Sandile Memela
Sandile Memela

Motlanthe not power hungry

In very strange ways Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has been chastised for his reluctance to accept the poisoned chalice of the ANC leadership.

In fact he has been unjustifiably condemned as indecisive and, in not so many words, called a coward for not stating whether he will run against President Jacob Zuma for the number one position.

Instead all that Motlanthe has confessed is that he has been “agonising” over it.

If he became the first man to openly run against Zuma, Motlanthe would probably not only have contradicted himself but become part of the problem he has spoken and fought against: putting individual self-interest before that of the country.

He would certainly have played into the hands of those who fuel a culture of deadly rivalry and competition among comrades who have become notorious for being preoccupied with position, power and status to gain access to state resources.

Much as some people refuse to acknowledge it, Motlanthe is one of the greatest thinker-leaders to emerge from the liberation movement in the last 50 years. He is not only self-effacing but genuinely humble and committed to principle.

I would vouch for any man who understands and promotes the view that in modern society leadership is not about a position. There are far too many men and women who hold top positions in politics, government, church business and civil society, for instance, but are not leaders. Motlanthe does not seem to fall into that breed.

He knows that to be a leader, you do not need to hold a so-called influential position where you use power to get your way because you have surrounded yourself with yes-men. In most instances, it (leadership) is not only through imposing your will but marginalising those who do not agree with you.

When pressed to put his plans on the table, Motlanthe has said “I believe I will always do my humble work at whatever level. I do not have to be in a position of leadership. I am not a professional politician”.

A leader is someone who not only understands himself but knows what he is not. And Motlanthe understands the distinction between leadership and position. Also, he has made it clear that he is not a professional politician. His real job is to be a servant of the people.

So, as the country braces itself for what will happen at the ANC’s 53rd national conference, there is no blood on the floor. Yes, shots have been fired but, most importantly, there is no blood on the hands of those contesting for leadership. In African politics, men are willing to kill their own brothers and comrades just to occupy positions of power.

Motlanthe may be the first leader in the history of a liberated South Africa to renounce the most powerful position in the country.

In fact we live in a society that is so obsessed with position that we categorise and class people according to their status. Even at a funeral, it is your position that determines the seat you will occupy and how the bereaved family must be happy that you attended.

We need more men and women who are not power drunk because of the positions they hold. What Motlanthe has made our country, the continent and the world to experience is a calibre of leadership that is neither self-serving nor delusional. As a leader, you are what you are because of your willingness to carry out the mandate of the people.

Even the Freedom Charter says “no government (leader) can justly claim authority (legitimacy) unless it is based on the will of the people”.

Motlanthe redefines the relationship between the people and the leader when he says: “If we fail to stay on our toes because of the cries of our people, then we don’t deserve to hold these positions of responsibility.” A responsible leader is intuitively connected to the aspirations and material needs of his people. He does as they say.

But over the last few months Motlanthe has been vilified and judged for his determination not to promote or entrench rivalry in the race for ANC leadership. This is a tragic development, indeed. That a man who is not ambitious in the sense of personal interest has been dismissed as a fool.

But, in many ways, this is the calibre of leadership that will, ultimately, make South Africa one of the greatest nations of earth. Leadership is not a position but a willingness to do your best to make this a better country than it has become.

Senior managers in government and other leaders in other sectors of society must closely study the significance. His decision to forgo position to pursue selfless service is the new definition of leadership. In fact, it has been a hallmark of the ANC for years until Nelson Mandela stepped down.

But Motlanthe has reset the template for African leadership where, irrespective of our position, rank or status, we do the best we can to make this world a better place by putting the interests of the country above our own.

Motlanthe has made the first footsteps in the sands of history to give an example that should be enduring in our self-understanding and history. These footsteps will be vanishing into the wind unless we all pause to ask ourselves: Why would an African male refuse to run for the presidency of the most powerful country in the continent?

But now that Motlanthe has defined the true meaning of leadership, we cannot claim we do not know the answer. In fact we cannot stand silent as he is condemned by people who not only misunderstand what he is doing but distort it because it will not spill more African blood.

