the Motjha-Palong campaign will not only be limited to the party and the state. Youth are not only excluded in the state, but everywhere; in the economy and socially. The main goals of this concept should be broadened to include, amongst others, access by youth to the land, participation by youth to the mainstream economy, fairer justice system, stability and overall development.
The ANC, as leader of society, must have a welcoming attitude towards concepts like this one, and move speedily to integrate them in its strategies and tactics. The youth are the motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution and the ANC, in particular, must be ashamed that the youth have not benefitted from the emergence of democratic rule in South Africa. The ANC must ensure that youth are part of all echelons of the South African society.
Makhele is a public sector Economist and an African Marxist. He writes in his personal capacity
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