The ANC Youth League — 2013

By Clive Glaser

“Glaser shows that while the impact of the Youth League has ebbed and flowed, black South Africa youth have shaped the nation's politics in fundamental ways. Authoritative, streamlined, and highly readable, this book deserves a wide readership.”

African Studies Quarterly

“As Clive Glaser notes in his nuanced and lively account, the [ANC] Youth League have, at certain times, played a pivotal role in shaping policy in its parent organisation. For Glaser, the rise of the YL needs to be seen in the context of the broader political and economic landscape of industrialisation and urbanisation, when ‘the townships of Johannesburg became an extraordinary melting pot of young, educated Africans’…This book is sure to become required reading for students and scholars of youth politics in South Africa and the continent more widely.”

Kate Law — Journal of African History

This brilliant little book tells the story of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League from its origins in the 1940s to the present and the controversies over Julius Malema and his influence in contemporary youth politics. Glaser analyzes the ideology and tactics of its founders, some of whom (notably Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo) later became iconic figures in South African history as well as inspirational figures such as A. P. Mda (father of author Zakes Mda) and Anton Lembede. It shows how the early Youth League gave birth not only to the modern ANC but also to its rival, the Pan Africanist Congress. Dormant for many years, the Youth League reemerged in the transition era under the leadership of Peter Mokaba — infused with the tradition of the militant youth politics of the 1980s. Throughout its history the Youth League has tried to “dynamize” and criticize the ANC from within, while remaining devoted to the mother body and struggling to find a balance between loyalty and rebellion.


Clive Glaser lectures in History at Witwatersrand University, South Africa. He has published widely on the history of youth politics, youth culture, crime and sexuality in South Africa. He is the author of Bo-Tsotsi: The Youth Gangs of Soweto 1935-1976 and co-author of Challenge and Victory, 1980-1990, volume 6 in the series From Protest to Challenge, A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1990 (2010).

Cover of 'The ANC Youth League'

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