Politicians holding onto the reins of power for far too long are detrimental to any country. In SA, the lack of circulation in political leadership has led to a dearth of ideas and progress
Former President Jacob Zuma has been in the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC for 40 years – longer than the entire lifetime of the current French President. And this extraordinarily long service in a leadership structure isn’t peculiar to Zuma. Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe has been in every Cabinet since 1994, serving under five different Presidents, the United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa has been President of that organisation for over 21 years, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s octogenarian leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been party President since 1975, spending an unbelievable 43 years at the helm and the Freedom Front Plus’s former leader, Pieter Mulder, served in Parliament for 30 years. As for the Democratic Alliance, Cape Town’s Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson was first elected to the council in 1996.
These examples paint a picture of a stagnation of leadership, with institutions such as Parliament, legislatures and councils being harnessed to the same personalities and the same ideas for three decades, on average. No wonder Parliament’s making slow progress in addressing the the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality – the same individuals who were discussing solutions back in
1994 are still doing so today. The example set by former President Nelson Mandela, of stepping down after just one term in office – for precisely this reason – has gone unheeded.
In biology we learn that if any part of the body fails to receive adequate blood circulation, it will atrophy and eventually die. Keeping political institutions youthful is vital for the free flow of ideas; it engenders institutional vibrancy and effectiveness. Since the arrival of the youthful Economic Freedom Fighters in Parliament we’ve seen a reduction in the number of MPs dozing off
We need this institutional vibrancy to be maintained and exported to other organisations – and the best way to do that is by introducing term limits in all political leadership positions. No councillor, Parliamentarian, Cabinet member or NEC member should be permitted to retain that position for longer than 10 years. We have to ensure a healthy circulation of fresh, young blood in leadership.
Young as he is, when Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s completed his 10 years in the Central Command of the EFF, he should move on and enter academia, perhaps, or whatever field he chooses – but he must create space for another young and energetic Mbuyiseni to come in and contribute. The same goes for all leaders. A decade in any portfolio is sufficient to make their contribution and then pass on the baton.
NO COUNCILLOR, PARLIAMENTARIAN, CABINET MEMBER OR NEC MEMBER SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO RETAIN THAT POSITION FOR LONGER THAN 10 YEARS.