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← There is no one waiting to save us. We must save ourselves | Lindiwe Mazibuko | TEDxEuston

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Showing Revision 13 created 09/19/2019 by Peter van de Ven.

  1. So, I'm here to recruit you.
  2. (Laughter)
  3. But not in the sense that you're thinking.
    I know I'm a politician.
  4. I'll save that for another day.
  5. I'm here to try and encourage you
  6. to take up a leadership role
    in public service
  7. in your country and on your continent.
  8. I'm here to convince you
  9. that your country
    and your continent need you -
  10. not later, not when you're older
    and more experienced, but now -
  11. and that whether you realize it or not,
  12. your country's politics
    are going to be doomed to fail
  13. unless you're willing
    to get involved right now.
  14. So my recruitment pitch
    comes with a single disclaimer:
  15. I resigned from public office
    18 months ago.
  16. (Laughter)
  17. I did it in order to take stock
    of my time in office,
  18. to think about the work that I had done,
  19. to capacitate myself with skills,
    knowledge, contacts,
  20. allies and experiences,
  21. and to find a little bit of personal
    and professional perspective.
  22. It's one of the best decisions
    I think I've ever made.
  23. I imagine that some time during the next
    18 minutes while I'm pitching you,
  24. you're going to think,
  25. "Yeah, it's easy for you to say
    I should go into public service.
  26. You've already done it and you've left."
  27. But I hope I'll be able to convince you
  28. that, in fact, we all find ourselves
    in exactly the same boat right now.
  29. Because being outside
    of politics for 18 months
  30. has reminded me
    just how important it is
  31. and just how much the political landscapes
  32. in my country and in your countries
    and on our continent
  33. are truly lacking in good leadership
    and political talent.
  34. So, I want to make a deal with you.
  35. I'm not going to return to active politics
    unless you come with me.
  36. (Laughter)
  37. I'm not going to do it alone.
  38. I won't go back unless I can convince
    smart, entrepreneurial, highly skilled,
  39. talented, experienced
    young Africans like yourselves
  40. and millions more like you
    across the continent,
  41. that the best chance
    that our countries have,
  42. not just for survival
    but for lasting prosperity,
  43. is if our most talented
    citizens step forward
  44. and make themselves available,
  45. either for political party, leadership
    or for public service and government.
  46. So over the next 16-or-so minutes
    that are remaining,
  47. I'm going to alternately
    flatter you, as I just have,
  48. (Laughter)
  49. I'm going to challenge you,
  50. I'm going to talk to you
    about my experiences,
  51. about a couple of facts and figures;
  52. I may even frighten you a little bit.
  53. And it'll be entirely worth it
  54. if that fear convinces you
    of the urgency of the point in history
  55. that we find ourselves in today.
  56. Everything I say today will be
    in service of a single objective:
  57. convincing you, showing you,
    that your countries need you;
  58. that Africa's prosperity
    may depend on many things -
  59. entrepreneurialism,
    industrial development,
  60. health reform, social upliftment -
  61. but that all of these hinge
  62. upon the success of politics
    and government in our countries.
  63. I can't begin a talk
    about public service, of course,
  64. without honoring my former
    president Nelson Mandela,
  65. the father of democratic South Africa.
  66. (Cheers) (Applause)
  67. President Mandela passed away
    on this day in 2013.
  68. I really believe that
    when the people of my country
  69. look back on the day that he passed away,
  70. it'll be seen as an inflection point
    in South Africa's history.
  71. The day we decided whether we could,
    indeed, go it alone without him.
  72. What's written in those history books
  73. will depend entirely
    on whether this generation,
  74. which includes all of you
    sitting in this room,
  75. recognizes that the time has come for us
  76. to take up the work
    that President Mandela left for us,
  77. before that work is captured by people
    who would use power and politics
  78. for empty vanity and personal gain.
  79. I'm referring, of course,
  80. to the young man who was here
    in London this very past week.
  81. Defiling the name of the visionary leader,
    the intellectual and political strategist,
  82. the formidable athlete,
    the Prince of the Abathembu nation
  83. who served as a South Africa's
    first democratic president.
  84. The young man who tried to taint
    President Mandela's legacy
  85. with a few throwaway lines,
  86. all in service of getting
    cheap headlines, which he got.
  87. People like this,
    who we leave public service to
  88. when we stay out
    of the fray of public service,
  89. are the reason your country
    and my country needs you and needs us.
  90. So let us begin.
  91. I want to first talk to you
    about the African diaspora.
