The ANCYL National Conference: A Test of Meritocracy or Moneyocracy?

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By: Lebona Lekoena

As the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) braces for its national conference this coming weekend, the question on many lips is, will the delegates elect leadership based on capabilities or will the depth of a candidate’s pockets sway the vote?

This question is not new; it’s a recurring concern in the political landscape not just in South Africa, but globally. The issue of money versus merit, wealth versus capability, has been a thorny one, undermining the very ideals of democracy and equality. The ANCYL, as the political nursery of future leadership, is not exempt from this debate.

Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the financial capacity of a candidate can play a significant role in the electoral process. Money fuels campaigns, ensuring candidates can reach out to their constituencies, articulate their policies, and stake their claim to leadership. Yet, when the balance tips and wealth becomes the primary determinant of leadership, we stray from the path of democracy into the realm of plutocracy.

In the past, the ANCYL has been accused of leaning towards this unsettling trend, with allegations of “money politics,” where those with substantial financial resources edge out potentially more qualified but less affluent contenders. These accusations have, in many instances, overshadowed the league’s noble objectives of fostering youth participation in politics and nurturing future leaders.

But should we allow these past instances to set the tone for the upcoming conference? The ANCYL, as the youth wing of the ruling party, has a golden opportunity to demonstrate that it is above money politics.

The delegates, who bear the responsibility of selecting leaders, can set a precedent by voting for candidates based on their leadership skills, their understanding of the issues affecting the youth, and their vision for the future of the ANCYL and South Africa at large.

The idealism of youth is often seen as a liability, but in this case, it can be a strength.

Young people are generally more open to change, more willing to challenge the status quo, and less likely to be swayed by financial inducements.

The delegates at the ANCYL conference are young, and they have the power to redefine the political narrative by putting merit over money.

Equally important is the need for transparency in the electoral process. The delegates should not only vote based on merit but also demand accountability from the candidates. The process must be free from the taint of financial influence, with clear and visible consequences for any breaches of this principle.

We must also consider the demographic that the ANCYL represents. The South African youth are grappling with a slew of issues, including high unemployment rates, limited access to quality education, and systemic inequality. They need leaders who understand their struggles, leaders who have the skills and the will to effect change, not those who merely have the financial means to secure a leadership position.

However, it is not enough to peg our hopes on the delegates alone. The candidates themselves have a role to play. They should prioritize their qualifications, their vision, and their commitment to the youth over their financial prowess. They need to prove to the delegates and to the wider public that they are more than just their bank accounts.

The upcoming ANCYL national conference is not just an event; it is a statement. It is a chance for the ANCYL to show the world that it is not a breeding ground for money politics.

In conclusion, the ANCYL national conference is a litmus test for the league and its delegates. Will they uphold the principles of meritocracy or will they capitulate to the allure of moneyocracy? The answer lies in their hands. The youth of South Africa, who are looking up to them for leadership, direction, and representation, are waiting keenly for their verdict. Let’s hope they choose wisely and set a precedent that will echo positively through the corridors of power for generations to come.

Lebona Lekoena is the Chairperson of Free State Publishers and Editors Forum, writes in his own personal capacity.


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