Growing Pains: What our politicians can learn from Madiba

2013-12-22 14:00

With the laying to rest of our beloved Madiba, the question of leadership has been on our minds.

Will we ever find another Nelson Mandela, I wonder? I doubt it, but there are some ways our leaders can be more like him.

Here’s an easy one: the most important lesson Julius Malema can learn from Madiba is integrity.

One day he’s spluttering about corruption, the next day he is in court, as we wonder how he found himself owing the SA Revenue Service R15?million, when a few years ago he told us politicians shouldn’t be businesspeople.

Madiba has a lesson in radicalism for Lindiwe Mazibuko and the DA’s so-called black caucus.

Within his first decade in the ANC, he’d already implemented massive changes – from a youth wing and a new form of protest to the M-Plan.

Mazibuko should be at the forefront of radicalising her organisation, as the DA’s recent missteps on BEE demonstrated they need it.

In a country where there has been 100 years of economic segregation, anyone saying to the children of those most affected “let’s forget about it and move on as equals,” after 20 years of half-heartedly embracing counterbalancing measures, is a little crazy.

The clubbing together of a number of moribund political parties into a Collective for Democracy looks to be, at face value, great for democracy.

Until we look closer and see that none of the parties have democratic traditions.

Some have never had conferences and others have never had leadership changes.

Madiba will be remembered for taking and encouraging leaps of faith – while prodding at the National Party leadership to go against the intuitive position of the boers, he lobbied hard against the more popular inclination of his comrades to fight until the bitter end.

If the Collective for Democracy chaps have been negotiating this for years, they should have reconstituted themselves as an organisation of the future founded on real democratic principles.

Instead, they’re simply getting into bed together to hold on to the few seats of privilege they have left.

Freedom Front Plus, like AfriForum, should have long ago brought their members into the 21st century instead of looking for ways to bring apartheid back through the back door of lily-white courtrooms. They should be asking their constituents how white South Africans can use their privilege to bring about true restorative justice.

And now for my comrades?...

First, the disgruntled ones. Remember the story of Mandela’s idea for Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) being shot down?

He and Walter Sisulu could easily have gone off to form MK, especially with the ANC being banned.

But they persevered and convinced first Moses Kotane, then Albert Luthuli (a known pacifist), then the entire national executive committee and then the Congress Alliance to fundamentally change a 49-year-old tradition of nonviolent struggle.

If you want change, stretch your neck a little. Do the groundwork. Don’t simply jump ship, or worse?...?do nothing.

Finally, here’s a story of Madiba when he had just been elected as president of South Africa. One day in Parliament, he was faced with a barrage of questions from the opposition, who collectively had zero moral authority at the time.

The comrades rightly felt that many of the questions were intended to undermine our president, and counterattacked viciously.

Madiba told his people: “I’ll answer, I have nothing to be afraid of.” And off he went.

He knew that sometimes a leader has to be the hero, and not let his people stand in his defence.

A hero stands in defence of his people.

Let us all defend this great legacy through our actions next year.

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