  92. You may have heard
    about a study in 2013
  93. that revealed
  94. that cash transfers from Africans
    living outside of the continent
  95. have now begun to exceed donor aid
    from foreign countries into Africa.
  96. (Applause)
  97. In 2012, total remittances to Africa
    stood at 60 billion dollars
  98. while in the same year,
  99. official development aid
    to Sub-Saharan Africa
  100. totalled 44.6 billion by comparison.
  101. Now, this got me thinking.
  102. If we can do such great work
    with our money from outside of Africa,
  103. what can we do with our skills,
    our talent, our experiences,
  104. our education and our passion
    for our countries and for our continent?
  105. I've spent the past semester
    at the Harvard Kennedy School
  106. as a fellow at the Institute of Politics.
  107. I ran a seminar which was called
  108. "How to build a democracy?
    Lessons from South Africa."
  109. It was also about Zimbabwe and Malawi.
  110. And it wasn't intended
  111. to make it seem like we got
    everything right in South Africa,
  112. but it was asking the critical question:
  113. Now that we have this legacy
  114. of peaceful transition,
    of constitutionalism,
  115. of difficult negotiations,
  116. which were very, very difficultly gotten,
  117. are we going to be successful
    in entrenching that democracy
  118. and making it last into the future?
  119. Now, one of the benefits
    of being an African
  120. in an academic setting like New England
  121. is that other African students
    reach out to you,
  122. they want to talk to you,
  123. and many of them express to you
    their desire to enter public service.
  124. So I had students knocking down my door,
    wanting to talk to me in office hours
  125. about the fact that they have
    Ghanean parents
  126. but they were born in Texas.
  127. They really wanted to give back to Ghana,
  128. but they're afraid that if they go home,
  129. nobody will take them
    seriously as real Africans.
  130. I had students who said they had families,
  131. wives, children, husbands,
    partners to take care of,
  132. perhaps they were better off
    staying in the United States
  133. and providing for their families back home
  134. rather than going back
    and getting into public service.
  135. This got me thinking
    about the question of skills remittance,
  136. of talent remittance,
    of social and political remittance.
  137. If these young people have the passion
  138. to give back to their
    communities monetarily,
  139. imagine how different
    our politics would be
  140. if those same skills,
    influence, leadership, talent
  141. were put at work in service
    of the public good.
  142. And that includes all of you in this room
  143. because many of you
    are also part of the diaspora.
  144. I'm here to recruit you.
  145. I'm here to make a deal with you.
  146. I'm not going back
    unless I take you with me.
  147. (Laugther)
  148. Now, I know that most of you,
    if not the vast majority of you,
  149. are completely fed up, turned off,
    discouraged, disgusted by politics,
  150. either in your country,
    in this country, all over the world.
  151. Perhaps you are discouraged by the fact
    that governments are slow to deliver.
  152. Perhaps they're inefficient.
  153. Perhaps they are thoroughly
    corrupt and rotten to the core.
  154. Perhaps they're responsible
    for conflicts that have claimed lives
  155. and livelihoods in the countries
    from which you come.
  156. So why would you sink your time
    and your energies
  157. into such a compromised system?
  158. One of the most powerful analyses
  159. of conflict, inefficiency,
    corruption, stagnation
  160. which I've encountered
    in recent months
  161. is the question of a political economy.
  162. There is a reason that our governments
    are not performing as they should.
  163. It's not just because of
    a failure within the system.
  164. Consider the political economy of conflict
    and corruption in your own country.
  165. Why is it so difficult to overcome?
  166. Who is making money or amassing power
  167. because things don't work
    the way they should?
  168. Where does the back stop?
  169. Who has an incentive to keep
    the system dysfunctional?
  170. And how can we work together
  171. to overcome their
    total infection of the system,
  172. to ensure that we don't lose our grip
  173. on the very principle
    of democratic governance?
  174. The answer, I'm afraid,
  175. because you were born
    into this political time,
  176. is simply by taking over -
  177. you have to get involved.
  178. There's no way around it.
  179. You have to join political organizations
  180. in numbers large enough
    to influence change from within.
  181. You have to actively seek
    to take up a leadership role
  182. in government, in the state,
    in the public service
  183. and deftly but decisively move
    its priorities to where they should be:
  184. not in the service of people who want
    to amass power and money for themselves,
  185. but to better the lives
    of the highest number of people.
  186. There will always be government,
  187. whether we like it or not,
  188. whether we find it palatable or not.
  189. But there won't always be democracy.
  190. If we ignore politics,
  191. the people who have been quietly
    lobbying our governments
  192. to prioritize development
    ahead of democracy,
  193. these are the people
    who will have their way,
  194. and the systems that we now take
    for granted will dissolve before our eyes.
