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

CityPress - - Voices -

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

TALK TO US Would a sys­tem of a loser au­to­mat­i­cally as­sum­ing deputy­ship be good for democ­racy and unity?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­words WILD and tell us what you think. Please include your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50


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


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