n Journal for Contemporary History - The African National Congress Youth League's (ANCYL's) role as the "kingmaker" : a moment of post-Polokwane blues?

Volume 34, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, the impact of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has been involved, and in other instances, strongly instrumental in shaping the thinking and approach of the African National Congress (ANC). Although the ANCYL had made some headlines before the ANC's (Polokwane) Limpopo Conference of December 2007, it may be argued that throughout the history of the liberation struggle and defiance, the league was instrumental in giving direction to the mother body, namely, the ANC. Its impact was countrywide, with various degrees of influence in almost all spheres of the ANC's government. The ANCYL intended to play a major role in the election of the ANC's leadership and its influence proved important in the previous ANC conferences. It was therefore not surprising that it took the centre stage before the Limpopo Conference in influencing the proceedings as to who becomes the President of the ANC. The ANCYL's rise to significance was a phenomenon dating largely from the Mbeki era. It was during that era that the organisation felt sidelined.

Without doubt, the history of the ANCYL as the "kingmaker" within the ANC is clouded in the mystique of liberation discourse. On many occasions, the ANCYL's history was credited with acts of heroism, advancing platforms of open debates and the implementation of powerful mass-based strategies of resistance. The "kingmaker" role of the ANCYL to a certain extent defines its identity as being different from the ANC as the mother body. Over the years, the ANCYL has pronounced that the ANC is rich with leaders of particular qualities and competencies from whom it selects a "king".

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