LETTER | Young people in metro must contest for power

AIM leader Mkhuseli Khusta Jack
THROWING HAT INTO THE RING: AIM leader Mkhuseli Khusta Jack
Image: Eugene Coetzee

An attempted insurrection at the US Capitol which was incited by a power-hungry 74-year-old Donald Trump and an election characterised by violence and intimidation in Uganda, owing to a 76-year-old President, Yoweri Museveni, who also refuses to relinquish power.

These were the stories that dominated headlines during the first two weeks of this year in world politics.

Both of which illustrate the leadership crisis we face, not only in Africa but the world over.

This leadership crisis is no different to the one we face in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, where electing a mayor proves an insurmountable task for members of council and where procedural council meetings can also result in brawls that leave some wounded and others imprisoned.

Strong, competent and reliable leadership is something that has evaded Nelson Mandela Bay for as long as I can remember.

It’s difficult to recall the last time the city had someone at the helm who actually steered the ship steadily.

What has been prominent, however, are power-obsessed senior citizens from established political parties, some of whom have played a role in the plundering of resources in the city and thus depriving young people of opportunities.

We face a myriad challenges, such as the coronavirus pandemic that gifts us with new variants every other week, growing socioeconomic inequality which renders the poor, poorer and the rich, richer — even during a pandemic.

Then there is the looming and now silent climate crisis that will leave us with no planet to bequeath to the next generation.

These challenges leave us, as young people, with no choice but to contest for political power if we want to see any kind of change for the future.

Bobi Wine, Yoweri Museveni’s political opponent in Uganda’s national elections last week, epitomises the urgent need for political change insofar as young people contesting for political office is concerned.

With just more than a million residents in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, of whom the majority are young people — with 26 being the median age and a female skew — it goes without saying that young people should have more of a voice in the decision-making processes of the city.

Yet what we find is a disproportionate number of old men who cling to power and reproduce the same patterns of inept leadership time and time again.

A new entrant into the political landscape in the metro is Khusta Jack, who is seemingly throwing his hat into the arena and looking to contest for the poison chalice that is the mayorship of the metro.

He represents a departure from what we have become accustomed to in an ANC cadre — corrupt and inept leadership.

Through Jack’s political start-up, the AIM, he brings with him an untainted political resume and his struggle credentials are fully intact because he has spent the past 30 years in business.

Though folk may be desperate for change in the city, it is important to remember that Jack and his ilk do not represent the future of the city.

For the city to truly turn a corner, a new and reimagined kind of politics that must be fashioned by young people should prevail.

A politics that works outside the neoliberal logic of the establishment.

A liberatory politics that seeks to put young people, the elderly, the poor and the most disenfranchised in our city at the centre of the policy agenda.

Should we as young people fail to put this into effect, we will have lost the fight to reclaim Nelson Mandela Bay.

It is a futile exercise to believe that those who wield power in all levels of government and society will eventually step down and give us a chance to lead.

This is similar to the flawed libertarian economic concept of “trickle-down” economics of Reagan and Thatcher, which wrongfully assumes that plutocrats who benefit from the capitalist system will eventually find it in their hearts to redistribute wealth to the masses.

It is assumed that these individuals will build industries that in turn create jobs, allowing those who are on the fringes to participate in the economy, or that these people will give back through their philanthropic efforts.

If there’s one lesson we should heed from contemporary history it is that these assumptions are false, even for politicians.

The name of the original author now escapes me but this paraphrased expression aptly captures what I am trying to say: “Power and by consequence freedom, is never relinquished by those who possess it. It is clamoured for, fought for by those who have been oppressed.”

Young people in the metro have the responsibility to clamour for power in the city, for if they do not, the old guard will continue to plunder until there’s nothing left to steal.

Khanyisa Melwa, communications practitioner, writer and researcher

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