The more things change, the more they stay the same
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,