The statue of Solomon Mahlangu stands in Mamelodi. The writer says Mahlangu was a leader prepared to stand alone. Picture: ANA files
The statue of Solomon Mahlangu stands in Mamelodi. The writer says Mahlangu was a leader prepared to stand alone. Picture: ANA files

Loneliness is the price of leadership and sticking to your principles

Time of article published Sep 16, 2020

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Lesego Makhubela

THE PRICE of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The saviour of the world was a man who walked in loneliness.

I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath nowhere to lay his head,” (Matthew 8:20).

There is no lonelier picture in history than of the saviour upon the cross, alone, the redeemer of mankind bringing to pass the Atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind.

As I think of that, I reflect on a statement by Channing Pollock: "Judas with his 30 pieces of silver was a failure. Christ on the cross was the greatest figure of time and eternity.”

For some reason my thoughts have immersed me into the the heart of one member of the ANC and the ANCYL comrade Sello Sekhokho who was jailed when he was confronted by members of the DA who were marching to Luthuli House.

I think of his loneliness in a prison cell, among robbers, among rapists and murderers, only a few people speak of him and only a few have immersed themselves in his pain and in his loneliness, but in time and history he will be remembered by all.

I think of Solomon Mahlangu when he was walking to the gallows, to spill his blood so that he could “nourish the tree of freedom”, but more recently I think of Ronald Lamola at the past national congress, where I was sitting way behind him and seeing this picture moved something in me.

In a day where business people and ordinary members of our organisation join the struggle to gain access to those who have access to power or to gain access to those who have access to those in power, his courage and discipline is inspirational. But deeply I thought of Lehlogonolo Masoga after he was expelled from the ANCYL.

There is nothing that captures my subject like Martin Niemoller who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

"Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me."

It is not easy, for instance, to be virtuous when all about you there are those who scoff at virtue.

It is not easy to be honest when all about you there are those who are interested only in making “a fast buck”.

It is not always easy to be temperate when all about you there are those who scoff at sobriety. It is not easy to be industrious when all about you there are those who do not believe in the value of work.

It is not easy to be a man of integrity when all about you there are those who will forsake principle for expediency.

I have come out of this very strong and have learned this principle in a very hard way, first they accused me of being a member of the DA, then because of my educational background I was accused of being a CIA implant and lately I was accused of being funded by a man I have never met, nor do I have his number.

A qualification for leadership is to sometimes stand alone with a clear conscience. Be prepared to stand alone.

* Makhubela is ANC MPL in Gauteng and Tshwane chairperson of the ANCYL. He writes in a personal capacity.

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