Ronald Lamola could have saved the ANC

2015-10-15 18:46

The recently concluded 3 day national general council meeting (NGC) of the ANC revealed the extend of the malaise within the organisation. It was revealed that the malaise extent even to the branch level. ANC branches are now much like sweepstakes. A place where human affection is bought and traded.

What I gleaned from the NGC meeting was not a sudden shift from vibrancy of the ANC to a dismal state, not a dramatic loss of ground from robustness to feebleness. It was, instead, a kind of worsening of a bad state, a visible escalation of woes, a compounded and multiplication of morass. ANC’s darkness seemed, quite simply, gross darkness.

Something has to give for these sordid behaviours cannot continue going as it is going. There is a breaking point to every bad behaviour.

ANC is too rooted in a corrupt culture and it will take more than just talk to whip individuals in the ANC out of their entrenched self-centered existence into a new culture that encourages social service. This was the subject of deliberations throughout the NGC sessions.

But before looking the NGC let us look at the elective conference of the ANC Youth League that took place in September. And here I would like us to consider the “roads not taken”.

In other words I want us to consider what the situation would have looked like had what did not happen in fact happen.  To be precise I would like us to go through a journey of imaginations, imagining the situation where Ronald Lamola succeeded in becoming ANC Youth League President. We are going to speculate the situation wherein Ronald Lamola is ANC Youth League President not Collen Maine. Sometimes we learn much in exploring "roads not taken".

Probing alternative scenarios has always proven to be a worthy effort in learning. Too often we downplay the directions that history did not take. We tell ourselves that it is a waste of time to sit down and imagine what might have happened. But we can learn as much from what did not happen as we can learn from events that did happen.

Before the ANC Youth League elective conference it was clear that the league needs nothing but a savior. ANC President Jacob Zuma had said in November last year, that: "The youth league has been shaken and also the mother body has been shaken. We admit that the organisation is in trouble".

Even the theme leading and during the ANC Youth League conference was about restoration. Among all the contestants for the position of the ANC Youth League presidency it was Ronald Lamola who seemed to be equal to the task and had a grasp of what is to be done to save the Youth League and develop it into a vibrant movement of the youth. When things has fallen apart what you need is leaders of integrity and character - not leaders pulled out of systems. How are you going to remold the Youth League when leaders in charge cannot see beyond entrenched systems?

Ronald Lamola was quite literally apart and above the rest of his competitors all who seemed to desire leadership of the Youth League from which they derive a sense of social importance, and gratify their ego's desire for specialness - and also being at the centre of power where they can promote and defend the personal ambitions of their godfathers.

Leaders see problems and set about trying to solve them as realistically as is humanly possible. Good leaders not only are aware of what their people desire to accomplish they also tend to have excellent interpersonal skills; know how to mix with people in gentle ways.

Ronald Lamola is very humble grassroots person. He is a person of such humbleness who could receive a telephone call at his home about problems from ordinary people, and will quickly slip into track suits, put on a cap and tekkies, get into the car - drive to join the people, roll up his sleeves and solve the problem and come back to his home, without much worries about fantasy things like prestige and specialness.

That is his character, his strengths. Leaders are problem solvers; they solve real practical problems; they do so realistically, not fantastically through speeches, dogmatism and appeal to past traditions.  They mobilize and join in the people to go about solving the problems.

If you could put the ANC Youth League in a good shape - get a person like Ronald Lamola to run it - you have solved major problems. You will have a passionate vibrant young people very eager and passionate to engage the EFF. But as things are currently the ANC Youth League members are still not that upbeat even after the elections. It was hoped after the elections of leaders the Youth League will get into shape and start cracking. That seems far fetched. There is still a streak of gloominess and somberness that still bedevil the ANC youth. They still seemed rattled.

Take note how the newly elected Youth League President Collen Maine was reported saying - how he condemned youth leaguers in some meeting that if they don't accept his leadership they should go and join EFF.   Here is how he was reported by newspapers: "He called on those who were unhappy with his leadership collective to go join the EFF, as they did not belong in the ANC Youth League".

Take note also how he responded to Ntsiki Mazwai in such a very brutish way.

Good leaders do not engage in zero-sum battles with their rivals, instead, they plot out peaceful ways to get other people to see things their way. Instead of throwing emotional temper tantrums, you develop better alternatives to cool off before you talk to people. People like their leaders to talk calmly and cool, never angrily or shouting at them. Anger is often a necessary ingredient of leadership but unmanaged anger is self-defeating and destructive. You can be angry sometimes but you cannot allow that anger to cloud your interaction with people. You must always respect people for people look at their leaders to respect them. A leader is supposed to be a father figure - who when others err he is able to take it calmly.

Ronald Lamola is a polished diamond, very composed. He has a soft charisma and has the capacity to rally people and focus them on key ideas. He has the ability to scale a big vision down into executable steps that can be taken today, tomorrow - next week.

Ronald Lamola joined the ANC Youth League at the age of 14.

In his second year as a law student at the University of Venda (in 2005) he was elected Student Representative Council (SRC) president. That position saw him advancing even further becoming the provincial chairperson of the South African Students Congress (Sasco) in the Limpopo Province.

