The ANC is in desperate need of new energy and new leaders

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By Howard Feldman

It’s the year 2042 and Rocky 17 has just been released to Cinemas. Sylvester Stallone, having recently celebrated his 9th wedding (it’s apparently the charm), is still in the lead role as the champion boxer. Aided by a Zimmer frame and two younger assistants, he is hoisted into the ring where the combination of suspiciously smart camera work and photo shop ensure that he doesn’t look a day over 80.

In the USA, President Biden, having lost the election back in the 2020s, contemplates running for a second term. He chats to a Nancy Pelosi, who can’t seem to recall his name. But to be fair, neither can remember their own, so it hardly matters. They haven’t forgotten that they still hate Donald Trump who has not yet appeared before the on-going January 6th committee.

Back in South Africa, The African National Congress ahead of its National Congress asks for party unity, for infighting to be curtailed as they get down to the important business of choosing between Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma to head the party. The conference will take place in spurts of 30 minutes when electricity is provided and will also allow members ample time for “comfort breaks”.

Struggle icons are wheeled before the nation to remind them of a time that once was. The ANC “Youth League”, headed by Grandfather Collin Maine and the ANC Women’s League under Bathabile Dlamini, have thrown in their support for leadership, but prefer to wait until President Ramaphosa’s “family” meeting where he is apparently going to root out corruption and deliver his 52nd fail-proof plan for fixing both Eskom and the economy.

The President has still declined to answer questions from the press, but rumours that he might do so in the next decade, persist.

There is an overwhelming feeling that South Africa is experiencing a nightmarish Groundhog Day. Or, to mix metaphors, that we are caught in a perpetual traffic circle unable to find the exit which will allow us to get on with our journey. We are desperate for a driver who not only talks about the road ahead, but who is actually prepared to dive it.

Take the United Kingdom as an alternate example. 45 days into her new role as prime minister, Liz Truss recognised that it wasn’t going to work. She had lost the support of her party, had miss stepped too significantly to correct and therefore resigned. At the time of writing, it would seem likely that her replacement is set to be Rishi Sunak, a 42-year old who had served as the Chancellor of Exchequer from 2020.

Whereas there is no real sense of how Sunak will perform in the role of prime minister, there is something powerful in knowing that the culture of responsibility is so strong that should he not be up to the task, he will either resign or be removed by his party.

There is immense value in the wisdom of the aged. Experience and knowledge should provide council and guidance to those who need it. And whereas there is strong argument for not discarding the elder members of our community when there is much to be offered, there is a critical need for succession, for renewed energy and to allow space for the next generation.

The ANC as an organisation is in desperate need of new energy and new leaders. The current elders have long passed their prime. Not only have they failed, but they have lost the attention of voters who are skeptical, bored and dispirited.

Voters fully expect the same conversation, the same promises and the same tired leaders when Rocky 17 hits our screens.