VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga says there is a leadership crisis in Africa.
In his keynote address to a youth summit in South Africa, Mwaanga said Africa should not be left behind and that young people should take up leadership roles.
“Whether we like or not, there is a leadership crisis in Africa and even in the world today. It is often said that you the youth are the future leaders of our continent and the world. Your generation is better educated and has acquired better and more diverse entrepreneurship skills, be it in the fields of politics, science, business and technology. No continent is safe from the seismic disturbances in the way young people think and do things. We have an aging leadership which has been moving from inclusiveness to separatism; from transparency to corruption; from collaboration to anarchy; from eco to ego systems,” Mwaanga said.
“This approach cascades downwards to the masses, resulting in mediocrity, corruption, small mindlessness and non- performance. This is all happening at a time when the world has moved rapidly towards globalization, where no nation is an island. France Austria have recently elected young leaders who was still in their 30s and I hope you all would draw some inspiration from this. Africa should not be left behind and you the young people should fill the leadership gap which has been left by my generation and those before me.”
He said many years ago, Africa was regrettably regarded as a dark continent, saying this tag must be erased because it was no longer a dark continent.
“We are the continent of the future. We are endowed with all kinds of minerals and other national resources which the world will need for many years to come. Through you the youth of our continent, we must now develop skills which are required to mine and process these minerals for the benefit of our people through value addition. In the early years of my adulthood, I read a humiliation book entitled ‘POVERTY ATTACKS AFRICA’. I am now calling upon you the young people who are the pride of our Continent, to take part in writing a new book entitled ‘AFRICA ATTACKS POVERTY’,” Mwaanga said.
“This is the challenge I am giving you today. I know it will require courage, vision and hard work to make OLIVER REGINALD TAMBO proud as he rests in the comfort of his creator. I have no doubt in my mind that you will be equal to this task. It is often said that when the foundations of youth are strong, we should not have anything to fear from the wind, no matter how strong. Young people must show ambition and not be afraid to take risks. You should start small business enterprises and aim at making them big in future. You may stumble and even fall at times, but through this experience, you will gain and recognise your strength and limitations and be better able to do things better next time. Only by knowing your limitations can you fully maximize your potential, because the scope of your limit will lessen over time with experience.”
He said young people should not let anyone tell them that they could not do anything.
“You should be organized and focus on what you want to do. You should be clear in your own mind as to what exactly you want to do and the skills you need to do it. You should also be clear about the goals you want to achieve and commit to a plan in order to achieve your goals. When problems arise along the way, you must have plans to correct these problems and even have alternative plans to achieve the same objectives. You should believe in your plans and set realistic goals which are achievable. You should be optimistic about your plans, because after all, optimism is what is needed to change the way the world works today,” Mwaanga said.
“Experience has shown in the economically advanced countries of the world, that networking with other enterprises becomes handy at some point. Many of the big successful enterprises of today, be it in the Unites States of America, China, Canada, Germany, France, Italy or South Africa started small, but through support networks, they grew and became successful. As the adage goes, Rome was not built in a day.”
And Mwaanga said Oliver Tambo was a humble, patient leader who did more listening than talking.
“Let me begin by expressing my words of thanks and gratitude to Her Worship Namakhosazana Meth, the Mayor of OR Tambo District Municipality for inviting me to address you today. It was not difficult for me to accept her invitation, which came at short notice, when she told me that I would be speaking to young people about the theme ‘The Year of OR. TAMBO: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment’.
The honor is even more profound given that the inaugural Tambo Memorial Lecture was given by Zambia’s Founding Father and one of the continent’s Elder Statesmen, Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda,” he said.
“I am very passionate about the subject of youth empowerment generally, because I assumed leadership empowerment in my country Zambia at the young age of 21 in 1965, when I was appointed Ambassador to the Soviet Union – as it was then called –now Russia. I became Minister of Foreign Affairs at the age of 28 years in 1973- at a very difficult and challenging time in Zambia’s and Africa’s history, because of the liberation wars, which were in progress at that time, in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.”
Mwaanga said he had a very close personal and official relationship with Tambo when he was in exile in Zambia and other in other parts of Africa.
“He spent many precious and unforgettable nights at my house in Lusaka, when the security situation demanded and I also interacted with him at close quarters when he visited the United Nations Headquarters in New York where I was Ambassador there from 1968 to 1972, or when he met leaders of the world directly or through the United Nations Committee on Apartheid, which was specifically set up by the United Nations General Assembly to deal with the obnoxious system of apartheid in your country South Africa,” he said.
“He acknowledged that without the involvement of young people, the struggle against apartheid would be that much more difficult to prosecute and win. He was deeply conscious that it was the young people – young men and young women – of South Africa who were carrying arms to fight against the evil system of apartheid. He was mindful that these young people, both men and women, had left their families in South Africa, sometimes without saying good bye to their loved ones to carry out dangerous assignments on behalf of the ANC – without any certainty that they would return home alive. Many of these young people left school unannounced for fear that their families would suffer victimization at the hands of the apartheid regime, and some even changed their real names and did not communicate with their families at home for months and even years, for fear that they would put them in danger.”
Mwaanga said Tambo respected the views of others, even when he did not agree with them.
He said Tambo was not judgmental about other people and that his training as a lawyer was put to use in an extraordinary way, which won him the admiration, respect and trust of ANC cadres, host countries and international organisations he interacted with to explain the aims and objectives of the ANC to the world.
“By honouring this great man, this great African and this world citizen, who would have been 100 years old this year, if he had not gone to the land of the silent to join his ancestors – you have honoured all of us who believed in what he stood for. The question which begs an answer is how then do we address the issue of economic empowerment for the youth and how do they enter the market place and make a meaningful contribution to the country? There are no easy answers to this question. Let me address some of the related issues in general terms. Young people need education and skills to enter the modern or global economy,” said Mwaanga.
“South Africa is today the second largest economy in Africa after Nigeria. But it is also true that the black share of this economy by black people is still very minimal, let alone that of young black men and young women. It is equally true that youth will need skills in various sectors of the economy for them to have any meaningful impact. They need youth leadership skills to navigate their way through a very difficult terrain. This leadership is about having vision. It is about giving new perspectives to things. This leadership must be about inspiring other young people by showing understanding, commitment and determination to work hard in areas where opportunities exist. To create space for partnerships by joining hands with other likeminded young people.” JC