The life of the late Cde. Nelson Mandela was a life steeped in the green, gold and black of the African National Congress (ANC). His love for and completely unwavering commitment to the ANC is well-documented in the annals of this country’s history.
Until his dying day he said he would be a member of the ANC, and that once he died, he would form an ANC branch in the afterlife!
The late Madiba had many, many virtues. Among them was being an extremely tolerant politician.
We saw this political tolerance demonstrated soon after he came out of prison, when despite a brutal and heartless incarceration that robbed him of his freedom, his youth, and a family life, he evidenced a remarkable capacity for tolerance even of his former captors.
He engaged in dialogue with most political entities in the country – drawing former foes and bitter adversaries alike to sit around the negotiating table.
During those difficult and turbulent years, it was Madiba who persuaded people from across the race divide that it was in their better interests, and in the better interests of a free, democratic South Africa, that they should all be part of the solution.
Despite many challenges and obstacles he forged ahead, drawing together all people who had come to believe in the ANC’s vision of a new South Africa.
In understanding and interpreting contemporary political events within the context of the ‘Mandela Years’; as always, contextualization becomes vital. It is an inevitability of politics that trends in leadership come and go, and could sometimes reappear.
Naked self-serving ambition masquerading as ‘aspiration to leadership’ is nothing new in politics, not least of all within the ranks of the ANC. In the time of Madiba, we also had individuals for whom ‘serving the people’ was a secondary consideration that took a backseat to self-interest.
In the time of Madiba we also had people who viewed the party as a means not to serve the electorate, but as vehicle for career advancement.
What we are experiencing today, where certain comrades are contesting for positions loudly and publicly, sometimes even in defiance of the party’s policies, is not a new phenomenon.
The above-mentioned is by no means unique to South Africa in 2014. But it should at the same time give pause for consideration of what example the late Cde. Mandela set with regards to leadership.
All of us who had the privilege of working with him will recount that he exemplified selfless leadership. He taught us that a leader is a servant of the people; and that a real leader devotes all their time to serving the people.
The other virtue for which we remember him is integrity. The late Madiba stood firmly for the integrity upon which our great movement was founded. He believed that when you made a promise you stand by that promise and keep it.
For Madiba, integrity also meant standing by your political convictions. You do not put yourself forward to lead in the organisation whilst you are actually gravitating towards a rival organisation. We recall he was highly critical of the so-called floor-crossing phenomenon at the time when it was allowed in Parliament.
According to Cde Mandela, people had to be true to themselves and the organisation that they belonged to.
Self-worth was also important to Madiba. He believed that in order to respect others you have to respect yourself first.
Honesty is inextricably linked to integrity, and Cde. Madiba was a man of extreme honesty.
At a time when stigma and silence surrounded the appearance of HIV, Madiba shared the story of his own son’s battle with HIV/Aids with the entire world; in the process helping to break down the barriers of stigma and misunderstanding around the virus.
When considering the challenges we face as a movement, we remember that Cde. Mandela firmly believed that unity within the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC) was paramount; and this included the alliance partners. A strong Alliance is a Strong South Africa: this was an ideal Cde, Madiba firmly believed in.
A strong, united Alliance was the only vehicle through which the ANC could advance its pro-poor, pro-development policies, and advance the interests of the working class in general.
Professional or ideological disagreement or digression was never grounds for allowing fractures to develop amongst the alliance partners. During the Madiba years, the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) found themselves in disagreement on a number of occasions. However they always found a way of coming together, unified by their common cause, which is the advancement of South Africa.
Always being connected to communities: Madiba was an ardent advocate for Advancing People’s Power. Upon his release from prison he actually went door-to-door recruiting the people of Orlando West to join the local ANC branch.
For a man of his stature – an internationally revered icon and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, to humble himself and interact with communities directly, is instructive of the type of leader he was; the type of leader we should strive to emulate.
The ANC has chosen as the theme of its 2016 Local Government Elections Manifesto the theme ‘Advancing People’s Power’. This is our commitment to develop local communities in partnership with the people to make them better places for our people to live in.
The late Cde.Madiba has set an example of the attributes of the leadership that has defined the ANC throughout its history. Let us take up the baton in his memory this July.
CDE JESSIE DUARTE IS ANC DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL