As much as we will be voting for leaders in these elections, we really do have a leadership deficit in South Africa. We are not being led and we all know this. And the general populace is not forceful enough in ensuring it gets the leadership it knows it needs. It appears we have entered an era of entitlement leadership as opposed to servant leadership. There are people who are capable of doing that.
It is difficult for one to truly abandon the ANC. Some may call it foolishness or being brainwashed, but most black people identify too much with the ANC to abandon it. Many were arrested as ANC members, jailed, have family members who were murdered. They know all the sacrifices they made through the ANC. Where is the type of leadership that inspired and moved people so much? It was not just about the cause. Everything was about the kind of people who led them. Are they still around? Did that great generation of ANC leaders breed the kind of leadership that had the same revolutionary morality?
There are great leaders in the ANC who know that things are not what they should be. They work quietly and don't ruffle any feathers. They have to be wise in what they do, for the moment they are too loud and vocal, they will be spat out. They have to be stealthy in their quest. They will make the ANC great again. It won't be today or tomorrow. It's a long slog. They know this is the path they have to take to make the ANC strong again. Many will not appreciate that they do their work in silence because they all think that leadership is loud and grandstanding. For these people, the success of the ANC is far more important than their own prominence.
The next leader of the ANC has to be wise. He or she has to be someone of unquestionable moral authority. Someone who will bring all the factions in the ANC together around a common vision as opposed to one who thrives on the divisions. The next ANC leader cannot and should not be an accidental leader. They should not be selected because there isn't a better alternative. It has to be someone who, before they even vacate the position of leader of the ANC, manages to get the party to rally around a chosen successor, like Nelson Mandela did with former president Thabo Mbeki.
Many of us are conflicted. We know what is possible yet accept things the way they are today. We know that things could be so much better. We know the good the ANC is capable of doing. The future the ANC fought for back then is what we live today. But who has the balls to change the ANC?
It was never a perfect organisation, but the ANC is not beyond repair; it's just that some want it to be beyond repair, so they will convince whoever will listen to jump ship. The truth is we have people who are in leadership positions within the ANC who are contributing heavily to the weakening of the party, all in the interest of self-preservation, not the preservation of the ANC. Yet the ANC continues to harbour and protect the very people who are eating away at it. It must be saved from them.
We should have known that things were going awry when Julius Malema began to say some terrible things about then president of the country and former president of the ANC Thabo Mbeki, without so much as a peep from the new ANC leadership of the time. The moral leadership of the ANC was questionable at that point. The ANC began a new course of turn-a-blind-eye leadership. The consequences of those actions are what the party has to deal with today. The crisis of faith ordinary members have is overwhelming. They are voting with their minds and not with the hearts as they did in the past, which was the strength of the ANC.
When Mbeki delivered his president's report in Polokwane in 2007, where he was defeated, he said: "Our collective responsibility in this important gathering is to ask ourselves whether in the recent past our movement has not gravitated away from its moral axis on which have pivoted the leadership of Dube, Makgatho, Mahabane and Luthuli among others?"
The question Mbeki asked then is still a relevant one today.
I want the ANC to survive and thrive. There is too much history for us to allow it to be destroyed. The more like-minded people join it to save it from itself the better. Young people can change and transform the ANC to be what they want it to be. Complain and do something about it instead of complaining and doing nothing about it. If the ANC ever dies, it will be on our hands and I don't think that future generations should ever forgive us for that mistake.
When Mbeki spoke in memory of Mandela last year, he said: "I'm saying, while we are celebrating the life of Mandela and all the others and paying tribute, there were people who made enormous sacrifices in their lives. This is a generation that bequeathed to us many values. I think principal among these values that they bequeathed the people is to service the people, not to serve themselves."
People first, leaders second. The ANC can even be better than it used to be.