In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still

The ANC as a governing party and the country, in general, have been stagnant for over a decade, taking a backseat to political scheming and winner-takes-all elective conferences, writes YONELA DIKO

After the disturbing scenes from our Eastern Cape Provincial Conference, scenes themselves which, as troubling as they are, only serve to affirm the degeneration and ‘road to ruin’ we have been in for at least the last ten years, I found myself pressed in reflection mode, searching for answers. Where did we go wrong? I painfully asked myself. Where were our fathers to explain the aching in our hearts? As I stumbled over the recesses of my senses, searching for answers, I rested on leadership. The ANC has a crisis of leadership I concluded. This was not a blinding enlightenment; it’s the truth right in front of all of us to see.

Simon Sinek once said, ‘Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation’. At least since 2005, when then Deputy President Jacob Zuma was removed by President Thabo Mbeki from his post, it seems since then it has all been about the next ANC election. Zuma –  in order to fight back against what many saw as an unjust act against him – sought, alongside those who supported him, to turn the next ANC elective conference that was to take place two years after his sacking as a stage for a ‘Return of the King’, and humiliation of the enemies.

Two years later, the watershed 2007 Polokwane conference happened and Zuma got his pound of flesh. Thereafter, President Mbeki, humiliated and without party power, just could never settle on government power alone and in a few months, he would be out in the cold. The sense of victor and vanquished at the 2007 Polokwane conference was so devastating it would have been naive to think that the vanquished at the 2007 conference would not regroup and prepare for the next battle at the 2012 Mangaung conference.

The biggest surprise, however, is that the very victors at the 2007 conference, just a year after the 2009 general electoral victory, were already disillusioned by the leadership they had rallied to victory two years earlier. By 2010 when a group inside COSATU, the Youth League and other Zuma supporters woke up to a Zuma that was not what they had expected, their eyes were once against cast on the next election as the answer.

The Mangaung ANC Conference in 2012 was seen as an opportunity to correct the mistakes of 2007. The man elected as Deputy President in 2007, Cde Kgalema Motlanthe, already perplexed by what he viewed as a corrupt and unprincipled Head of State and his minions, vowed to challenge President Zuma for the position of President. This was already bizarre because, under normal circumstances, a party does not challenge its chosen leader after the first term.

However, it happened and in 2012 and as history would have it, Motlanthe failed to unseat Zuma at that conference. Zuma would get emboldened as ANC branches showed an unwavering confidence in him, giving him an almost messianic resolve to continue the destruction. It is now 2017 and just as it was at the last two ANC conferences, the upcoming one is once again seen as the hope for this much-needed self-correction the ANC desperately needs.

Again, it’s about the next election and not a single person seems concerned that we are living from election to election with destruction in between which never really gets corrected.

No one seems concerned about the next generation. So, since 2005 it’s been about the next election and 12 years later, things have only gotten more desperate. The last ten years in particular, characterised by the stagnation and almost reversal of all important growth indices, have confirmed what Harry Truman once said that indeed ‘In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still’. We have certainly not gone forward as an organisation and unfortunately, the country has also been standing still.

Leaders are chosen by the people, even though that has become a misnomer given the reality that it is in fact now leaders that choose their voters, slicing and dicing them according which branch leaders are likely to favour them in which regions and so on. The people still have a duty to elect their leaders and it’s clear that the people have been duped and hoodwinked through populism and rhetoric that seems to speak to their interests.

But what should be the people be looking for?

Dwight D Eisenhower once said, ‘The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, whether it is in a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office’.

Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Integrity is a core value of a liberation movement. The success of a revolution singlehandedly depends on honest comrades of strong moral principles. It is these honest and strong moral principles that make revolutionaries sacrifice everything for the revolution, even the supreme price for the cause, for the complete emancipation of the people. It is integrity that draws others to your cause; it is integrity that makes others make similar sacrifices, to never be doubted, and your intentions to never be questioned.

It is this integrity that made Tambo move from country to country amassing worldwide support and condemnation against the Apartheid government. It is honesty and strong moral principle that catapulted Madiba to be a giant among men. World leaders always told us how difficult it was to say no to Mandela when he asked something, because you knew, without the slightest of doubts, that it was all for his people.

As it turns out, integrity is a core principle of governing a country too.

It is now well understood that grave mistakes were made in the previous elective conferences when it comes to electing leaders, particularly the ANC NEC, the highest decision-making body in between conferences. The first collapse of integrity in the ANC has been caused by people who want to lead by any means necessary, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice.

This has led to people being influenced, lobbied and outright quid pro quo in order for people to either ascend to higher office or remain there. The famous physicist, Albert Einstein, who himself lived at the height of leadership upheavals across the globe said, ‘The led must not be compelled. They must be able to choose their own leader’.

A man of integrity would never force himself on people. People must be completely free to choose their own leader so that they can share the responsibilities of leadership and not be spectators.

All of us must do what the incomparable and greatest sportsman of all time Michael Jordan advised, “Earn your leadership every day.”

 Diko is a media strategist and consultant

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