ANC youth league's violent, radical rants have no place in a new South Africa
THE youth have historically been the vanguard of change. Violent public protests and riots are often associated with students, young professionals and even teenagers.
But these extremes have become somewhat antiquated. Nowadays militants prefer the peaceful and deliberative avenue for political evolution.
In South Africa, there is a justified history of extremism in protests and riots deriving from the level of militancy required in order to be heard by an insulated apartheid government.
Not many political organisations can boast of their conception and durability as the ANC's Youth League (ANCYL).
To be born out of the coalface of the Republic's racist past and to go on to produce the blazing militants of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo's calibre while surviving that hostile environment required a great deal of resilience.
Those same leaders were educated, respectable and gained massive experience of hardship, which helped them achieve political, economic and social emancipation.
Today, it can be resoundingly stated that the ANCYL's outgoing leadership has not carried on that legacy.
Instead, old-school necessities mutated into misdirected militancy with a childish nature uncharacteristic of the ANCYL heritage.
Violent political demonstrations and radical political rants have no place in the new South Africa.
By their recent behaviour, one would hardly say the Julius Malema-administration is suitable for a democracy desiring modern, liberal and inclusive descriptions.
So why does the ANCYL continue to speak and threaten with its militancy? Did their mothers not teach them that it is not about what you say but how you say it?
The ANCYL needs to realise that strength in any democracy lies in the numbers supporting a particular point of view.
And how better for the incoming leadership to gain strength than by recruiting more support with popular, convincing, and resolute arguments backing up ANCYL views?
Therefore, it is not only necessary but also effective to sculpt the ANCYL's juvenile militant approach into a mature one.
The ANCYL's policies are not completely off the mark with controversial proposals such as the nationalisation of mines, economic transformation and aggressive land reform. They are to be expected of a "youth league".
This has characterised the league as a typical instigator of difficult discussions.
However, the ways in which these proposals have been pursued involved belligerent behaviour.
Singing the song Kill the Boer should not have to be translated into a pre-apartheid understanding by landowners. Speaking out unfavourably against President Jacob Zuma and negatively comparing him to former president Thabo Mbeki does not equal showing the ANC leadership disrespect, while the interests of foreign investors and governments are readily undermined by calling them "neo-colonial forces" and "puppet regimes" respectively.
This is not to say that these statements are entirely out of the question. Rather, the content and style of delivery is concerning.
Malema should not be shocked when called to a disciplinary committee and not be dumbstruck when the opportunity to sufficiently justify himself arises.
Once the ANCYL has introduced ambitious policies into the public domain, the next thing to do is to justify them. This is how the content becomes rational, gathering more support.
This is where the quality and style of one's defence comes in.
The use of juvenile militancy risks alienation of the ANCYL's policy positions. What style should the ANCYL use to ensure its positions gain traction?
Firstly, here is what not to do: insult your opposition; deliberately and repeatedly undermine your leadership; sing about killing a group of people; and appeal to emotion and/or race when defending your actions.
The point is not that these actions are impossible to defend (well, perhaps some), but only if they are used as statements tapering off illustrative and well-constructed arguments.
They should be depicting, for instance, race-based distributive justice as necessary to heal the wounds of past racism.
Secondly, true revolutionaries never fear instigating social change against conservative inertia, but the ability to overcome such an obstacle through respectful engagement is a prerequisite to modern democratic deliberation.
This idea should not overshadow the traditional liveliness associated with "youth leagues" such as those youthful characteristics of vigour to mobilise support.
Until the ANCYL leadership can effectively uphold and justify any of its policies, we can resoundingly repeat that they have failed at moulding the league into a mature and militant youth formation.
Only time will tell if the incoming ANCYL leadership will fix the childish errors of the old and do justice to the ANC's best talent-breeding structure.
- Rademan is a researcher at the Centre for Politics and Research