The nature of struggle is that it is wont to throw to the fore, challenges that expose the shortcomings of leadership. The celebration of mediocrity, the cult of personality and the cancer of xenophobia are in my view the three major challenges that have plagued post-liberation societies in Africa.
Our country South Africa is not immune to these challenges.
The purpose of this article is NOT to parade the psychosis of leadership on our continent and country, but rather to put it to you that I believe if we were to give an honest assessment of ourselves using the mirror of past leadership we would see that we are more than what we have allowed ourselves to become.
The previous generation of leadership taught us that leadership is not a diffuse, amorphic exercise driven by a collection of self-interested individuals operating as independent leaders of factions acting to realise a personal agenda.
On the contrary, they taught us that leadership is a network of inter-dependent individuals; each with a clear well-defined purpose working selflessly to realise a collective agenda. This then means that any individual that ascribes to himself or herself the power to adopt an agenda that contradicts the collective objective of the society to which he or she belongs, then sets himself or herself up as a cancer that pose threat to the life of the collective and therefore the future of society.
The story of South Africa’s freedom is larger than the confines of the boundaries of our own country. South Africa received massive support from our surrounding frontline states that include Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola and Tanzania. There are families such as the Masilela family in 43 Trewlawney Park in Swaziland who opened up their homes and placed their lives in great peril to support our struggle.
So, it is therefore an indictment on our consciences that our ignorance or short-lived memory of the sacrifices made by fellow African countries in the interest of our liberation during the apartheid era caused us to visit harm upon the citizens of the very same countries through violence in post-liberation South Africa.
The unintended message that the incidents of xenophobia in SA conveyed to the rest of the world is that the freedom we sought was premised on proving to each other as Africans that we are better slaves than the other. The description of this psychosis is well illuminated in a work of fiction written by John Norman entitled Savages of Gor. What this implies then is that even in the absence of physical chains, we remain shackled in our thinking as Africans by a spirit of ‘otherness’ instead of a spirit of ‘one-ness’.
I repeat; the story of liberation of South Africa as the last African country to attain freedom from colonialism and oppression is a story that speaks not of the uniqueness of SA society, but to the common aspirations and geo-ethnic tapestry of the African nation as a whole.
So I invite you to join me in saying WHAT SEPARATES US IS LESS REAL THAN THE HISTORY THAT BINDS US.
In the face of divisions, let us draw strength by echoing the words of Oliver Tambo who said in 1991, “we did not tear ourselves apart because of a lack of progress at times …we were always ready to defend our unity”.
So, therefore my call to all citizens, business leaders, trade unionists and workers; who may have been tempted to disengage from defending Oliver Tambo’s legacy; IS it is time for us to demonstrate the courage to start over.
The Courage to Begin Again.