There can be no leadership without identity, self-realisation and a built-in desire to lead. Usually, leaders understand that before one even calls themselves a leader. They live through demonstrating the values and morals which define their identity and their up-bringing.
To the dismay of many “millennials,” a leader is not defined by your followers on Twitter or by your Facebook likes, nor is it defined by the distinctions you receive in an exam. Leadership is the ability to soberly distinguish between green and yellow, yes or no, right and wrong, and in doing so, make critical decisions that will either make you popular or deface you. Leaders are constituted by the inner voice and mind, able to think and reason about why certain issues or problems arise in our societies, why people behave the way they do and how best to resolve situations without resorting to violence and anarchy.
In South Africa at this point in time, being a youth means that you are uninformed, not represented, voiceless, disruptive, violent, untrustworthy and not deserving. We are currently facing an ignorant, self-centred and egotistic leadership that is not prepared to come down from their metaphorical high horses and attend to basic issues which the youth seek to address. We are facing high levels of crime as a result of unemployed, frustrated youth. In 2016, the youth want access to higher education but there is no solid plan to accommodate such, but yet government says it is sleeping with the same blanket as the youth. Ask yourself, who is fooling who?
The legacy left by the likes of Steve Biko and Ahmed Timor has had a big impact on the youth. The youth is adamant that the only thing that can prevent them from fighting for their rights is live ammunition. In that regard, the likes of Masixole Mlandu, Athabile Nonxuba, Mcebo Dlamini and Aviwe Gwayi define a strong youth identity. These leaders have shown strength against all the odds as they, with the rest of the student population are ready to hold the bull by its horns and sleep with the hyena.
Bra Steve Bantu Biko, proudly born in the domain of the Eastern Cape in Ginsberg Township, a few kilometres outside King Williams Town, is a pure example of what leadership is about. Biko who was a student leader and later founded the Black Consciousness Movement which empowered and mobilised much of the urban black population through fair practices, transparency and accountability was silenced because of his transparent actions and ideas for a better South Africa. It is unfortunate that this self-motivated, dedicated leader could not witness the genesis of a new South Africa. Fortunately, his identity has remained behind to continuously manifest what he believed in. Today, the Steve Biko Memorial Centre in Ginsberg is a rich historical site that keeps on educating and informing generation after generation about Steve Biko, the great icon.
The youth of today is indeed stepping in the footsteps of great leaders of the past like Biko and Ahmed Timor. Ahmed Timor was a true reflection of a fearless leader, but because of brutal acts conducted by police during the apartheid years, his ideas were shattered. Many were left to believe that this icon had committed suicide at the John Voster Square, but we know how police of that era used to torch politicians who were verbose. For many, the John Voster Square became a suicidal site, where anyone who entered was not guaranteed coming out alive.
If Biko was still alive, I’m certain he would have provided leadership to the cries of the students, and condemned the burning and demolishing of academic structure and property just like any sober-minded human being. With that being said, Biko would have urged students to remain united, unshaken in their struggle and to keep it as genuine as possible.
Given the circumstances the youth is exposed to on a daily basis, it is paramount that the youth care about their future and also state affairs. We cannot shy away from the fact that government is only prepared to dish-out wage subsidies for graduated unemployed youth, creating a culture of dependence along the way.
You should ask yourself, what legacy are you going to leave behind? When you are six feet under, what are your neighbours and those close to you going to remember you for? Anyone can learn from these great leaders and have an impact in society.
Let us be the change that we want to see.