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16/04/2018 10:45 SAST | Updated 16/04/2018 11:01 SAST

'Dear Oros, Thanks To You, The ANCYL Is A Joke'

Open letter to Collen Maine: "You have no interest in the youth of this country, and, in addition, I am convinced that you have no inkling of the awesome responsibility thrust upon you."

Collen Maine at the Nasrec Expo Centre for the ANC national conference. December 14, 2017, in Johannesburg.
Felix Dlangamandla/ Netwerk24/ Getty Images
Collen Maine at the Nasrec Expo Centre for the ANC national conference. December 14, 2017, in Johannesburg.

OPINION

Open letter to Mr Collen Maine and the African National Congress Youth League [ANCYL] Leadership

Dear Mr Maine,

You might note that I chose not to refer to you as a comrade, let alone as president of the ANC Youth League. I will elaborate on this further in this letter.

For the record, I have long suspected (and I doubt that I am the only one) that you have no interest in the youth of this country, and, in addition, I am convinced that you have no inkling of the awesome responsibility thrust upon you. The Youth League used to comprise the best young people in society. Under your leadership, it has become the source of many jokes.

You, in particular, have become synonymous with a famous juice, and most recently the song "Confessions". Come to think of it, to say under your leadership the ANCYL has been horribly diluted would be the perfect metaphor. Fortunately, as Marcus Cicero noted, "history is indeed the witness of the times and the light of truth", and your incapacity is revealed by examining one recent historical event.

For instance, the Fees Must Fall protests must rank as one of the most pivotal examples of youth activism during your term. Instead of commending young people for seeking the fulfilment of the Freedom Charter, you condemned us. Put it this way: you parroted the words of the older generation, calling your own constituency "counter-revolutionary" and praised Comrade Supra [Mahumapelo, North West premier] for your mysterious rise to your position.

As you said: "What you must write when you write a story is that there is one leader who has made me who I am, and his name is Supra Mahumapelo. If you want to call him premier league, it is fine, but he has made me who I am politically" – so, while your constituents sought to fulfil the letter of the Freedom Charter, you were begging for a plate of curry in Saxonwold. I doubt Comrade Supra, the man you so deeply admired, dragged you there kicking and screaming – especially since you literally had more important things to do. Where was your revolutionary consciousness?

Call for an early congress in June and ask the Youth League to relieve you of the awesome responsibility you have treacherously failed to discharge.

And so, it is for this reason that you are simply not worthy of being referred to as a comrade. A comrade is someone who sacrifices their skills and time in order to achieve the collective aspirations of society. Moreover, this is someone who shares in the convictions of that particular collective. This clearly cannot be said of you – in fact, the opposite is true

You stand directly against the youth. As such, even at a conceptual level, you ought not to enter Luthuli House, let alone in the name of the youth.

In some way, I must admit, I think we are deeply indebted to the spirit of Mama Winnie Madikizela- Mandela (as her revolutionary soul rests in power) for sweeping through this nation and unravelling the hypocrites among us masquerading as vanguards of the people. Her passing has exposed a number of things that are severely problematic in our movement.

Foremost among those is the pervasive patriarchy in our movement – even mediocre, uninspiring males like you can lead this glorious movement. I shudder to imagine how society and comrades would have rejected and ejected you if you were female. I mean, your mediocrity is self-evident during this very sad time in the history of the liberation movement.

Reuters Staff / Reuters
African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) leader Collen Maine speaks in an interview, in Johannesburg, South Africa January 9, 2017. Picture taken January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Sisipho Skweyiya

By the way, and I know you would not know this because you are not a youth, there is a poll doing the rounds on whether we should refer to your tribute (or lack thereof) as a remix of Usher's "My Confessions" or the melodic sifila (church hymn) "Diphiri Le Makuntu" (the results are coming soon). Anyway, since you are in the mood for confessing – take it a step further and resign.

Call for an early congress in June, and ask the Youth League to relieve you of the awesome responsibility you have treacherously failed to discharge. I have no doubt that there are many ANCYL members out there waiting for a moment to realign the movement with society. Step aside so that the youth can ensure that membership in the Youth League becomes the highest honour for a young person in post-apartheid South Africa.

This country now more than ever needs an ANCYL that will fearlessly criticise the status quo and formulate answers for the future – not a Youth League that will cuddle between handlers for their security and self-enrichment and preservation. Under your watch, the ANCYL has become like a horribly diluted Oros that leaves a very bad aftertaste.

In honour of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other female revolutionaries we should probably look at the many capable female comrades in our movement to lead us. This should start with the youth.

I (and I am prone to think many others as well) can no longer muster the courage to mention your name in the same sentence as luminaries and former presidents of the ANCYL such as Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Ashby Mda, Jackie Selebi, Peter Mokaba, Lulu Johnson, Malusi Gigaba, Fikile Mbalula and even Julius Malema.

P.S. There is a great deal of masculinity in that list. In honour of Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other female revolutionaries, we should probably look at the many capable female comrades in our movement to lead us. This should start with the youth.

Yours in restoring the people's youth movement

Chrispin Phiri

@PhiriCJ is a member of the African National Congress and the ANCYL and writes in his personal capacity.