Perhaps Motlanthe wants to live a quiet life as he does not seem to be a man who loves the glitterati. If he chooses not to run for the number one position, then he must be allowed to leave the stage.

After all leadership is not a position, it’s what you are willing to do for the people, irrespective of your station in life.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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    • Tofolux

      @Sandile, I am quite surprised that you guys have failed to find out what the necessary processes are when someone has been nominated in the ruling party. In fact, so many untruths has been written (ad-nauseum let me add), with many an irrelevant speculation and much time wasting. The Deputy President CANNOT ACCEPT a nomination until the ELECTORAL COMMISSION has FORMALLY put the QUESTION directly TO HIM. He therefore CANNOT EXPRESS that he is WILLINGNESS OR UNWILLINGNESS until FORMALITIES ARE DEALT WITH ie until the PROCESS has reached its CONCLUSION. This FACT has been communicated to all and sundry on many occasions and I really need to know what about all of this, you are unable to understand. OK, we know that processes of democracy is quite unbelievable for some amongst us to understand let alone comprehend. But to resort to all these untruths and ignoring due process that Deputy President must subject himself to, indicates his discipline and respect for processes of his organisation. Also, why is it that only the Deputy President is singled out to enjoy special treatment and all other members must subject themselves to processes. It is most unkind that the Deputy President is once again unduly attacked for no apparent reason other than to stave off this hungry appetite for untruths and speculation.

    • Wildcat

      TOFOLUX, I enjoy reading your comments. I don’t agree with you most of the time, but I read nonetheless.

      PLEASE will you use paragraphs?

      It would make reading your comments so much nicer!


    • Wildcat

      Mr Motlanthe seems a very decent man. The only problem I have with him is that he seems to look upon Malema with favour :(

    • Sandile memela

      If there is anything I don’t understand, why don’t you teach me? I did not say he is running or not unless there is something I am missing here.

    • Rich Brauer

      “Why would an African male refuse to run for the presidency of the most powerful country in the continent?”

      As opposed to an African *female*?

      I guess they must just know their place…

    • Heinrich Becker

      I agree with most of what Sandile says, but my book a leader should lead. A leader should take a stand, albeit unpopular. A leader should have a goal – move towards a destination.

      Zuma is a good leader. He is taking the country in a certain direction. His ANC is on the road to self enrichment, self aggrandizement and self exultation through the core values of arrogance, nepotism and corruption, at the cost of gullible public. Motlanthe would not be able to do this better than Zuma.

      If Motlanthe was a leader, and he disagreed with the direction the ANC is going, he would have made his position known on each possible opportunity. In stead, he is quiet on the issue of the national rape and dereliction of duty from the ANC and praises Zuma in stead.

      Motlanthe has shown that he agrees with the self serving direction of the ANC and has proven himself to be a mere follower of Zuma.

    • Gerard

      The Deputy President already occupied the presidential seat after Mbeki was axed, which qualifies him for all the privileges and perks of a former Head of State, including salary, flights, security (Not Nkandlagate size), etc . So in essence, it is not about the money, and to my knowledge he also does not have an extended family and 20+ children that needs state support of some sort. To my mind, he is a far better choice for the country at this stage, as opposed to JZ. He has less baggage, will be able to focus on the country and not personal or financial woes, and already has a support base that are intent on ensuring credible and honest leadership.

    • Blogroid

      Perhaps, and taking into account Tofolux’s frenzied rules related rationalisation, his [Mr Motlanthe’s] extreme reluctance has something to do with unsavory allegations charged against his consort. These flurried for a moment and then dropped off the horizon… Were he to make too much noise perhaps the allegations will return.

      Then again perhaps he is nervous he’ll be in a car smash, like a late health minister and a rising number of other late members of a growing range of Parties, who perhaps were inconvenient.

      There have been other possible contenders over time who pulled back well before the precipice… and as i have said before: perhaps it is because he knows that there
      is no one else for the job, as qualified, as the present incumbent.

      Of course it may be as the Bloggist suggests that he is far too decent a man to take on the job… and the mob will simply have him for breakfast: although i still think he knows in his heart, that there is no alternative to JZ.

