The F-word – Need a bomb pro? Speak to the hand

2011-08-20 11:43

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit that just ended this week was a perfect example of what is wrong with our continent and our country – leaders who think their duty is to describe problems rather than solve them.

Outgoing SADC chairperson, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, repeated a line that we have heard so many times in our own country, especially since the ANC Youth League started the debate on the economic freedom that needs to follow political liberty. He said continued youth unemployment represents a time bomb for countries in the region.

I could imagine the young people making Pohamba “speak to the hand”, as youngsters are wont to do to those they deem to be talking nonsense.

Recognising that unemployed and unemployable youth are a ticking time bomb is not nonsensical in itself. The problem is when it becomes an end in itself.

It betrays a lack of original thought and vision. It shows failure of leadership.

In the absence of sound leadership those who occupy leadership positions will feel comfortable mouthing such platitudes as Pohamba did – and many other so-called leaders in our region have done so in the last few months.

One of them will soon tell us that crime needs to be eradicated. Duh . . .

Pohamba reflects one of the many things that are wrong with our continent and our country. Leadership tends to be reduced to yelling the loudest about problems everyone recognises.

It is inadequate to diagnose a problem. Real leaders say how the bomb must be defused.

Leaders must offer solutions. If they cannot then they are mere figureheads.

Even in the movies the hero is not the person who finds the bomb and screams the loudest. It is the one who defuses it, even at personal risk. In South Africa and Africa we don’t have that hero.

The problem of unemployed and unemployable youth is not new. Ditto structural inequality.

What we continue to lack is a plan and the political will to correct this wrong. Cocooned in their safe spaces our leaders think they have said something profound predicting that the bomb will do what bombs are designed to do anyway.

The history of our continent is littered with the Pohambas and their bombastic but ultimately empty rhetoric.

They thankfully still have the humility to avoid claiming to have been the first to see the bomb.

That is why young people like the commander-in-chief of the economy and the truth-in-our-lifetime brigade have been taking over the opinion spaces.

Love him or hate him, Julius Malema is relevant because he suggests a way of defusing the time bomb. It is a different case altogether whether his methods will blow up in his face and destroy all of us with him.

It is also not helpful expending any more energy trying to show that Malema is a hypocrite.

We already know that.

Pohamba and his fellow “leaders” prove that philosophers and pundits have indeed set out to describe the world when the object is to change it. That is why there is no clear distinction between lawmaking houses and radio talkshows.

Our discourse is, to use a phrase much loved by President Jacob Zuma of late, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Not that Zuma himself is immune to this malady he expertly diagnoses. A time bomb doesn’t stop ticking because someone who occupies a high political office wags a finger at it or identifies the motives of those who put it there.

Announcing that X number of jobs will be created in so many years does nothing to defuse the time bomb. It is no plan until it addresses how these things will be achieved.

Our leaders must stop getting away with platitudes like “we need infrastructure development”. They must show us a blueprint and not a wish list.

The sooner our leaders stop slapping themselves on the back for giving the best speech telling people what they already know, the better our chances of doing what is to be done with time bombs. 

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.