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‘There is an immaturity in our political leadership’

Lorenzo Davids writes that much of our politics today reminds him of a bunch of leaders eternally stuck in a Grade 7 class and never transitioning to the new realities of high school. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Lorenzo Davids writes that much of our politics today reminds him of a bunch of leaders eternally stuck in a Grade 7 class and never transitioning to the new realities of high school. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 14, 2022

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I recall two years of my education well. One was my Grade 7 (Standard 5) year, and the other my Grade 8 (Standard 6) year.

In Grade 7, we were the senior students at Heatherdale Primary School. We felt that sense of seniority glowing out of us.

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One of my teachers is now my fellow columnist, the great Alex Tabisher. Mr Tabisher was in every way the most intelligent human being I had ever met. He was intelligent, articulate, erudite and wise. I will write more about him one day.

The other year was when I started high school. I suddenly realised we were not as senior as we thought. All the glowing we felt in Grade 7 evaporated like a Cape Town mist in the month of May.

We quickly realised that to survive Belgravia High School would require considerable skills over the next five years.

During that period of painful transitioning, I recalled Alex Tabisher’s insightful leadership. In one of our last assemblies as the senior class at Heatherdale, Alex Tabisher taught us that surviving high school was based on our ability to cling to the lessons we had learnt in primary school and to vigorously take on the new ideas we would learn in high school.

Much of our politics today reminds me of a bunch of leaders eternally stuck in a Grade 7 class and never transitioning to the new realities of high school. There is a missing transition from the politics of our founding to the politics of our future.

Much of the ANC, DA and EFF’s behaviour is like the fights in Grade 7. It is based on the same immature conduct, thinking we were glowing with seniority because of the past when all we did was fail to grasp what the future would require of us.

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There is an immaturity in our political leadership. It’s not even high school quality. To see a president and his party imploding in full view of the nation is tragic. To see party conflicts play out like playground fights, reeks of immaturity.

To see two opposition leaders grandstanding is equally bizarre. One wanting to drink champagne at a time of significant political crisis, the other using constant bullying to get his way, is Grade 7 school boy glowing. It’s not leadership.

South Africa is transitioning. Our politics, having failed Grade 7 several times, will be writing exams again in 2024. If we fail again, we will be stuck in Grade 7 for another education cycle. Unlike school, there is no promotion to Grade 8 in politics. If we fail again, a chaotic future awaits us.

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Across our political leadership, we see the quality of a Grade 7 class, not the matured leadership of a skilled and learned degreed cohort. Nationally and globally, we need more than Grade 7 fights and glowing to build a progressive and prosperous democracy. Our country requires a matured political leadership.

And the more we see the current conduct of our political leadership, the more we should worry. Who will be going to Grade 8 in 2024? Who will be our matriculants in 2029? Who will be our degreed leadership in 2034?

Will we be doomed to an eternal Grade 7 leadership that cannot grow beyond the politics of our founding to lead the politics of our future?

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Alex Tabisher told us in that last assembly in 1974 that we must cling to lessons learnt in the past and take on new lessons of the future with an even greater vigour if we wish to succeed in life.

Our beloved country is at risk of being stuck with a political leadership who never graduated beyond their Grade 7 learnings. Who will lead the politics of our future?

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

Cape Argus

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