OPINION: The call to lead is never easy to answer
Mmusi Maimane writes about his decision to campaign for the lead role at the DA.
South Africa faces an interesting juncture in its democratic history. When Helen Zille announced her decision not to avail herself for leadership at the DA’s Federal Congress, it introduced such a wave – a new beginning and seismic change. It was a moment which impacted upon me deeply.
I have supported Helen and have admired her tenacity and ability to work harder than most leaders I know.
It then introduced deep reflection on availing myself to lead the DA if nominated. I had to consider what the decision would mean for my family and what contribution we could make to our country.
Leadership is both a personal and team effort. It is personal insofar as you need to ask yourself if you are ready to lead. It is a team effort in that you can only lead those around you with their support. This is the duality of leadership.
So in answering the difficult call to lead, these two aspects of leadership need to be looked at before one says “yes, I will lead”.
The question that haunts one constantly is: why do you want to lead? My basis for leading is that I believe we can fix South Africa’s broken society.
I want to build on the legacy of President Nelson Mandela that ensures a better South Africa for all.
We must stand up and contest for a society where the Constitution reigns supreme and every citizen is equal under the law.
It is a campaign for the future of this country, where politics is not contest of races but of ideas and ideology that can best take the country and its people forward.
We must collectively build our nation, and consolidate our fragile democracy.
I want this for my kids and as I would for any child in this country.
I wake up to building a prosperous South Africa where opportunity is equal and if a woman or man works hard they can succeed – it is the mantra of a South African dream.
I believe in this country, I am profoundly impacted by the plight of young people, who despite us advancing our democracy, still remain locked out of the economy. I want to build an inclusive South Africa where the education of any child is not determined by race, location or societal circumstances.
When I discussed my decision to accept the nomination for leader of the DA with my father, he recalled that he grew up on black tea and pap, and this still remains a reality for too many South Africans. He reminded me that he knows poverty and we as a nation cannot have a country where this remains a reality for so many.
Like many of his peers, he did all he could so that his children did not live that life and were able to access opportunities that weren’t available to him. As a result, today his son can stand for the leader of the DA because of his sacrifice.
I responded by saying that because if his hard work and sacrifices, my children do not live on black tea and pap. Tragically, this is not the case for many children, and I want to change this.
As a Sowetan, I know that many of the fathers and mothers in the community worked for factories, but worked to ensure that their children could be free to be doctors, lawyers and teachers. This is my dream: I want the future of the black child, of every child, to be one of opportunity, that they can be what their parents’ dream of them to become and more.
We must remove all obstacles to this, and the state must be make it possible. Our promise can’t be tenders for the political elite, it must freedom to build on successes, small businesses and an economy that is inclusive.
This is just the start.
Someone said if I was elected I could make history; my response was that we have not made history until all South Africans can see democracy work; when power shifts from one party to the next, and that the dream of our forefathers, of a prosperous South Africa, is realised in the next generation. Then only then can we talk about making history.
Should I emerge as the DA leader, I will have the mammoth task of ensuring internal stability, given that I will have to bring everyone in the party on board as we set out to start a new chapter for the party under a new leader. There will also be the task of ensuring that the citizens of South Africa believe in the DA. As we head to the 2016 Local Government Elections, the party not only needs to maintain its 22% national vote share, but it also needs to improve on this, as we eye the prospect of governing more municipalities, namely Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg.
The party’s Federal Congress, taking place next month, is important for two reasons. First, delegates from across the country – from our smallest to our largest branches – will descend on Nelson Mandela Bay to elect a new leader. Second, we will be launching the DA’s new Vision and Values Charter, essentially our offer to South Africans ahead of the Local Government Elections.
The congress will mark the beginning of a different DA, different in more ways than one: a new leader and a new offer to the people of South Africa. The congress delegates will need to look at the candidates for leader and ask who best encapsulates the new Vision and Values Charter, and will be able to articulate this to the small business owner in Soweto and the CEO of a large corporate in Sandton.
While the small business owner in Soweto and the CEO of the Sandton corporate are worlds apart, their needs are not so dissimilar.
Regardless of our circumstances, we want quality service delivery; we want our children’s potential to be recognised, through access to quality education (from primary to tertiary level); we to live in safe communities and where crime does strike, we find solace in a responsive police service; we want to know that we live in an economy that grows and ensures we are able to find employment.
This is the society I would like to secure.
There is quote I reflect on, each time I called to lead, it goes as follows:
“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”
South Africa is embarking on a new journey, and we all have an opportunity to do something great. If we are to build the South Africa of our dreams, we all need to be prepared to lead where we can.
This column first appeared on Daily Maverick.