28 July 2013, Kimberly, Northern Cape
National Chairperson of the SACP, Cde Senzeni Zokwana,
National Chairperson of the YCL, Cde Yershen Pillay,
National Secretary of the YCL, Cde Buti Manamela,
Members of the YCL National Committee,
Second Deputy President of COSATU, Cde Zingiswa Losi,
Leadership of the Progressive Youth Alliance,
Comrades Delegates to this National Council,
I greet you all on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress.
It gives me great pleasure to address this meeting which sat, among other things, to assess the progress made over the past two and half years since your last national conference in 2010.
You performed this task diligently over the past few days anddetermined what has to be done in order to make the YCL a stronger organisation.
This council sat under the theme, “Youth for Socialism: Work, Health and Education”.
This is a profound theme because the Young Communist League is historically charged with the immense responsibility to conscientize the youth about the plight of the working class and therefore the struggle for socialism.
This theme is also important because it speaks directly to some of the key priority areas for this term of office as set out by our movement in the 2009 manifesto.
Let me hasten to report to this council that we are making progress in the priorities you have singled out.
We have considerably increased access to public education and health services and are continuously working to improve the quality thereof.
On the work front, although some progress has been made, our efforts continue to be militated against by the effects of the global capitalist system crisis. I will speak further on these points later on.
Marxist literature has long taught us that capitalism is by its nature a crisis ridden system.
It is embedded with antagonistic contradictions primarily between the capitalists and the working class, and secondly between the productive forces and the mode of production.
So states the Preamble to the Manifesto of the Communist Party;
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
“In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
“The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
“Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms.
“Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat’’.
Thus the theme “Youth for Socialism” charges you with the responsibility to become revolutionary young men and women who can bring about fundamental change in our country informed by this rich Marxist-Leninist theory.
You should therefore emerge out of this council as healthy minds in healthy bodies, ready to take forward the fundamental transformation of society.
Your task as young communists is to learn and understand the nature and character of the society in which we live.
You have to know that not everything is as it seems.
Young communists must always appreciate that appearance is not always consistent with reality.
For example, singing revolutionary songs and shouting revolutionary slogans from roof tops does not necessarily mean that one is revolutionary.
Beyond this, you must understand that nothing is static buteverything is in a constant state of motion and change.
Our movement as a whole is no exception to this rule.
The material conditions under which we pursue the struggle for freedom, justice and equality always lead to both quantitative and qualitative changes in the character of our movement.
It is therefore important to understand this in order to appreciate why the movement takes the direction it takes at any given time.
This dialectical method of reasoning suggests that even in our social existence, contradictions are necessary for a movement forward. But, it is always important to understand the nature of contradictions because at times the contradictions are antagonistic, and at times they are constructive; at times the contradictions may be more complex than they appear to be.
This means that to communists the unpacking or analyses of the contradictions may need deeper scientific politics for them to be clearly understood at any given time.
This then leads me to the question I often ask all communists as to what is science.
Whilst it is absolutely important to understand this theory of the revolution, young communists must guard against being deeply immersed in heavy theory and big concepts without linking these to any social context.
In other words, you must avoid becoming what Marx characterized as “armchair revolutionaries”.
You must strive to be in touch with the people at all material times. You must strive to become the Marxist revolutionary Lenin had in mind when he wrote in 1918 that:
“a revolutionary Marxist is distinguished by his ability and willingness to preach to the still ignorant masses the necessity of the approaching revolution, to prove that it is inevitable, to explain its advantage to the people, and to prepare the proletariat and all the toiling and exploited masses for it”.
This represents the optimum mix of theory and practice which any communist must seek to achieve.
If you successfully balance the two, you would have done justice to the cause for socialism.
A true young communist must always be grounded in the daily struggles of the people and must be concerned with nothing else but the betterment of our people`s lives.
Comrades and friends,
Our society is bedevilled by the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Your task as young communists is to see these challenges in their connection and not as separate from one another.
As scholars of Marxism-Leninism and consistent with the theory of dialectical and historical materialism, you ought to be imbued with a materialistic conception of history in order to understand where these challenges come from.
In the battlefield of ideas, you must ruthlessly contest any suggestion that these challenges are naturally ordained or that they are an expression of divine will.
We can only succeed in resolving these challenges when all our people appreciate that they are the results of human action and must be resolved through conscious human action.
Two thirds of South Africans are under the age of 15. This has made it imperative for the ANC to put young people first in its execution of government programmes including education and health.
Your choice of health is important as the ANC and the Alliance are determined to ensure a successful implementation of the National Health Insurance which will extend good quality health care to all our people and not just the rich and well off.
We are happy that you chose health as a theme as well given the strides that this country has made in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The rate of new infections has decreased from 1.4% to 0.8% in the 15-24 age group. We have about 3000 public health facilities offering antiretroviral treatment compared to 495 in January 2010.
We have more than 1.7 million South Africans on antiretroviral treatment which has improved life expectancy dramatically. Our people are living longer and are living healthier lives with HIV.
Some have even gone back to work due to the availability of treatment.
One of our greatest success stories is the remarkable 50% reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV between 2008 and 2011.
As a result of effective policies we have increased lifeexpectancy of South Africans. In 2011 life expectancy at birth was estimated at 54,9 years from the 52,1 of 2001 for males, and 59,1 years for females from the 57.8 of 2001. This increase is expected to grow.
Remarkably, more than 20 million people have to date been tested for HIV through the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign, which was launched publicly by the President of the Republic in April 2010.
The high number of people who are taking the HIV test indicates that the stigma around the disease is being eradicated which will assist prevention efforts.
The rate of new HIV infections looks set to decline over the coming years. This success will be sustained and taken forward if you as young people assist us by taking the HIV prevention campaigns forward in your engagements with young people. We must not become complacent, this is an ongoing battle.
