There Is a 'Mugabe' In Almost Every University

2013-08-15 15:23

It is that exciting period in the calendar of student life in most universities where a variety of ideas will be exchanged, adopted, rubbished, and debated by student voters as aspirant student representatives bid for leadership positions.

Great visions are communicated by young student leaders with a passion to prove themselves as capable drivers of student governance. Sadly, there’s always a hand from the past that grabs the wick of their candles to put out the burning fire. Such are greedy elders of the campus community.

In my upbringing, one of the most disgusting characteristics a child could have was greed.

Reminiscing on such moments, I can still recall the words of my mother, reprimanding us to stop with “meharo ena ea lona” (this greed of yours).

Greed is not only despised in childhood, but also loathed among the elders. Generally, a greedy character is nauseating.

Although I have never read any philosophical work that seeks to unpack the nature and underpinnings of greed as a human disorder, out of observation I noted that greed is the outcome of uncontrolled ambition—the cumulative desire to eat, receive, achieve, be recognised, more than necessary, legal, acceptable. In fact, greed mothers corruption. It emanates from a family of self-serving emotions.

Leadership-wise, greed is bemoaned largely because it is a barrier to fresh blood of leaders. It is a sad reality even on our various universities that there are those student leaders who don’t want to leave campus. All they want is to quench their greedy desires of power, recognition and campus popularity, even when it’s become clear that such campuses need a new, young and future-oriented leadership.

Campus comrades have for many years dragged the student activism name through the mud by their tendency to not graduate on time, to want SRC positions, to become campus ‘ancestors’.

The problem with students who have become senior citizens is their reluctance to allow young, fresh-minded leaders to emerge. Their greed, perpetuated by their unguided ambition, makes them to want to run for every position on campus.

Well, without any intention of discrediting whosoever the campus 'elder' may be who is running for the SRC in any South African university, I think the greatest weakness of such students is their historical references, their arrogant nostalgia of “I was there when this and that happened”, their sense of entitlement to our votes as if we owe them for having spent donkeys’ years on campus.

At the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs there is provision for self-actualisation, which essentially entails growth, development and fulfilment. In that context, I personally regard it as an important characteristic of any leader to arrive at a point in their leadership journey where they let go and pursue higher ambitions. What am I trying to say? All I’m saying is that as student leaders we need to mature into a position where we have the audacity to stop pursuing certain ambitions, and start chasing others.

What happened to old streams of water being replaced with the fresh-from-the-rain ones? What happened to leaving with your dignity intact? What happened to controlled ambition, and not gluttony? What would have happened had Nelson Mandela clung to power?

These questions, I can assure you, are being posed among the student circles in most universities as the SRC elections are closer and the campaigning already begun.

New leaders with a future-oriented vision on such campuses are being frustrated by senior campus citizens who have made student leadership a permanent career—those who resemble the character of a child with despicable tendencies of greed. My prototype of a good leader is one who can step down.

It hurts me to see students being so hungry for power that they can’t even realise when they’ve overstayed their welcome in institutions of higher learning; when they have lost relevance, that is.

It happens everywhere.

Greed is a prison and refuses to allow those it holds captive to know when to say: “We’ve done our part.”

Greed is a form of self-slavery. Greed is an enemy to innovative ideas.

It is present almost everywhere—in all universities, mine included.

And as it happens—as candidates bombard us with history; as they impress first-years with decorated CVs carrying nostalgic arrogance, as ideas whose times have come are being thwarted by greedy student leaders and comrades, as they [campus elders] justify why they don’t want to give new leaders an opportunity—I find myself miserably failing to differentiate between them [campus veterans] and Robert Mugabe.

And so I’m forced into conviction that there is actually a ‘Robert Mugabe’ in every campus.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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