The Psychology of ANC Succession Battles

2015-11-29 18:04

Society at large including opposition parties and the current ruling party the ANC, we all are calling for radical change. As of now the country is shaken and in dire straits with more than half of the youth stressed and pressed down hard by chronic unemployment. And all sorts of things are going wrong - this fact is known by everybody.

Leadership scientists and psychologists are telling us that where radical change is required young leaders should step in. On the other hand they tell us that nations prefer old leaders only during the times of boom and stability.

Currently the two leading contenders for the ANC presidential crown will be about and around 70 years old in 2019 election year. And in most likelihood the elected ANC president will become South African president as it is for now for sure.  A person at 70 years of age is too old to start thinking innovatively and with resilient.

ANC seems to have adopted the lifestyles of elephants. In elephants the oldest elephant leads the herd across the desert to a place of water that no one knows about except her. So it is in the interest of the herd to follow the oldest member if they want to survive.

ANC consciously or unconsciously had cultivated certain hostility to youthfulness. When the presidency of the ANC Youth League was open and there was a great opportunity to elect a young leader with experience in leading the youth, it was alleged that the old guard within the ANC aka the premier league, using money tilted the dynamics to ensure that a much older person wins.

This episode was following on the heels of another episode where some of the ANC Youth League leaders were dramatically expelled, and the entire Youth League leadership disbanded, replacing it with a task team that was led by a person who was not a youth.

Passing the baton of leadership often today means moving forward from older generation to more vibrant young generation of leaders.  It is a sort of generational relay race. It means moving from the older generation to much younger agile and active youthful leaders.  The world is becoming young and has problems that are complex and youth centric and therefore demands young leaders to be able to understand them and offer forward looking solutions.

So we ask, does age matter in leadership? Sober reflections will tell you that it does. The world intensely craves for youngish leaders.

Leadership succession means passing the baton to young generation. So far two leading contenders for ANC presidency will be around 70 years of age in 2019 election year. Are we in reverse gear?

Young people in leadership are defining the world steering it to new frontiers. Why do we find it difficult to assimilate these lesson? I know some people are smart by half, saying that it is the policies of the ANC not the individual, let alone the age factor. Is that kind of reasoning intended for real? I would not even attempt to analyse this unfunny cosmic ignorance. No amount of detergent can wash the fact that the individual leader and his or her age is greatest huge factor in any enterprise. Just reflect what is happening currently in the country.

As 2015 is winding down, the year will go down in history as the year of the students. What it really means is that in 2015 we saw an enormous turning point in the country when young people took matters into their own hands. It was youthful transformative exuberance for radical change to national issues that affect them. The youth showed immense leadership that seemed lacking in the nation. On their own they created a loosely connected organisation that has stretched across the country. That was an immense leadership at play - the youth factor.

When John F. Kennedy was sworn in 1961 as American president at the age of 43, he was taking over the relay baton of leadership from the 70 year old Dwight Eisenhower. And he said: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans”. And it was. John F. Kennedy's youthful leadership that effectively managed the cold war. Many people agree on that aspect of his leadership.

Traditionally old dogs are either quietly killed or violently executed. This is done to release their owners from the burden of these dogs not being useful anymore because of their weak bones. When I was growing up in rural Limpopo Province, when a dog became too old we took that old dog to the wilderness where we chain it on a tree, and then we hammer it with stones, spilling its blood in a violent orgy of unconcern. A few tears may be shed by few people while authorizing the murder of an old dog. But the ultimate fact was that the old dog must die, because age has eroded its competences and abilities. Time has wearied its usefulness. It is now a burden, and it must be disposed by whatever means necessary.

Here are the four American presidents that fundamentally changed United States and the age at which they were sworn as presidents:

John F. Kennedy: 43. Bill Clinton: 46; Barack Obama: 47.

Here are some of the world’s best known revolutionary leaders and the age at which they started to rule:

Fidel Castro (33), Emiliano Zapata (31), and Theodore Roosevelt (42).

(I mentioned Theodore Roosevelt as a revolutionary in his own right, for he surely took America into the modern age and really built the American army, which is now the most powerful super military force in the world).

Psychologists further reveals that age is an important aspect in a person’s worldview, approach and decision making. And that old age derail the social and economic train. All of us have eyes, we dont need psychologists; we can see that old age is a great limiter, it robs humans of vibrancy and vitality.

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