An Anc Leader Should Strive to Be in Touch with the People

Cape Times (South Africa), December 6, 2007 | Go to article overview

An Anc Leader Should Strive to Be in Touch with the People


BYLINE: Essop Pahad

The African National Congress is deeply committed to creating a better South Africa and a better Africa.

That is its historic mission, its raison d'etre rooted in the Freedom Charter that loudly proclaims that South Africa belong to all who live in it.

The Freedom Charter and the constitution are both incredibly visionary documents that place enormous obligations on the ruling party to create a South Africa that is free of racism, sexism and chauvinism, and that promotes a non-sexist, non-racist, inclusive and socially cohesive country where the fruits of growth are equitably shared among all.

Ours must be a South Africa committed to reconciliation, that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, respects the rule of law, united in its diversity, peaceful, prosperous and democratic.

These are not cliches but necessary realities without which our post-apartheid order makes no sense.

Improving the wellbeing of all South Africans is of utmost importance. These objectives and values form the fountainhead of our existence.

This commitment, with its profoundly important national, continental and global implications, requires the ANC to exercise the greatest care in the choice of leaders to head the movement for the next five years and beyond.

The choice of leader must draw on the democratic tradition and impulses within the ANC. For in the ANC power is vested in the branches, and branches collectively have 90% of the votes at the upcoming Polokwane conference.

Democracy and the very fabric of democracy require a process in which leadership positions are robustly contested.

That is the ANC way. But these contestations must not degenerate into invective, abuse, dirty tricks, appeals to different forms of chauvinism and ad hominem attacks.

Leadership debates and contests allow one to test and measure the qualities of the contestants, their strengths and weaknesses and what they stand for.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a political party forthrightly debating the qualities required by a leader to realise the vision articulated above.

So what are the qualities that make a good leader?

Leaders in the ANC are not autonomous beings; they are part of a collective, and derive their legitimacy and credibility not from opinion polls, not from journalists and political commentators or from any insiders of ill-will feeding them misinformation - but from the will of the membership of the ANC as expressed in free and fair democratic processes.

The leader of the ANC is part of a collective leadership but is also the primary spokesperson for the movement.

Such a person must be fully schooled in the traditions of the ANC, must understand and accept its political culture, its values and its openly- stated vision for progressive politics to dominate the global, continental and national agenda.

She or he must be open, transparent and accountable to the membership of the organisation.

As the ANC itself repeatedly states, to become an ANC leader is not an entitlement; it must derive from a commitment to serve the people.

The leader should strive to be in touch with the people, to be accessible and flexible and to listen to and learn from them.

The leader must work to realise the vision of the movement and must encourage people to be their own change agents; to lead by example and by consensus, to be above reproach in political, economic and social conduct and to act as role model for ANC members and non-members alike.

Such leaders must eschew all forms of chauvinism and promote a vision of unity in diversity and gender equality, respect and tolerance and must promote democracy and strengthen all the institutions of democracy.

Leaders must also exemplify moral standing, they must have respect and stature globally so that they can advance the interests of Africa worldwide and use their influence to promote our commitment to peace and stability, democracy and good governance on our continent. …

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