Young blood for ANC

2015-03-15 15:00

The debate in Parliament this week revealed a remarkable generational and political shift in South Africa. Two young political leaders, Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and the leader of the opposition DA in Parliament, Mmusi Maimane, extracted an unprecedented level of accountability from President Jacob Zuma.

Of course, the president denied he owed the fiscus anything for the upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, which cost about R246?million. But the manner in which he did so – engaged, angry, detailed – was the first time he had accounted to Parliament in an unscripted form during question time.

Now we finally have a proper Parliament. Increasingly, Malema and his men and women in red overalls set the political agenda with Maimane and his significant cohorts on the opposition benches. Whereas the governing ANC has, in the past, used its significant majority to disallow Parliament a role in scrutinising how public funds are spent, that time is now over.

The EFF and DA, with their nimble-footed knowledge of parliamentary rules and the boisterous energy of youth, run rings around the elegant but ineffectual ANC chief whip, Stone Sizani, and his caucus. The ANC is paying the price for packing the legislature with its not-so-bright cadres, as they appear lost and second best in the increasingly robust and detailed debates in the National Assembly and parliamentary committees. At Parliament, and in the executive, the ANC looks dated and bloated compared with the newcomers.

Is it not time for a generational shift in the ANC? The party’s lauded method of leadership choice is to move through generations with the oldest on top. It is considered anathema to overturn this practice, but this is now hurting the party.

There are young talents in the ANC who are well suited to, and ready for, leadership. But the risk of having to wait until you are in your late 50s or 60s to lead has driven many of the party’s finest talents out of politics and into business.

A party that always regenerated itself is no longer doing so, while smaller and younger opposition forces are attracting the best and brightest into their ranks. This is important, as South Africa is a largely young country and, increasingly, the ANC’s leadership does not reflect the youth of the country it governs. The ANC Youth League is on life support, and this has removed a training ground of young political talent.In Parliament this week, the experience of United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa also showed as he asked the president pointed questions, but he did so with the due African respect the country’s voters hold dear. Are people of a similar generation not the right ones to now take up the mantle of leadership?

The ANC’s leadership pool for the foreseeable future is drawn from an older crew – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is 62. Other possible contenders, such as Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, are roughly in the same age bracket and have been combing grey hair for some time. T

his generation will offer little new in terms of ideas from the generation that preceded them. Is it not time for the governing party to skip a generation?The ANC, which will play a leading role in the country’s politics for some time to come, has a wealth of dynamic leaders in their forties and early fifties – the Malusi Gigabas and Paul Mashatiles of this world. They should step forward with fresh ideas, fresh vision and fresh energy.

This is what is needed to move South Africa forward.

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