Quality of leadership is the issue, not skin colour

What do black South Africans want? Do they want good, clean governance, or do they want a black leader, whatever he might be like?

What do black South Africans want? Do they want good, clean governance, or do they want a black leader, whatever he might be like?

I was interested by the declaration this week by Joe Seremane, the DA chairman, that he was ready to enter the race to lead the opposition party when Tony Leon, the formidable current leader who grew the party from a mere 1 percent of electoral support in 1994 to the top of the opposition benches today, steps down in May.

The Seremane declaration came with much commentary in the press that the DA needs a black leader to grow its support. Seremane himself came under fire from some within his party that he was using the race card to propel himself ahead of Athol Trollip, the only other candidate to have put himself forward so far, and others who might come up.

When apartheid was at its height many of our people were told that they should accept being ruled by whites because blacks who had been propelled into power after defeating colonialism misruled the rest of Africa. People like Idi Amin of Uganda and other wretched leaders were used as examples of what happens "when the white man goes".

So one of the most important attributes of freedom for our people is the ascendance by one of us, from among us, to the highest and most powerful position in the land. Together with a cabinet of capable men and women, this individual would lead the country to prosperity.

But we have a problem here. The struggle to defeat apartheid was led by many, including white compatriots such as Joe Slovo, Jeremy Cronin and many others. Surely they, too, can stand for president? Surely they, if they rule this country well, should be lauded by our people?

Let us look at the DA, then. Does the fact that Seremane is black bring that party more members and make it a favourite in black communities?

If Seremane thinks that this is the case he must be far worse a political thinker and strategist than many of us ever thought. The fact is that there are many black parties with black leaders which do not get even 1 percent of the vote. These are parties with a long history of struggle.

Thus, if Seremane really believes that he can become president, he should be outlining a political platform that will make blacks believe in his party. He should be telling us why he is so different from Leon, in policy and stance, rather than pointing at his black skin.

Colour of the skin, quite frankly, will not sway people one way or the other. After all, they have a lot of black leaders to choose from in the ANC, the PAC, the IFP, Azapo and others.

What matters is what a new DA leader will bring to the table. That is what Seremane should concentrate on, not skin colour.