Let’s not send good leaders into the wild
Leadership battles based on factionalism are no way forward. The ANC should choose its leaders the way villagers have always done, writes
The universal access to electronic media – radio and television – makes it easy for me to continue to tap into the bottomless reserves of wisdom reposited in the intellect of my fellow villagers. Electricity in the rural areas ensures that almost every homestead has access to not only radio, but to television as well. Like their urban counterparts, the villagers do not only listen to the news, but are able to see the subjects of the news themselves and can consequently make a proper assessment of the veracity of what is being said. I take joy in listening to such assessments of current events, especially the political ones.
Relatively speaking, urban residents, including those of the informal settlements, are better off than those living on the countryside in terms of the availability of social amenities. They have access to swimming pools, children’s playgrounds with necessary equipment, sports fields, health and educational facilities with modern technological equipment, medical supplies and teaching aides. Their roads are tarred. They have piped water that flows into their houses. Government facilities are generally within walking distance and they are therefore able to easily acquire documentation at home affairs and application forms at social development and the SA Social Security Agency. Police stations are within easy reach. So are the Western courts, the labour centres and related amenities. Urban residents have housing structures built for them by government.
The villagers see these developments and wish they could also could be accommodated. They wish they did not have to travel to town to be serviced by government. They see the irony displayed during elections when voting stations are located within walking distance so that the most frail can manage to tick the box to create a government. After elections, government goes and settles at its normal place – in town.
Looking at these disparities, in terms of resource allocation, in these days of instant protests, you would have thought the people most agitated and disgruntled are the villagers. Yet, the reverse is true. Too often they see urban residents blocking roads with burning tyres while complaining about electricity cuts; burning down school buildings to demand clinics; or throwing trash in the streets to demand the dismissal of certain officials in some state entity, department or municipal council.
The villagers watch in wonder as the beneficiaries of free housing complain to campaigning politicians that these houses have broken windows or cracks, which government must repair. And they are perplexed even more when the politicians promise to do something about the matter.
I live in perpetual fear of the advent of the day when villagers demand the same privileges and benefits of government; a day when they will no longer feel pride in building their own homesteads, in building their own stock kraals, in tilling, planting and cultivating their own fields.
Of course, the tell-tale signs are there. It is no longer surprising to hear an able-bodied young man asking how much he is going to be paid for digging a hole for a government-supplied toilet, to be used by himself and his own family; or a man asking how much he is going to be paid for hoeing the weeds from his mealie field cultivated with a government subsidy. Surely, even in these times of economic hardship and high levels of unemployment, we should be meeting government halfway by continuing to help ourselves when we have the ability to do so.
As a leader of society, the ANC carries the responsibility to nurture and conserve the values that have shaped us as an African people. In discharging this task, it must start by practising what it preaches. Unity is strength and a divided ANC is a weak African society.
It is an unhealthy situation for the ANC to continue to splinter at every election. In the past, the splinter groups that broke away did not have much of an impact as the world that was sympathetic to the cause of the liberation struggle was on its side. But in a multiparty democracy, such breakaways weaken it, surely.
The rise in racist behaviour in the ranks of the beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid is partly a result of the ANC’s lack of coherence and its inability to speak in one voice. In spite of protestations to the contrary, come the time for the national conference, the fight for leadership positions increasingly becomes the defining feature of the movement. Debates and discussions are becoming toxic and inconsequential as protagonists are viewed as belonging to this or the other faction, whose motives are nothing but a ploy to project its preferred candidates for president, provincial, regional or branch chairperson.
Here again, my villagers have a solution so simple and honest that whenever I raise it with comrades, they are stunned into momentary silence. The villagers argue that if the ANC is the family that it has been known to be for these many decades of its existence, guided only by its Constitution and well thought-out conference resolutions, it should do what villagers do in electing community-based structures such as clinic, school and roadworks committees.
In the first place, candidates for committee leadership positions do not campaign to be elected; they are practically forced to stand. When there is more than one candidate for the position of chairperson, the one who gets the biggest number of votes assumes the position, while the one with the second highest votes becomes the vice-chairperson; similarly with other positions – the second most popular candidate becomes the deputy. In this way everyone is happy because the most popular leads while the second most popular takes his second leadership position in accordance with the wishes of the community.
The winners and “losers”, if you like, are all in government, and not in opposition. Their views, meaning those of their supporters, are all taken into account when decisions are made.
If the leaders of the ANC are sincere in their calls for an end to factionalism, the phenomena of slates, division and gatekeeping, they should follow the route of the villagers in the selection of leaders in the run-up to and the actual election itself.
We have no need for victors and the vanquished in our ranks. Too many of those of our leaders, who choose not to form or associate with other political parties, are sent into oblivion; yet, we need them. Surely, a leader who loses his or her bid to become president cannot be discarded into the wilderness when he or she clearly has better qualities than the other leaders in the leadership collective. Nkosi Holomisa is chief of the AmaGebe tribe and
deputy minister of labour
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Traditional councils have no losers when electing candidates, while the ANC elective conference is a winner-takes-all and losers are wiped out completely from leading the party