When it comes to contentious issues such as how and when to grab land from South African white farmers, and how and when to nationalize mines, the ruling African National Congress’s Youth League (ANCYL) seeks “words of wisdom” from its strategic partner to the north, the ruling party of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
At a National General Council meeting held in a Johannesburg suburb on Thursday, the ANCYL gave the stage to the Youth League of ZANU-PF, which has ruled Zimbabwe since 1981, and has been sharing power, reluctantly, with its main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, since the elections of April 2008.
As the ZANU-PF speakers urged South Africa to copy its example and “take land from the white minority,” it was clear that many within the ANC Youth League, including ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete, were warming up to the idea.
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is on a campaign to drum up support to nationalize the country's mines, but the ANC leadership and government have categorically stated nothing of the sort would happen.
Act 'now or never'
Addressing the conference, ZANU-PF Youth's Secretary for External Affairs, Tongai Kasukuwere, said land grabs in South Africa as well as the nationalization of mines should be conducted "now or never."
Mr. Kasukuwere -- who is brother to Zimbabwe’s Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, whose policy of redistributing land from white Zimbabweans to blacks is blamed for scaring investors away from Zimbabwe and leading to the collapse of its economy -- hogged the limelight at the Youth League meeting for talking tough like President Robert Mugabe.
Right the wrongs of history, ANC told
He called on South Africa’s ruling party to ignore criticism from farmers and opposition political parties about the likely effects of nationalization on the nation’s economy, and to carry on the task of righting the wrongs of history.
"As the new generation of Africa, we must seriously consider making our history by taking what is rightfully ours,” Kasukuwere said. “I am talking about taking land from the white minority in order to correct the past imbalances as well as nationalizing all mines and natural resources of your country.”
"When blacks make millions of dollars, whites call it corruption, but when the whites make the money themselves, they call it investment,” he said. “Imperialists have tendencies of undermining Africans, and we should say to them ‘NO’!"
At this, more than 3,000 delegates erupted into applause.
Kasukuwere said “Zimbabwe was vilified left, right and center” when it embarked on its controversial agrarian reform program in 2000, which left the country experiencing acute food shortages.
Blueprint for success or failure?
But Kasukuwere insisted that today President Mugabe's land reform program was bearing fruit.
"After 10 years of economic hardships we are now beginning to reap the fruits of the land reform,” he said. “If you embark on nationalization of mines, you will definitely reap the results. The imperialists would not leave you alone, but impose sanctions for alleged lawlessness and breakdown of the rule of law."
Fiery ANCYL President Julius Malema said there was no going back on the ANCYL’s demands for the nationalization of mines. He said the nationalization of mines was on top of the ANC agenda in 2012.
"Nationalization of mines is on top of the ANC agenda for 2010,” said Mr. Malema. “We need to also revisit the land reform program if we are to make our people better."
"We carry a responsibility to transfer wealth from the minority to the majority and that is not an easy task. We rightfully became very impatient with those who opposed nationalization of mines,” he said. “We are impatient because it can never be correct that 16 years into democracy, more than 80 percent of the population does not control more than 5 percent of South Africa's wealth. Africans remain in the margins of our economy, despite the fact that this economy is built by their labor.”