While serving as SRC president at the University of Venda he got his hands dirty solving campus problems like overcrowding in student residences and in classes. He has a great legacy that he had left at the University of Venda. The problems of overcrowding and squatting in dormitories, as well as huge classes have been brought to manageable levels.

That is Ronald Lamola's beginnings - and it is impeccable. Most beginnings are small, and appear trivial and insignificant, but in reality they are the most important things in life.

Before the ANCYL presidential elections it was Ronald Lamola who outlined his vision and plans very well. He is the one who understood the concept of the Restoration of the ANC Youth League. He outlined his plans clearly.

He stretched the theme of Restoration of the ANC Youth League in different directions:

Restoration of hope to the young people,

Restoration of trust in the Youth League’s vibrancy,

Restoration of lost potentials, and;

Restoration of Youth League's public prestige.

At the core of the ANC problem is the waning and withering of appetites and interests on the ANC by the emerging youthful generation who comprises the largest sector of the South African population. Added to that is the pestering hard hitting EFF in every space occupied by the youth across the country.

Let as take one key space occupied by the youth; the higher education sector.

The EFF for the second term in a row at the University of Limpopo has achieved many votes for SRC elections more than Sasco, an imprint of the ANC Youth League in South African Universities.

At the University of Venda EFF also came up with more votes and was given the powers to lead the SRC.

At the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) EFF, in terms of votes, was toe to toe with Sasco even galvanising higher votes at Garankua campus of TUT.

In Mafikeng campus of the University of the North West EFF is also in charge of the SRC.

At Vaal University of Technology, EFF won all 15 seats it contested for the SRC. Sasco salvaged only one portfolio, which the EFF did not contest.

Let us return to Limpopo. If you know the Limpopo Province well you will get to understand the power, influence and stature the University of Limpopo has across the province. The activities in and outside the University lecture halls, feeds as news, to Thobela FM and Capricorn FM - the two major stations that reaches millions of people across the Limpopo, in rural areas, townships and farms.

Thobela FM is broadcasting in Sepedi and Capricorn FM in English. Capricorn FM is the harbinger of Power FM in Gauteng Province. It is a sister radio with Power FM. Capricorn FM is a successful commercial radio and may be viewed as having started as a University of Limpopo campus radio.

The University of Limpopo is great news in the province even more so as it is expanding where beginning of 2016 will start offering MBChB: Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees.

So all these new developments of the supremacy of the EFF over ANC at Turfloop has a powerful psychological effect across the province and its people. No wonder ANC did not take the matter lying down during this week's SRC elections at Turfloop. It campaigned vigorously spending large sums of money on stage and sound effects and printing thousands of t-shirts. But still EFF in terms of numbers emerged victorious. Those are powerful news that crumples spirits and deal a terrible psychological blow to the ANC, and the news blasts every corner of the province.

You may ask, why I dwell much on Limpopo Province?

The Limpopo Province has always been, by tradition, the grassroots nest of the ANC. The Province is the meat and potatoes of the ANC. Across the vast Limpopo Province ANC has always bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and and other political parties always walking under its huge legs and peeping about as nothing.

But now things are changing. If we can use American election terms - we can say Limpopo is now increasingly becoming a swing province. What does that mean?

During American Presidential elections a swing state is where the two major American political parties have similar levels of support among voters. There is a difference between a swing state and a battleground state. The battleground state is about unknown voter turnout while the swing state refers to the ability of the political leaders through speeches and adverts to swing that state into their favor.

A swing state is where the war is taking place. You have seen that between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during the 2012 elections about the state of Florida. Mitt Romney will come to the state of Florida and swing the state into his favor, within a while there is breaking headline news: Mitt Romney is now leading Barack Obama in Florida, in the polls.

But within few days Barack Obama will go to Florida and through speeches swing that state back to him. It was a terrible bitter war between the two.

In the end Barack Obama won the state of Florida with 50.01% of the vote, to Mitt Romney's 49.13%, a mere difference of 0.88%.

One of the peculiarities of a tsunami is how it begins. The first manifestation of a tsunami is the unnoticeable silent rising. And after a long silent rising the waters becomes choppy and then there is a sudden explosion of water - this time there is nothing you can do - you are simply going to be swept off your feet, die, and your corpse carried away by the floods.

The best thing to do is be in constant observation during the silent period of the tsunami. Even though the waters are silent at that period there are some things that are observable that will show that the tsunami is coming - and observing that - you do something about it.

I guess that is what Frank Chikane was trying to say in his dossier of documents he titled: Saving the Soul of the ANC. In that dossier he reveals how the ANC may lose elections anytime. He was advising and seeking to assist the ANC.

Frank Chikane is the former member of the ANC National Executive Committee, the highest body within the structures of the ANC. Reverent Chikane has never been accused of being gadfly and haughty. Nor was he ever viewed as a person who speaks superficially, uttering intemperate opinion to shock or awe. Many consider him as a consummate insider, with great insights into the ins and outs of the corridors of power.

Now, when a man of such prudent temperament begins to despair of the prospects of the ANC, then we better pay attention.

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