No apprentice when it comes to democracy

People have accused him of being a publicity seeker, an overzealous individual with an unbridled desire for self-promotion.

People have accused him of being a publicity seeker, an overzealous individual with an unbridled desire for self-promotion.

One thing about former Gauteng premier-turned-business mogul Tokyo Sexwale is that he has proved to have a knack for the unprecedented.

In 1993 Sexwale won the hearts of many South Africans when he broke down in front of TV cameras on the driveway of the slain SACP general secretary Chris Hani.

The public show of emotion by a former freedom fighter melted the hearts of many. It won Sexwale many female admirers, who were most probably overwhelmed by the fact that a "former terrorist" could be in touch with his feminine side and cry publicly.

He went on to become the first politician to host a talkshow on 702 radio while heading the Gauteng provincial government.

Later as a businessman he joined the likes of world business mogul Donald Trump and hosted The Apprentice, a reality show that gave young entrepreneurs an opportunity to join his business empire, Mvelaphanda.

Last Sunday Sexwale caused political reverberations by declaring in a BBC interview that he was available for nomination as the future leader of the ANC.

Sexwale said there were people lobbying him to avail himself for nomination. He said he would not accept any nomination based on ethnicity or factionalism.

Sexwale has been accused of going against the culture and tradition of the ANC by declaring his availability.

In reality, Sexwale has done what people in democratic societies do when there is a contest for leadership. They avail themselves and explain why they think they are the right candidates for the position.

No one wants to undermine the culture and tradition of a party that fought for freedom.

But the ANC is no longer a liberation movement operating underground. It is a political party operating in a democratic society where people want to know who their leaders are and engage them.

Sexwale has put his foot in the door, it is for the ANC to push it wide open so that people can stand up and say: "Here we are and we are ready to lead."

After the June policy conference the ANC will come up with policies that it believes will take this country further on the transformation agenda.

Based on those policies the party will also know what kind of leaders it wants to ensure that the policies are implemented.

Essentially this means the party will have job specifications for the kind of leaders it wants.

With all these in place there is no reason why candidates cannot then make themselves available - as long as they meet the requirements.

The unfortunate impression created by the ANC's current position is that it does not have confidence in its membership to nominate quality leaders.

If that is the case, then there is need for political education so that the general membership can be empowered to see through opportunists and individuals with delusions of grandeur, those who will pose as real leaders.

As members of the public we can can only hope that the ANC will pick up the baton from Sexwale and ensure that this succession contest is run more openly.

That's the only way we can participate politically until our country adopts a system where the president of the country is elected directly by the electorate.