Never Too Young To Lead - A call for the youth to rise by Lebogang Maile.
Lebogang Maile, is a child of the iconic Alexander Township. He is a politician who cut his teeth in the Congress of South African Students. As such, he needs no elaborate introduction. As a former leader of the ANCYL, where he served in various capacities including as secretary for social transformation and as its Gauteng provincial secretary, Maile is also the founding chairperson of the Gauteng Youth Commission. He knows all about political persuasion, campaigning, winning and losing. Since 2009, Maile has been a member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. He has also served in various MEC roles. Currently, he is the MEC for Human Settlement and Infrastructure Development in the Gauteng Province.
And yet in his book Never Too Young to Lead. A Call for the Youth to Rise, we meet a slightly different Lebogang Maile. In a fresh departure from the usual navel-gazing autobiographies of many politicians and the customary hagiography masquerading as a biography; Maile has authored what he calls “a carefully curated selection of conversations and thought pieces”, which will “showcase the stories and experiences” of eight South Africans who, in his opinion, have embraced leadership opportunities in their youth.
These people consist of Ayakha Melithafa - the Greta Thurnberg of South Africa; Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule, fellow former ANC youth leaguer who has risen through the ranks; Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, one of the most brilliant legal minds in South Africa today; exceptional educationist and ANC veteran, Mary Metcalfe; Tshilidzi Marwala, one of the most beautiful minds in South African, now serving as rector of the United Nations university; Sydney Mufumadi, one of the youngest members of the Mandela cabinet, now a respected academic, #FeesMustFall leader and effective communicator, Fasiha Hassan, as well as, kwaito music genre pioneer, recording artist and DJ, Oscar Sibonginkosi Mdlongwa a.k.a Oscar the Big O, otherwise known simply as Oskido.
Interestingly, of the eight case studies, Maile ‘allows’ only Oskido to write his own story, in the first person, from beginning to end. And boy, does Oskido come to the party! He presents his story - titled “it was about time” - in a most vibrant narrative and the most gripping style. Oskido’s chapter brings to life many of the powerful arguments in defence of the youthful musical genre that became the disruptive soundtrack of the early years of democracy in South Africa – Kwaito. In their book Born to Kwaito. Reflections on the Kwaito Generation, Esinako Ndabeni and Sihle Mthembu provide a superb defence and explanation of the context, nature and meaning of Kwaito. In their view, Kwaito lyrics were never intended as pieces of theoretical philosophy and they were never intended as nice and polite lullaby aimed at providing comfort or consolation to anyone. Kwaito was a combination of potent anger, random celebration and disruptive rhythm. It was, according to Oskido “all about rage, anger, heated emotions …”.
So much so that former president Mbeki initially dismissed Kwaito as “a distraction from real issues”. At one stage, even Nelson Mandela summoned Boom Shaka to the Union Building, where he pleaded, rather firmly, with the youngsters saying: “Why don’t you guys try and do some music without swearing? … just try and do it more gracefully”. But behind the scenes, the ANCYL was warming to Kwaito, featuring Kwaito artists in some of their public rallies.
Prof Tinyiko Maluleke with Lebogang Maile, MEC for Human Settlements and Infrastructure Development at the VC's Book of the Month, that took place at the Pretoria Campus Library, yesterday.
In the book, Never Too Young to Lead, Maile urges his readers to look beyond the disruptive predilection of young people – which is, according to him, in the nature of all young people across generations. Instead, Maile urges society to use its resources to create a conducive atmosphere for young people to learn and above all to learn to lead.
Within and between the carefully chosen “conversations and thought pieces”, Maile does not miss the opportunity to preach his gospel of salvation by youth leadership, what he refers to as the need for the country to cash in on its “demographic dividend”. He also squeezes in a critical discussion on the role of social media in contemporary society including its implications for leadership, especially political leadership. While recognizing its tremendous power, Maile is unsure whether social media is a force for good or ill.
Some readers may ‘quarrel’ with the particular cast of interlocutors Maile has chosen to populate his “carefully curated selection of conversations and thought pieces”. Why Oskido and not Fana “Khabzela” Khaba the former taxi driver who briefly rose to fame as one of the most influential DJs on YFM? Why Fasiha Hassan and not Malaika wa Azania, the young and engaging author born and bred in Meadowlands, Soweto? Why advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and not Thapelo Amad, who miraculously rose to become mayor of Johannesburg briefly? Why Mary Metcalfe and not Rosemary Ndlovu, the convicted killer who used to be a cop?
Of course, the author has the freedom to choose interlocutors who are best positioned to advance the thesis of the book. But the choices have to be explained lucidly. It is not always clear whether Maile’s generalised notion of “the youth”, which is used throughout the book, is nuanced enough to take account of the intersection between gender, race, class, ethnicity and location. A more nuanced depiction of the notion might, for example, have influenced the choice of the featured interlocutors in a slightly different direction.
If 19-year old “Gil Scott-Heron” was correct when he declared in his 1969 poem, later to become a global hit song, that “the revolution will not be televised”; Lebogang Maile, through this book has proven that the revolution can be documented and that it should be rejuvenated constantly and continuously, through the injection both of young blood and disruptive youthful ideas.
After all is said and done, this book is a story of love, the love of a man for his country and his remarkable faith in young people. It is a book about the author’s deep appreciation of the catalytic role of transformational leadership in national development; and an even deeper appreciation of the yet to be fulfilled leadership potential of the youth.
Above all, this is a book written by a son in memory of his first and most important role model and political conscientizer, his own mother, Evelyn Sophie Maile: shop steward, entrepreneur and pillar of strength. Maile has penned a gripping, timely easy to read book that makes a compelling case for skilling the youth for leadership, starting yesterday.