What's wrong with black leadership?

2009-06-23 00:00

SOUTH Africa is going through a black leadership paralysis, if not a crisis. History seems to be repeating itself. It was almost 41 years ago that the country saw the emergence of the vibrant Black Consciousness Movement in response to the then political lull and the leadership vacuum created by the imprisonment of black leaders and banning of the older liberation movements in 1960.

Today, more than 15 years afte­r a democratic dispensation, it is very irritating that there are so many things not going right in our country, yet the black academics, intelligentsia and leaders seem to have completely abandoned the liberation struggle project for economic struggle. These days, what constitutes black leadership appears to be a preoccupation with securing state tenders worth billions of rands and lucrative black economic deals. It is not far-fetched these days to conclude that many of our black leaders are being rewarded for their silence.

The critical voices of reason within black communities seem to have been co-opted and integrated into the system and are being handsomely rewarded for not being critical of the current leadership. They have perfected the art of praise singing because many have realised that it pays to be a praise singer in South Africa. Their unlimited access to the ruling elite and their silence serves as confirmation that most of them have now arrived in the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey.

Together with the ruling elite, they continue to pay lip service to the plight of our people through cheap talk, rhetoric and endless promises leaving many of our people living in abject poverty in villages and townships. If they protest or raise their voices, they make sure that this is done in private because if it is done in public, it threatens their comfort and favourable economic situation and their continued association with the ruling elite.

Despite the fact that the world is experiencing an economic recession, this is the same bunch of black leaders who did not object to R75 million being spent in just one day.

It appears that after the Polokwane watershed conference, except for emeritus Bishop Desomond Tutu and an attempt by Professor Barney Pityana, the black leadership has succumbed to the alleged dirty tactics used by the Polokwane group to cling to power. And quite frankly, I do not see the difference between these tactics and the ones that were used by the apartheid regime. It is sad that in this country, all of us are expected to agree with everything that comes out of Luthuli House and Cosatu, even when we know that it is completely wrong and not in the best interests of the country but only in the interests of a few greedy individuals connected to the ruling elite.

The recent newspaper reports that there is an ongoing battle between Luthuli House and Cosatu for control over President Jacob Zuma are worrying. These reports surface at a time when there is complete silence within the black leadership and the country is going through a serious black leadership paralysis.

All we have today in terms of leadership approaches, falls within the following main groups:

• the mob psycho;

• praise singers;

• cut and paste; and

• pass-one pass-all.

Today, almost everyone seems to be adopting a combination of all approaches to advance their personal economic situations.

This is a direct and open challenge to the black leadership in particular, and quite specifically to those who were part of the national liberation struggle, to wake up, rise up and provide the country with an alternative leadership to what we are experiencing at the moment.

It cannot be normal in a country dominated by a black majority, that an alternative leadership should emerge from the white community and the Democratic Alliance. I do not think that the ultimate supreme sacrifice by Steve Biko, Abram Tiro, Mapetla Mohapi, Mthuli ka Shezi and others, was in vain. Black leadership must be encouraged to raise their voices without fear.

• Lesego Sechaba Mogotsi is a member of the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) in Tshwane, Gauteng.

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