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Good leaders should know when to leave: Mantashe

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Good leaders should know when to step down from their positions, however, this did not necessarily apply to the position of president, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

“I’ve had a lot of experience, eight years now [as secretary general]. When 2017 comes, I will be 10 years there. I have a theory that if you had not done anything in 10 years, you can’t do it,” he told a SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union open school in Kempton Park.

“That’s why when I was in the NUM, I was general secretary for eight years, and in year eight I left without being voted out. If I stayed longer I would be destroyed.

“There is something important in leadership, knowing when it is time to leave. It’s a different matter when it comes to president… secretaries general is a pressure cooker, you are under pressure forever. If you stay long, you collapse.”

He said he gave this advice to two of his friends.

‘He defied that advice’

“The first one was [former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima] Vavi. I told him, Zweli leave the federation at the highest point of your popularity and he agreed, he said I am not standing [for the position again] – then he stood,” Mantashe said.

“If you always stay an extra term beyond the time of what you can do, you destroy what you have built. He defied that advice and he went on… and everything else is history and I don’t want to talk about that. ”

Vavi was expelled from the trade union federation in March this year.

Mantashe said he gave the same advice to former National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni.

“I said to him: ‘Frans you were the general secretary for three terms. It’s time to go’.”

Mantashe said he told Baleni it was time for younger people to get elected to the position.

“He agreed, and they [members of the union] cornered him and told him take one more turn. He took it to the [NUM] congress and he was defeated there.”

‘There is split in Cosatu’

Mantashe also addressed the fractures in the Congress of SA Trade Unions and said the federation’s leadership must acknowledge that it had suffered a split.

“Our federation is now 30-years-old. At year 30, it is in trouble. [Cosatu] president Sdumo [Dlamini] said we must not say it is splitting. But I am from the ANC, we had a splinter called Cope [Congress of the People],” he said.

“When they splintered, it was not the same. Then came Julius [Malema, former ANCYL leader and current Economic Freedom Fighters leader] and we fired him, and again people moved and it was not the same.

“There is split [in Cosatu]. There is a section of the federation that is out. It is a mature leadership that would appreciate that that is a problem.

“You never understate a problem. If you understate a problem, you are going to be complacent. If you exaggerate it, you are going to weaken. State it at the right level – we are not the same.”

He said Cosatu must not go to its upcoming special congress on the basis of “the best case scenario”.

“What happens if people walk into that special congress and disrupt it? Plan for that. Don’t say it will not happen.”

ANC only really governed from 1999

Mantashe said it was important for people to note that in relation to work done by the ANC as a ruling party, that it had only really governed since 1999, and not 1994.

“The first five years post-1994, the ANC was not governing. It was a government of national unity.

“When we say 21 years, it is actually the last 16 years [that the ANC governed].”

He said when people measured the progress the ANC had made, this was often forgotten.

“[In] those first five years there was an attempt to unify and to build a nation… [there was] even a combination in the national anthem.

“If you had asked me just 24 years ago if I would ever sing “uit die blou van onse hemel”, I would say ‘are you mad?’.

“I am singing it today with pride,” Mantashe said. News24

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