ANC Youth League

By Kolby Tracey

History of the ANC Youth League

Established on April 2nd, 1944 by Anton Lambede( the league's first president), Nelson Mandela, Ashby Mda, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, The ANC Youth League strived to excite the Youth in South Africa to take a part in the fight against Apartheid. The league developed a Programme of Action with included anti-apartheid methods such as boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience, which the ANC adopted in 1949 and began the transformation to a more militant approach for the fight against apartheid. This program lead to the Defiance Campaign and the Congress of People. The ANCYL played an active part in many of the campaigns lead by the ANC targeting specific apartheid laws. The ANCYL continued on well throughout the late 80's and the young activists at this time were called "Young Lions" by President Oliver Tambo. These activists stayed consistent with the goals that were put in place by the ANCYL in the formative years and the early 1960's youth during the formation of the MK.


The ANC Youth League contributed heavily to the transformation from peaceful protests to a more aggressive approach. They put pressure on the ANC to stray away from the conservative operations that were being carried out and focus more on actually fighting against their oppressors. They focused on African Nationalism to promote the idea of Africans being their own liberators.


“IT WOULD BE WRONG AND UNREALISTIC FOR AFRICAN LEADERS TO CONTINUE PREACHING PEACE AND NON‐VIOLENCE AT A TIME WHEN THE GOVERNMENT MET OUR DEMANDS WITH VIOLENCE”-Nelson Mandela

Programme Of Action: Statement of Policy Adopted at the ANC National Conference

17 December 1949


The fundamental principles of the Programme of Action of the African National Congress are inspired by the desire to achieve national freedom. By national freedom we mean freedom from White domination and the attainment of political independence. This implies the rejection of the conception of segregation, apartheid, trusteeship, or white leadership which are all, in one way or another, motivated by the idea of white domination or domination of the white over the Blacks. Like all other people the African people claim the right of self-determination. With this object in view, in the light of these principles we claim and will continue to fight for the political rights tabulated on page 8 of our Bill of Rights, such as:

  1. The right of direct representation in all the governing bodies of the country - national, provincial and local - and we resolve to work for the abolition of all differential institutions or bodies specially created for Africans, viz. representative councils, present form of parliamentary representation .
  2. To achieve these objectives the following Programme of Action is suggested:
    1. the creation of a national fund to finance the struggle for national liberation.
    2. the appointment of a committee to organise an appeal for funds and to devise ways and means therefor.
    3. the regular use of propaganda material through:
      1. the usual press, newsletter or other means of disseminating our ideas in order to raise the standard of political consciousness;
      2. establishment of a national press.
  3. Appointment of a council of action whose function should be to carry into effect, vigorously and with the utmost determination, the Programme of Action. It should be competent for the council of action to implement our resolve to work for:
    1. the abolition of all differential political institutions, the boycotting of which we accept, and to undertake a campaign to educate our people on this issue and, in addition, to employ the following weapons: immediate and active boycott, strike, civil disobedience, non-co-operation and such other means as may bring about the accomplishment and realisation of our aspirations.
    2. preparations and making of plans for a national stoppage of work for one day as a mark of protest against the reactionary policy of the government.
  4. Economic:
    1. The establishment of commercial, industrial, transport and other enterprises in both urban and rural areas.
    2. Consolidation of the industrial organisation of the workers for the improvement of their standard of living.
    3. Pursuant to paragraph (a) herein, instructions be issued to Provincial Congresses to study the economic and social conditions in the reserves and other African settlements and to devise ways and means for their development, establishment of industries and such other enterprises as may give employment to a number of people.
  5. Education:
  6. It be an instruction to the African National Congress to devise ways and means for:

    1. Raising the standard of Africans in the commercial, industrial and other enterprises and workers in their workers' organisations by means of providing a common educational forum wherein intellectuals, peasants and workers participate for the common good.
    2. Establishment of national centres of education for the purpose of training and educating African youth and provision of large scale scholarships tenable in various overseas countries.
  7. Cultural:
    1. To unite the cultural with the educational and national struggle.
    2. The establishment of a national academy of arts and sciences.
  8. Congress realises that ultimately the people will be brought together by inspired leadership, under the banner of African nationalism, with courage and determination.