17 May 2021 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Supplied
Rebone Tau’s new book, The Rise and Fall of the ANC Youth League, provides an account of the inner doings and destruction of a once dominant youth movement.

It is not an explosive book with damning revelations, but The Rise and Fall of the ANC Youth League by Rebone Tau, a former member of the ANC Youth League's National Task Team, provides an insider perspective on this once dominant youth movement.  

The University of the Free State (UFS), together with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southern Africa, hosted a discussion with Prof Chitja Twala, Vice-Dean: Faculty of the Humanities, on 10 May 2021. The book launch coincided with UFS Africa Month commemorations

The publication of the book falls within a period in which the African National Congress (ANC) finds itself in the midst of ongoing leadership controversy.  Prof Twala, an expert on liberation movements in Africa, said that the book is in essence a historical account of the ANCYL. “It is important that it comes now as the ANC is in a deep leadership crisis,” he said. Prof Hussein Solomon, Academic Head of the Department of Political Studies and Governance, also praised the publication of the book, saying that “there is much talk about decolonisation, and it is important to have young black writers like Rebone Tau to further the decolonisation agenda”.

Factionalism left Youth League in ruins 

“The Youth League chose to support Zuma during his arms deal and corruption court proceedings. Zuma was implicated in the arms deal and other corruption charges at the time. A new culture emerged after the Mangaung Congress in 2012.  “It was around this time that the opulence in the Youth League started surfacing – the branded clothing and sports cars,” Tau said.  

In 2019, the Youth League was dissolved because it failed to fulfil its role. Tau points out that the Youth League became more focused on internal factionalism and the materialism of the leadership caused it to fall out of favour with the youth. “The current Youth League has no structure, it has no mandate, and basically no agenda,” Tau said.

For the ANCYL, it is a case of still clinging to its former self in the hope of reviving itself. This book is appreciated as it provides an account that is not publicly available. Tau’s final remarks were ؘ– “for the ANC to survive, it needs the Youth League.”

Glorious history of ANCYL

The book looks at the founding of the ANCYL, formed in 1949, and chronicles the movement from its infancy and unbanning to its literal dispossession through exile and the current manifestation of the once dominant movement. “The ANCYL looked at the character of the ANC and seek to involve more young people on the ground to join in the liberation struggle,” Tau said. 

The Youth League has brought new ideas to the fore, influencing the programme of action that the ANC is following. “The ANCYL was pivotal in moving the ANC’s resolutions to include other demographical groups.  The youth voice was a force within the ANC,” Tau said. 


Listen to the recording of the discussion here:

Book launch:The Rise and Fall of ANC Youth Leage

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