South Africa’s youth need to show they are capable of running the country before they can take control, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
Speaking at a Youth Month rally in Durban’s Kings Park Rugby Stadium, Zuma referred to African National Congress Youth League leader Collen Maine’s call for the ANC’s old guard to stand aside and let the youth take control.
Zuma said the youth had to have the ANC’s values imbued in them and should be the “brains trust” of the party. “If you say the old ones must give way, you must prove that you are now armed with these things [the values of the ANC]. It is only when you are armed when we shall give way.”
In a clear reference to Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema – a former ANC youth league leader who was expelled from the party – Zuma laughingly said: “You must know we have a recent experience of a man who was said to be dynamic in the ANC. Today he is the president of some organisation I don’t know. Imagine if we gave that man a chance to lead.”
The youth were not being denied leadership positions within the ANC, but they had to gain the skills necessary to run the party. Youth league leaders had a chance to prove their leadership skills by bringing an end to the protests among the youth and promoting stability and order.
“These are areas for you to demonstrate your leadership and your readiness to run the country,” he said.
Speaking at the rally earlier, Maine listed a host of youth demands, including free education. “Only young leaders can accede and implement these demands,” he said.
Young people should step out of the shadows of the older generations and take control of their destiny. “They have waited too long [for these demands to be met]. Leaders of the youth league must jump out of the pockets of old people.”
Maine said it was a fallacy to believe that an impoverished person who struggled to pay annual school fees of R250 a year could afford to pay university registration fees of more than R4000. The youth also wanted a state-owned bank and a rapid resolution of the land question.
The youth also demanded jobs, and with education, the requirement that experience was needed to get a job should not be allowed, he said.
Zuma received a rapturous welcome from the crowd of about 12,000 when he arrived in the stadium and walked around the field waving to supporters. Earlier on Saturday, Zuma unveiled an August 3 municipal elections countdown clock at the ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial headquarters in Durban.