    • Sna

      Sandile, you clearly are one sided mate, all you have said about Motlanthe regarding leadership is purely because of ANC processes. Like the ANC keeps reminding pple like you who like to shoot. Know one knows who(has) will accept nomination.
      You are simply trying to campaign for KM. A leader is Decisive.. Anyway if KM is to accept Nomination i would call that Greed, 1) for wanting to be President yet again and wanting to unseat his Collegue 2.) when he was Pres. he was being remote controlled by Luthuli house now he wants absolute power , thats if he stands.

    • Sandile

      South Africa of today, due to lack of Agenda as Country we now making Politic as the only Agenda for South Africa.

      We have forgotten that as South Africa through our Community, Churches, Business Communities, Foreign Investors, Youth Formation and other structures of Non-Governmental Structures we build South Africa as a country and ensured the all who live in it have right and say to the government of the day.

      So this days because of the lack of Community Involvement, Active South African Citizenship and Proper Non Government Structures we are blaming the only organised structure for meeting and forming the direction of this Country. Where are other structures of Society, why our hope have now only depend of the African National Congress.

      Some parties are having their Plans Conference and the only pronouncement they can make is about what the current ruling party (ANC) is not doing right, we don’t even hear them telling us about the their Strategy for this Country. Churches have forgotten to pray for us as Society, we are members of churches too and one should see the good building they have in expense of the poor. they have stop looking after poor but building their churches high and high and Pastors driving Fancier Cars and followed by Body Guards

      If the African National Congress is so wrong, why are we not getting other active organisation to tell us what their are doing, not tell us what the ANC is doing wrong. If we get alternative we should know what…

    • Len

      I agree with Heinrich Becker – a leader makes a stand – if he believes that the country should be taken in another direction he must do it and take his followers with him and make more followers by convincing citizens of the path he wants to take.
      Right now it appears that he is afraid to make a move because he is afraid he will lose his current status. This is commonly called cowardice.
      I don’t know the man but I know the practice.

    • Heinrich Becker

      @Sandile : Valid questions you are asking, but remember, it is the (ANC) government which sits with all the money. The tax revenue which they are supposed to use to help build our country and our nation. To provide infrastructure and services for the people.

      Then there is another problem: many people mistakenly equate patriotism to loyalty towards the government, in stead of loyalty towards the country. If this distinction was clear in the hearts and minds of the majority of South Africans, the ANC would have been wiped off the map a long time ago.

    • Anthony Eden

      There is one basic problem with Mothanthe – he stands for the party, not for SA – or at least, he puts loyalty to the ANC above loyalty to SA. This is not the sign of a true leader, even in a one party sham democracy like SA. When Chamberlain was leading England towards total disaster and defeat, Churchill had the balls to stand up in parliament and say so. He didn’t care about his party – he wanted to save his country. Some weasels in the backbench that day started with party politics – and so did Chamberlain – and Leo Amery said to them ‘stop speaking for the party Neville! Speak for England!’ JZ and his faction are leading SA into a disaster as great as England faced then. If Mothlante were a real leader, with real courage, and really cared for SA, he would stand up and speak for SA. And courageously stand up against disaster and tyranny.

    • Momma Cyndi

      My only problem with Motlanthe is that he seems to stand for nothing. During his time as the ‘caretaker’ president, I didn’t know what his priorities were or what direction he wanted to go in. That was forgivable as it was a short period and it was a ‘stand in’ position.

      The problem is that our President has been AOL most of his tenure. He is either on honeymoon or out of the country. During that time, I still have not learned what our Deputy President stands for or what his priorities are. Motlanthe has, essentially, been running the country and we don’t even know what he stands for.

      I am not a fan of Mbeki but at least he had a vision and a direction. The vision may have been blurry on occasion and the direction a bit out of left field but he LEAD from the front and didn’t hide behind the ‘collective’. We knew what path SA was on and he never changed his stance according to which audience he was in front of. I miss that.

      What is Motlanthe’s vision?

    • ntozakhona

      There are several ANC ‘leaders’ who have positioned and promoted themselves contrary to ANC processes and procedures. Others have said ‘I am being lobbied and I can discharge’ since 1997. Others have not waited for the ANC electoral commission to announce nominees and their responses. Motlanthe belongs to the admirable ones who respected due process. I single him out because more than any other he has been under intense pressure to violate processes. Ramaphosa has also respected processes for example.

