Oliver Tambo had a real sense of the will of the people and he knew that he was serving as president of the ANC at the behest of its general membership, says the writer. Picture: Sunday Tribune Archives
SA needs to do away with this unfounded notion that if some leaders are not in leadership positions that everything is lost, writes Thabile Wonci.

Over the past few weeks, South Africans have been deliberating the shameful misfortunes that have risen out of seemingly ill-considered decisions of those in the highest echelons of our leadership.

The country seem to have reached its Damascus moment. I am reminded of the story in the Book of Genesis where God was very sad and disappointed at the wickedness that had overtaken humanity to a point where He reluctantly decided to wipe out the human race and start from scratch. For the first time since the downfall of the gruesome apartheid era, South Africa has, during the past few weeks, witnessed a unified call from some sections of our society calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down.

It is true that when a nation is going through anguish, God will allow the pain so that His people can unite.

Early this year, during his State of the Nation address Zuma declared that, “we have declared the year 2017, the Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo”.

He went further suggesting that, “it’s the year of unity in action by all South Africans as we move South Africa forward together”.

I danced in jubilation when hearing this piece of good news as I saw it as an important victory in our march towards a better tomorrow that speaks of change in a forward direction.

OR Tambo is credited for keeping the ANC intact during a crackdown on political activism that was strongly driven by the blood-thirsty, brutal apartheid government.

He earned his stripes as one of the founding members of the ANC Youth League together with the likes of Anton Lembede, AP Mda, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, John Ngubane and many others. What distinguished Tambo and his comrades from today’s cult is that they were extraordinary, able men who rallied behind the ANC and its policies in a disciplined manner.

I am of the view that Tambo’s name is being used in vain here.

History has it on record that during the ANC’s much talked about “watershed” conference in Morogoro, Tanzania in 1969, Tambo tendered his resignation for he knew that it was never about him but the movement and most importantly, the total liberation of the people of South Africa.

Tambo had a real sense of the will of the people and he knew that he was serving as president of the ANC at the behest of its general membership. It is disingenuous to dedicate a year to Tambo and yet you hardly live by any of his values.

It is worth noting that South Africa is a progressive nation that prides itself on a solid democracy and a constitution that is hailed as the most progressive in the world.

Our democracy has transformed the country into a purposeful state, hence the need to refuse at all costs attempts of turning it into a banana republic.

In the words of Charles Dickens, “we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”.

Who has bewitched this great nation and progressive society of ours?

The self-inflicted pain that’s perpetrated by our political masters who through ignorance and lack of statesmanship seek to misdirect our focus away from what our forefathers died for.

We can never fold our arms in despair any longer when we see our own diverting from the real cause of our democratic struggle.

Amilcar Cabral laments that we should, “always remember that people are not fighting for ideas, nor for what is in men’s minds.

The people fight and accept the sacrifices demanded by the struggle in order to gain material advantages, to live better and in peace, to benefit from progress, and for the better future of their children. “

National liberation, the struggle against colonialism, the construction of peace, progress and independence are hollow words devoid of any significance unless they can be translated into a real improvement of living conditions.

South Africa needs to do away with this unfounded notion that if some political leaders are not around and/or not in leadership positions that everything is lost.

There is nobody who is indispensable in the Struggle.

Should the Struggle lose momentum because certain political personalities have vacated their leadership positions, perhaps that struggle was always worthless, without form, character and structure.

A leader that has progressed so much to think that it’s only him who can carry on his vision and that of the country, has probably not done anything and poses a serious danger to the nation.

It is against this background that when Tambo suffered personal attacks within the ANC, he was willing to step aside, for he knew that he had built a strong, united movement that was solid from the ground up.

In fact, Nelson Mandela conceded in 1991 that it would not be easy for him to follow in the giant footsteps of Tambo.

Certainly the freedom that Solomon Mahlangu, Chris Hani and many others died for was not the freedom to loot state resources at the expense of serving the poor.

* Wonci is a professional in the financial services sector.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent