The more things change, the more they stay the same

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

Lead­ers are born, not made – hear­ken back to 1976 days, then look at what to­day is like

THOSE in the know will tell you that lead­ers are born and not made. At South African schools and uni­ver­si­ties the phrases Learner Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil (LRC), Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil (SRC), pre­fect and head pre­fect, res­onate with many.

Young peo­ple con­sid­ered to be born lead­ers are usu­ally given a plat­form by their peers to lead them and be their voice, and the ti­tles given at school are said to groom the young ones for future lead­er­ship.

Their re­spon­si­bil­ity re­minds me of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties stu­dent lead­ers Tsi­etsi Mashinini, Mbuy­isa Makhubu, Khotso Seatl­holo and many other young lead­ers were given by their peers 41 years ago.

In a cam­paign seen as sheer de­fi­ance, these fire­brand lead­ers did not wait to con­sult their el­ders but, in­stead, took to the streets and chal­lenged au­thor­ity when they could no longer keep quiet. Sure enough, that was 1976. And yes, some may ar­gue times have changed, but in the fast-paced era of 2017, the truth is that noth­ing has changed.

In fact, what the past five years have proved more than any­thing is the old adage: “The more things change, the more the stay the same.”

As we cel­e­brate an­other June 16, it is per­haps an op­por­tune time to re­flect on where our young lead­ers fall.

While we com­mem­o­rate the brav­ery of lead­ers and the youth of yes­ter­year, we, as a coun­try, need to ask ques­tions such as: does the cause of our youth and their lead­ers only end in the streets through ac­tivism as seen in the #FeesMustFall Move­ment?

We also need to probe fur­ther and es­tab­lish if our young lead­ers are truly needed by a gov­ern­ment that pur­ports to be in­clu­sive.

We ought to dig deep to find out if pro­grammes geared for to­day’s youth are not just mere PR ex­er­cises by those in power.

Stu­dent ac­tivist and one of the coun­try’s emerg­ing fe­male lead­ers Bu­sisiwe Se­abe re­cently noted some­thing pro­found. Speak­ing at Soweto’s Mor­ris Isaac­son school she boldly ut­tered the fol­low­ing words in IsiXhosa: Bazali nisile­bele.

Loosely trans­lated it means: “Par­ents you have for­got­ten us.”

Se­abe, who was born in 1994 and is what some call a “born free”, pointed out that el­ders and lead­ers of to­day, while strug­gling to fix a coun­try in cri­sis, have for­got­ten to pass the “vi­sion­ary ba­ton” to the youth. As a re­sult, she said, there is now a void and a large dis­con­nect be­tween young peo­ple, young lead­ers, their el­ders and older lead­ers on what an ideal South Africa should be for this gen­er­a­tion and those to come. Young lead­ers in 1976 left the class­room and, un­for­tu­nately, their cause ended on the streets.

But I ask yet again: do we let his­tory re­peat it­self ? Do we let the man­date of to­day’s youth and lead­ers end on the streets or do they have a plat­form in a demo­cratic and non-dis­crim­i­na­tory SA to rep­re­sent their peers and in­flu­ence de­ci­sion-mak­ing at gov­ern­ment level?

I’m talk­ing of a plat­form in which they will sit with the pres­i­dent of this coun­try and dis­cuss per­ti­nent youth mat­ters, and not only when the coun­try burns and stu­dents have grown weary of empty prom­ises.

It is un­for­tu­nate that po­lit­i­cal youth or­gan­i­sa­tions and stu­dent or­gan­i­sa­tions that were premised on be­ing the voice of the youth find them­selves sucked into the web of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

More dis­heart­en­ing is the lack of men­tor­ship by older lead­ers. In­stead of equip­ping these young ones, they have grown some­what tired and, in the process, have be­come self-ab­sorbed.

Ask any youth in this coun­try what they want and they’ll not hes­i­tate to tell you that their pri­mary con­cern is to live bet­ter lives and find mean­ing­ful jobs in or­der to ac­tively con­trib­ute to the econ­omy.

As schools elect SRCs and LRCs, let us be mind­ful of to­day’s young lead­ers. Let us em­brace them, sup­port them and in­te­grate them in all we do. Let us re­mem­ber that they were not just made, but are born to lead, and rest­less lead­ers are dan­ger­ous lead­ers,


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