With regards to education, the ANC continues to open the doors of culture and learning.
We are most encouraged by the demand for education by our young people. Any nation with a young population that demands access to education such as ours has good reason to be optimistic about the future.
You give us hope that South Africa will be a much better place than it is now, once all the investment in education by the ANC Alliance begins to bear fruit.
In the last decade we have witnessed growth of over 50% in the number of enrolments in higher education institutions.
Numbers moved from six hundred and three thousand (603 000) students enrolled in 2001 to nine hundred and thirty five thousand (935 000) in 2012.
The National Development Plan envisages an increase in higher education enrolments from 17.9 percent in 2012 to 25 percent by 2030.
In response to the hunger for education, we are establishing two brand new universities, Sol Plaatje University here in Kimberley and the University of Mpumalanga in Nelspruit.
Our target is to grow each university over a 10-year development period to accommodate fifteen thousand (15 000) full time equivalent students at the main campus in Nelspruit for the University of Mpumalanga and five thousand (5 000) students at the main campus in Kimberley for Sol Plaatje University.
Sol Plaatje University will be established initially on the main campus, but it is envisaged that it may expand further, as a multi-campus university in the future.
The University of Mpumalanga will start its life as a multi-campus institution with two campuses, one in Nelspruit and one in Siyabuswa.
The planned start in 2014 will accommodate a modest initial intake of one hundred and fifty students at Sol Plaatje and one hundred and forty in Mpumalanga.
Given the rich heritage of Kimberley and the Northern Cape in general, it is envisaged that Sol Plaatje will specialise in heritage studies, including interconnected academic fields such as museum management, archaeology, indigenous languages, and restoration architecture.
Mpumalanga University will specialise in agriculture and biodiversity, linking into food security, natural resource management, nature conservation, plant and animal sciences, forestry and wood sciences, technology as well as wild life management. These represent only the initial ideas which will be enriched by the newly-appointed interim councils.
We are also investing further in vocational training through the establishment of 12 new Further Education and Training Colleges across the country in underserviced areas.
Our campaign to promote FET colleges has borne fruit. Student enrolments at FET colleges have increased by 90 percent, from three hundred and forty five thousand five hundred and sixty six (345 566) in 2009 to six hundred and fifty seven thousand six hundred and ninety (657 690) in 2012.
We are also pleased with progress made in expanding access to education for children of the poor and the working class.
Investment in FET college bursaries has increased from 318 million rand in 2010, benefitting sixty one thousand seven hundred and three (61 703) students, to one point nine billion rand (R1.9 billion) in 2013, targeting two hundred and twenty two thousand, eight hundred and seventeen (222 817) financially needy students.
Funding for NSFAS student loans at Universities has increased from 2.2 billion rand (R2,2 billion) in 2010 benefitting one hundred and forty eight thousand three hundred and eighty seven (148 387) students to R3,6 billion rand in 2013, targeting two hundred and ten thousand (210 000) students.
We know that job creation and jobs for the youth is a very serious matter.
We reiterate our call to the private sector to open up spaces for internships and learnerships for the youth from both universities and FET colleges.
A landmark National Youth Accord was signed in April by government, business, labour and youth organisations, which brings us all together to respond to the crisis of youth unemployment.
The implementation of this Accord by all of us will take the country far in offering meaningful economic participation opportunities for our youth.
The National Youth Development Agency will assist in taking this important work forward.
We are pleased that the NYDA is restructuring and refocusing itself on the education and empowerment of young people and we stand ready as the ANC to provide support.
Comrades Young Communists,
The success of the National Democratic Revolution depends on a conscious and active citizenry because the National Democratic Society is a conscious construct, dependent on conscious action by politically advanced sections of society.
Young communists represent these politically advanced sections of society. You dare not fail on this mission.
You must continue to play your role of conscientizing young people about the revolution and its objectives.
However, you cannot do this alone. You need to be united with all other components of the Progressive Youth Alliance in this mission.
The ANC Youth League, SASCO and COSAS are your allies by birth, with whom you are infinitely bound by your common belief in the Freedom Charter and your shared commitment to the National Democratic Revolution.
You must continue to work for the maximum unity of the Progressive Youth Alliance.
You must never allow yourselves to be caught up in territorial wars against any Progressive Youth Alliance structure particularly in institutions of higher learning as recent history has shown.
You have a far greater responsibility to society than to engage in turf wars.
Let me conclude by reminding this council that next year will mark the 20th anniversary of our democratic breakthrough.
We will also be having the 5th democratic general elections.
The ANC, the Alliance and the Mass Democratic Movement as a whole will once again have to mobilise the millions of our people to go and defend the gains of this hard won democracy at the polls.
We must prove to our people in word and in action that the ANC remains the only organisation capable of mobilising the broadest strata of society for fundamental social transformation.
Needless to say, in order to retain an overwhelming majority, we need maximum unity of purpose within the ANC and amongst Alliance partners demonstrated by many voices but one message.
Twenty years of democracy have changed the face of our country, and the last five years have pushed that change forward.
South Africa has done extremely well in a short space of time. Working together since the dawn of democracy we have made South Africa a better and fairer place.
We have built more than two million homes. Water and electricity, quality education and better health care are reaching millions more people.
We have created more jobs, provided social grants to the poor without discrimination, and created new opportunities.
The South African economy has expanded by 83 per cent over the past 19 years. There is a lot more that we will be sharing with our people as we go around reporting back directly to communities.
We know that our youth will be part of these report back sessions, in which we will also gain from the wisdom of our people regarding what we should do better going forward.
Comrades, congratulations on a successful national council. There is a lot of work ahead of you. We wish the YCL continuing success in all your programmes.
Thank you very much.