Second Take – Mazibuko is the real deal – for now

2011-10-29 08:28

In a recent article in Vanity Fair, writer Michael Lewis provides a revealing portrait of the inner workings of the mind of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as he cycles through early morning traffic in Los Angeles.

This might provide some insight as regards the leaders we choose to govern us, particularly at a time when the DA has just elected a fresh, young talent to lead the party in Parliament in the form of 31-year-old Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Schwarzenegger, writes Lewis, wore no biking helmet and frequently did not abide by road-traffic laws. He describes how the “Sperminator” crossed three lanes of fast-moving traffic by simply sticking out his hand and following it, “assuming that whatever is behind him will stop”.

Later, Lewis observes: “What saves him from self-absorption is a genuine lack of interest in personal reflection. He lives the same way he rides his bike, paying far more attention to what’s ahead than what’s behind.”

As the maxim goes, we often get the leaders we deserve. Occasionally the mental health of those in high office reflects and mirrors the deeper flaws in a society.

That often deeply flawed individuals rise rapidly into positions of power says much about the attraction this milieu provides for these personality types as well as our propensity, as voters, to be their “enablers”.

Individuals who are drawn to high office and the viper-pit of contemporary politics usually possess a charisma, ambition, drive and singular vision absent in lesser mortals.

The triggers that propel people to seek power in this way are as complex and varied as those individuals themselves, but history provides us with ample evidence that a fair number of them are potential lunatics.

While an original intention or ambition to political office might begin with a form of self-preservatory altruism, this balance will be tested and taxed in the real world of cut-throat power and politics.

And so we come back to Mazibuko. Apart from her quick mind and apparent youthful enthusiasm, she possesses, at this stage, a healthy and balanced self-esteem quite uncommon in national politics.

For now, Mazibuko’s self-confidence is based on an ability to stand her ground without needing to undermine those who may differ with her. She possesses, for now, a combination of common sense, humour, decency and scepticism.

She also refuses to play the victim, a particularly attractive default position favoured by some politicians. Mazibuko’s self-knowledge enables her to withstand hurtful and intentionally destructive insults such as “tea girl” and “darkie”.

For now, she seems to understand this is a natural hazard of the political terrain she has chosen to enter. Mazibuko stands at a political crossroads in her young life.

There will be those who are drawn to her power for their own reasons and her now youthful and healthy self-esteem will be taxed and provoked as she climbs the greasy pole of politics.

The knives will be out for her, both inside and outside her party. For now, it appears as if Mazibuko has the psychological armour to withstand it. Time will tell whether we will see chinks in that armour.

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