We in the season of initiation a custom practiced for an elongated period by some tribal expressions in the South African populace. The interesting thing is this happens mostly in winter. It is in the same winter that in recent days I have given thought to the idea that perhaps the ANC should formalize the practice of having its presidents go through and initiation school. The initiation school for ultimate leadership of organisation I have identified as the office of the secretary general including its deputy position.
I raise this less with a specific person or persons in mind, as the cheap- hotheaded debate on ANC leadership often veers into. I can appreciate that for most this debate is narrowly and singularly interpreted in the presidency of SA. Whilst I understand that our current system brings the office of the ANC President and that of the RSA president into one, I am of the view the debate as to who must lead SA is a not my concern and should not be made the focus of this my articulation.
I deliberately and consciously want to engage the subject of ANC leadership immanent in its president and deputy presidency capacities and entertain these as the fulcrum of my thought provocation at least for this note.
I therefore will ask that we desist reading any preference for a specific candidate into this my contention, but to attempt hearing an organic argument centred on the diaphragm of organisational well-being, grasp, growth and stability. I also wish to be categoric in accepting that the ANC subscribes to long standing democratic processes of nominations and elections the same we have all lived through and the intent is not to render these in obsoleteness.
Whilst I can make the case for this my stance from an already current practice in names, I consciously desist that for it would unnecessary taint my thought expression. I leave it the capable readers and followers of this 103 year old organisation to engage who the ANC had as secretary generals for the last 25 years in snapshot form and to deduce how this impacted presidential leadership or not.
When I am contending the Secretary General’s office consciously becoming the proverbial initiation school it is out of the understanding of what the office entails.
- The Secretary General is the de facto CEO of the organization. He is the ultimate responsible spokesman and face of the organization. It is in this office’s stability that we have a stable organization.
- The Secretary General’s office is the mouthpiece of organisatioal policies and thus the centre of its official articulation on such policy formulation.
- The Office of the Secretary General is the bridge between an organization in power as elected and state that has members that have been deployed into the state to actualize the very policies and programmes of the organization.
- The Office of the Secretary General is the centre point for organizational internal structures, bodies and committees. It is the epicentre of what constitutes the organization as a living organism and therefore central to the core formulations and re-formulations of the internal discourse.
- The office of the Secretary General assumes a critical role in the authenticity of a functional membership evidenced in branch and regional definition.
- The office of the Secretary General gives context and meaning to the disciplinary structures and ethos of the organization.
- The office of the Secretary General plays a cardinal role in the staging of key gatherings as determined by the ANC constitution. The organizing of the preparatory work for NGC and Conferences, Imbizo’s and all organizational events in footprint of governance mandate lives through this office.
- The office of the Secretary General engages in tripartite and partner issues at an ideological, theoretical, pragmatic and functionally practical sense in maintaining cogent mutually respected relations with all those the organization share a conscious relations with
- The office of the Secretary General has to engage the broader SA constituency inclusive of minorities with the hope of forging centre based relations for the mutual good of all.
- The office of the Secretary General engages on behalf of the organization with international bodies, societies, structures and sister parties on matters of mutual interest of the organization.
My list is consciously not exhaustive and thus centres on these ten aspects. Having stated the above, this is what we call in Afrikaans ‘n vuurdoop posisie’ or baptism of fire for anyone who enters this position.
When I argue for a president that has been through this INITIATION SCHOOL its to say he/ she:
- Would have a firm grasp on where the organization finds itself. The centre of the organization is clear for a president who has been through the initiation school. Thus he / she will be able to lead an organization from that recognized centre and not from a vested factionalised corner.
- A president who serves and leads the ANC from this initiation school, simply cannot be one who is focused on provincial and regional interest regardless to if it’s the region or province he/ she hails from. They have to rise above the myopic provincial and regional context and show leadership in correcting those whose singular focus is concentrated in personal achievement.
- Would give content to the principle of centralized democracy as an organizational practice and principle in functional experiential reality.
- Would jealously guard the values, history, ethos and principles of the organization against forces from within and without who are hell-bent on fostering a culture of defying it with self-interest, crass materialism and shortsighted ill-gains.
- Would lead in articulating succinctly organizational policy, strategy, tactics and programmes. Would be totally conversant with the terrains these assume in practical sense.
- Would have had the benefit of working for the organisation’s numerical increase as one who is answerable for its stagnation or growth. The organizational success in this would have been one of his key performance areas, equally so its decline.
- Would have long parted with self- interest, aggrandizement and cheap interest. He / she would be organization anchored and mandate centred always putting the organization in its well-being as paramount
- Would have educated him/ her on the dangers of myopic interest and political battles have some battle scars and proves a wiser less emotional leader.
- Would work for the functional presence of its structures at al levels, questioning and be questioned on the efficacy of these structures as led reality for his presidency.
- Would be conscious to grow the organization in stability and pragmatism. The stability of the organization as a non negotiable does not relate to a silence but a vibrancy of engagement where older ones learn from the youth and verse versa. Where succession is not a cursed word but a functional realty embraced by all.
- Would respect its membership and those who vote ANC and always strive to lead in learning from those who trust them
- Would know how to engage in robustness with the organisations opposition, a hostile media and other agendas that play out in multi-faceted and skew crafted discourse of dialogue
- Would prove strong on organizational discipline and sound on implementation and sanctity of respect for the organisation’s constitution as the fundamental premise of its existence.
- Would be able to grasp the real need for engagement at all levels across a multiplicity of platforms where the guiding light is not his presidency but a healthy organization
- Would appreciate the role of its structures and formations and how this feeds as soundboard of the public dimensions of an engaging society.
- Would be attuned to engage at international level with clear regard for the constituencies it engage not as leaders but participant making a contribution from the bedrock of that principled position of leadership.
- Would work tirelessly to learn from the history of the organization and how such history must help it find congruence to lead now in a different time.
- Would be respectful towards all and prove a listening leader that leads in listening
In conclusion I am arguing the office of the secretary general perhaps a perfect initiation school for ridding its potential incumbents of self-interest in replacing that with an organizational interest
Perfect for affording the incumbent enough time to reflect and find a balance of what major responsibilities this office holds.
A perfect initiation school where its incumbent can learn much more about the ANC as a practical and living organization in which the incumbent him/herself can be shaped to be the ANC Cadre we all aspire to see. Be humbled by the extend of this organization in who and what it produces.
This office presents a perfect initiation school to make friends and enemies for the right reasons. It must be that those with a sick agenda must find the office a stumbling block and those with organizational health as focus finds the office of the SG a welcoming friend.
I guess I am saying let us make the office of the Secretary General an office in sanctity so that we can forewarn those who enter its corridors you are being considered trustworthy to lead us as an organization in future embrace yet we will observe and assess you in this office.
I am told an initiation school has at its primary core the stripping of the child and the forming of the adult, man/ woman. A man / woman who can be accountable for and to others. A man/woman who can be matured to admit he she is wrong and does not pretend they know everything but matured to listen more than talk.
Let us talk !
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
July 11, 2015