‘Give us leaders who care’

With little more than a week to go before the ANC conference, the cleft in the party appears to be deepening and sniping between factions more acrimonious and personal. After interviews with party ‘elders’ last week, the Mail & Guardian asked four more senior leaders to reflect on the state of the ANC and its clouded future.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge: MP and former deputy health minister

As the clock ticks towards the ANC’s congress, there’s anxiety and excitement.

Not only internally, but in the nation, the ANC leadership battle has unleashed new opportunities for renewal and active partici­pation. Everybody is talking, not just about who’ll lead us, but also about how we want to be led.

The issues raised — around leadership, democracy, poverty and economic inequality, gender inequality and patriarchy — have opened up an invigorating national dialogue. A vibrant democracy needs this. The ANC won’t be the same after the congress.

It is tempting to want a leader who is a saviour, with all the qualities we desire and no faults, who we can leave everything to. Such a person doesn’t exist. Even Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo weren’t such people.

We’ll be electing people with a past, and with weaknesses and strengths. We want a strong relationship with them for mutual support — and ­correction.

At the core of the national discourse is assertion by ANC members and wider South African society that they will not be sidelined and silenced. We will have our say, and not just at election times.

We’re saying whoever is elected will have to lead everyone in the ANC and the country. They’ll have to enable everyone to make their contribution towards making an ANC and South Africa we can be proud of.

It’s not about who wins and who loses, but about the values of the leadership, and the way leaders relate to those they lead. It’s also about how we, the members and the public, play our role in providing honest, ethical and creative leadership in our families, communities, workplaces and organisations.

The winners and losers will all be ANC members after Polokwane. They’ll have to find each other and constructive roles to enhance the ANC’s values and ­programmes.

To win the support of the people, the emergent leadership will need to unite all South Africans behind a common agenda and uphold the core values of a constitutional democracy.

The leadership we want must earn our respect and consent; they will need to let the people govern. They must create an environment of vibrant public debate, based on inclusive and effective participation on issues of public interest.

They’ll need to uphold and respect differences and open debate. Speaking truth to power is not insubordination or disloyalty.

We all love South Africa and cherish what we’ve accomplished as a young nation.

Our Constitution is the envy of the world. We’ve shown the world forgiveness is possible.

Despite weaknesses and failures in some crucial policy areas, we want to continuously improve.

As ANC delegates meet in Polokwane, I trust we’ll be guided by a desire to emerge stronger and more united, and ready to serve.

Crime and social violence, poverty, social and economic inequality and disease, including HIV/Aids, need a united national response. Limpopo must give us leaders who care, who unite us, and who see themselves as servants of the people.

What the other elders said

  • Thenjiwe Mtintso: ‘We need a strategy to heal’
  • Vytjie Mentor: ‘We must look beyond limpopo’
  • Saki Macozoma: ‘A potential for crisis’
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