Abandon old ideas, reach for the future
Imagine if a 23-year-old who has a deep, scarred voice because he’s been smoking and drinking the good life away came to you and said: “You know, the best years of my life were when I was five years old.”
When the best years of your life were spent in the pram and at crèche, where it was someone else’s responsibility to wipe your nose, your lifetime will be a combination of disaster and sorrow.
Many South Africans spend a lot of time thinking about the past – they are worried about preserving Nelson Mandela’s legacy rather than dealing with today’s challenges.
Didn’t you used to sing “Ha ho na ea tshwanang le yena [There is no one like him]”? You need to understand this: great as he was, there will never be another Mandela.
That fierce fighter, who was prepared to pay with his life for justice and the love of his people, is gone.
The greats are not born into greatness. Instead, like the rocks on the edge of the sea, they are shaped by remaining steadfast in the face of treacherous circumstances.
And a good 23-year-old should live in the bubble of idealism, shielded from the cynicism that comes from the cuts of broken dreams and shattered hopes.
The problem with South Africans is that we take gloom as an inalienable right and happiness as the responsibility of others, which makes us powerless participants who can only breathe involuntarily, and who are totally dependent on how the die is cast by strangers in a place we neither know nor understand.
A 23-year-old has no right to be jaded, because life – that phenomenon that starts with birth, is marked by constant and often unpredictable changes, and eventually ends with death – would not be life if it did not have its ups and downs. He or she is the hope of the world. Sadly, African countries are known to be the great disappointments of the world, from Ghana – the first country on the continent to gain independence – through to the Congo and Zimbabwe, and, finally, God forbid, South Africa.
No matter how idealistic the 23-year-old may be, if he or she is trapped in an old, tired body with no vision for the future, there can be no hope.
The problem with Africans is that we have a tendency to elect people who are close to the grave to run our affairs.
Such people may have a wealth of experience, but times change and they can’t keep up.
Businesses expect people to retire at the age of 60 or 65, so why should politicians be treated differently? When people know that the only major event left in their lives is the grave, they stop caring.
Their level of intransigence increases, and they become immune to any discontents and protests, and much less open to the new world that is unsympathetic to their old ways.
A case in point is the US with its new president, 70-year-old Donald Trump.
Politicians should also be forced into retirement at the age of 65, which would disqualify most of the people who we believe are in the running to become the next South African president.
If Lindiwe Sisulu is indeed in the running and had to retire at 65, she’d only have one year to serve as president.
After 23 years of democracy, we don’t need leaders who think that dog-like loyalty is the only path to power – we need people with the energy and will to abandon old ideas so they can lift the nation to prosperity.