DAVID MAIMELA: Imagining renewal and succession in SA


I recently wrote an article focusing on the African National Congress and its renewal efforts. With case studies of China, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe, I argued that the ANC is missing opportunities of renewal by focusing solely on organisational renewal, while neglecting state reform.

This week, still on the same theme, my focus is on renewal and succession - but in poetry.

What renewal and succession would mean?
That OR Tambo handed over to his own generation
And his generation lasted for only a decade.

That only a few would remain
For continuity and learning.
For Paulo Freire was correct
The learning process is dialogical.

The seats they would occupy
Of dignity and honour
More prestigious than Cape Town.
For they would be the community of sages and referees
In our sojourn for a better life.
Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili.

That succession is not a linear process.
But a creative interactive relay, continuum
Of growth, progress, and civilisation.
Of the wisdom of Kgosietsile
Of PastPresentFuture.

That the indignity of agonising over retirement
Would not enter the subconscious.
That the country would have made
A conscious decision.
To reward all our liberation veterans
With retirement that ignites imagination.

That the idea of succession was real
And meant more than just the foolishness

Of a tussle for the presidency.
Emptied of its real meaning.

That the upcoming ones would learn
The same discipline.
That they would contest for leadership like the 1944 generation
Instead of wanting to lurch on predetermined slates and templates.

That the youth would not wait to be called in
That they would be responding to a calling.
No more prisoners of blue lights
But leading lights.

That the upcoming beautiful ones
Would look up to the sages and the referees.
Not for capture, factionalism, or patronage
But wisdom, questions, hunger.

What succession would mean
That veterans with Recognition of Prior Learning
Would build vast national OR Tambo Political Schools.
Would acquire more academic training
And begin to teach in our liberal institutions.

The products of these schools:
The written word
The spoken word
The webinars
The conferences
The festivals - of ideas
The books, tweets, and status updates.
The poems, songs, and secrets!
The national dialogue…Imagine!
That it would be more than "phuma singene".

If that was the same attitude
Across sectors… political and parties.

That these schools would be open and welcoming
Melting pots of competing ideas
Allowing lectures by all parties and folk.
That the ANC would dream beyond nostalgia.
That the DA would defy race and class.
That the EFF would gesture beyond posture.

That the youth would imagine
A future brighter than the struggle could dream of.
That they would like Amartya Sen, imagine Development as Freedom.
And not just the comfort of the professions, equity, and rent-seeking.

That the forebears – their struggle for freedom
Meant an investment for the future of African children
In the political education and consciousness of the new generation
That their retirement a blessing... not a burden.

That the time is now!
That imagination is real.
That the glory of the liberation struggle
Lies not in the past
But in the future – the one Ngcaweni kaGebashe said we chose.
Imagine that everyone would have their back eyes gawking at them.

David Maimela is executive director of The Polisee Space, a progressive pan-African think-tank.

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