      If respect for due process is not decisive and principled leadership then… haaibo. Those who seek to destroy the ANC and the practises that made it gigantic are the loudest in calling for Motlanthe to show their brand of leadership. Sandile, on this one I concur with you.

    • ntozakhona

      ANC processes needs to be patiently explained to its followers and fans but also to haters. Haters also need some learning which will also hopefully make them better human beings. The processes are designed for the production and reproduction willing to serve as Luthuli, Tambo, Mandela and others did.

      Indeed those eager to grab power for nefarious purposes are usually unable to show such restraint. Some will even disguise their lack of restraint by labelling themselves forces of change, generation mix etc (Maybe I am wrong but that is where I think I differ with the likes of Sandile). Fortunately ANC branches seem to have thus far shown disdain for such desperados.

      Heaven help us all. The churches blame the ANC for the slide in morality, Bishop Seoka nogal. Where was Makgoba when AIDS was decimating us, it was probably not expidient to talk. The church must be moral and respect ANC processes. Of course to COPE and DA members where decision making and annoiting of successors lies solely with Lekota and Zille respectively this all strange. Ag shame, you will come around.

    • The Creator

      Firstly, is there any actual evidence that Motlanthe is intelligent? “One of the greatest thinker-leaders . . . last 50 years” — please. Smarter than Thabo or Govan Mbeki? Smarter than Suttner? Smarter than Neville Alexander? Significantly smarter than Biko? I think not.

      Secondly, we don’t really know that he isn’t power-hungry, only that he’s prudent about it. He rode on Mbeki’s coat-tails until the SACP decided to back Zuma, after which Motlanthe had to switch. There was little sign that he wanted the Presidency until Zuma started punishing him by talking about replacing him with Nzimande.

      He’s obviously a better leader than Zuma, but the same could be said of a pail of manure.

    • reality bites

      hahhahhhahhhhah. humble leader? he knows if he openly challenges Zuma he will have all the state agencies investigating him, digging into his past to expose him and nullify his challenge. its not a democracy. Allow himself to be nominated? hahahhahha

      Due process. what k.k is that? if he wants to be the top dog, he will demand, and get it. quietly, and humbly, of course.

      if this clown is a servant of the people, why does he not give some of his extravagant salary to the people? why does he allow himself to have all the perks, the houses, the cavalcades of heavily armed goons ? if he was a humble servant of the people he would be driving himself around in a Toyota Corolla. There are no humble servants of the people, we had one, he is in his 90’s now and close to the end.

    • Sean

      By hesitating, no matter what his personal reasons, Motlanthe has enabled Zuma to entrench himself, thereby undermining his chances.

      Could this possibly just be a planned sideshow from the ANC to keep voters hopes up that there may be change from within the party, in order to prevent them from voting for another party.

      In my opinion it is maybe better if Zuma wins, as it will only hasten the death knells for the ANC, as there is no confusion about how bad he is for the country. With Motlanthe as President, people may support the ANC for longer, in the hope that he will improve the party and therefore the country.

    • Blogroid

      Referring to the second paragraph of my last submission; you will note another party Apparatchik bit the dust with an untimely bullet since i wrote that. At the present rate the M&G will have to set up a rating table comparing the murder of political person, or rather, to be less rude, the generally unresolved , mysterious demise of many politicians: wannabe’s and otherwise, versus the rate of Rhino poaching…

      I bet the Rhino will be extinct before the hordes of able bodied ‘polllies’ run out of lust for the declining pantheon of tenderpreneurial opportunities substituting for genuine entrepreneurship.

      No wonder Mr Motlanthe is frantically hedging his bets hoping for a sinecure on the NEC for the next decade… as Sean suggests, the first two tickets are only a arranged side-show, and Mr M gets to keep his head.

      Talk about emphasising the message.

      Oh and btw: commiserations to the nearest and dearest of the latest casualty.

    • Marie

      Anything can be an improvement on the Zuma zoo.