  195. When I was campaigning in South Africa
    last year for the 2014 general election,
  196. the voter registration numbers
    looked a little bit like this,
  197. six months before the election:
  198. 23% of potential voters
    in the 18-to-19-year-old age group
  199. were registered to vote.
  200. In the age group 20 to 29 years old,
    55% were registered.
  201. And from 30 upwards,
    the number varied from 79 to 100%;
  202. in fact, there were more people
    aged 80 and over who were registered
  203. than were in the census
    numbers in South Africa.
  204. Imagine that.
  205. Fully 100% of people over a certain age
  206. consider voting to be
    an indispensable right,
  207. 21 years into democracy,
  208. and do not shirk their responsibility
    to register and turn out at the polls.
  209. But in the 18-to-19-year-old age group -
  210. and we must remember 19 is
    the average age on our continent;
  211. 26 is the average age in South Africa -
  212. the number is 23% to 55%.
  213. What's the political economy
    of voter apathy?
  214. Who benefits when we stay
    out of the system?
  215. Who gets to keep the status quo
  216. and empower themselves
    and enrich themselves
  217. and continue to infect
    our political system like a cancer.
  218. Who banks by us continuing
    with the status quo?
  219. Now even as I say all of this to you,
  220. that your country and your continent
    need you to enter public service,
  221. I know that if you take up my challenge,
  222. you're going to face
    huge amounts of resistance -
  223. all because of these political economies
    that I have just described.
  224. I did.
  225. I was told that I was too young.
  226. I was too female.
  227. (Laughter)
  228. I didn't have enough experience
  229. though no one could define
    what experience was enough.
  230. I had too much of a white accent;
    I wasn't a real African.
  231. I straightened my hair and wore weaves;
    I wasn't a real African.
  232. We should be honest
  233. about the things that hold people back
    from entering public service -
  234. humiliation, degradation;
    it's not an easy road -
  235. but all of these things
    should illustrate to you
  236. the extent to which
    the status quo is designed
  237. to enrich and empower a few
    at the expense of the many,
  238. and it should impart to you
    the urgency of you, as a generation,
  239. of now getting involved in public service
  240. to change that very culture.
  241. And if you decide to enter public service,
  242. you may even be tempted to believe
    some of these criticisms.
  243. They're designed to keep you out;
    that's how gatekeeping works.
  244. Somebody is benefiting
  245. from the absence of excellence
    and disruption in politics and government.
  246. But these are challenges
    that have to be faced on.
  247. There is no other route;
    there is no wishing this away.
  248. They are the reason that your country
    and your continent need you.
  249. We have this thing in politics in Africa;
    it's called the "big man."
  250. The cult of personality - we've all heard
    different terminologies for it.
  251. In South Africa, in particular,
    this entails waiting for a great person
  252. to come and save us from ourselves.
  253. Currently, we're waiting for
    Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
  254. or [inaudible] to come and save
    South Africa from itself,
  255. to save us from the mess
    that we find ourselves in
  256. that perhaps another big man put us in.
  257. But how can a single personality
    be held responsible
  258. for building or for running
    a whole nation?
  259. And where do we turn when they fail?
  260. If we haven't cultivated any kind
    of pipeline of energetic, young people
  261. who wanted to enter
    public service now or in the future
  262. and, critically,
    who can do the job better,
  263. are we doomed to always have to choose
  264. between mediocrity and ego,
    and mediocrity and ego?
  265. Is that it?
  266. Is that all our government will ever be?
  267. Or worse: Are we going to stand by
    while presidents change constitutions
  268. so they can serve a third term
    and a fourth term and a fifth term,
  269. claiming that three million people
    signed a petition
  270. stating that they are the only person
    who can do the job?
  271. (Laughter) (Applause)
  272. Is that what we'll do?
  273. Now, there's a new energy
  274. around entrepreneurism
    and innovation and growth
  275. in Africa today.
  276. But that energy isn't going to translate
    into lasting prosperity
  277. unless we get our politics right.
  278. Political leaders who are
    gatekeepers of the status quo
  279. will claim that any success
    is their success.
  280. They'll centralize power,
  281. and they'll demand that we all be grateful
  282. for those little green
    shoots of achievement,
  283. and then they'll claim
    that nobody else can do the job.
  284. They'll argue that development
    must come first, freedom can come later,
  285. and that they are the best
    benevolent dictator to do the job.
  286. They'll take your political voice from you
    when times are a little bit good,
  287. and when times go bad,
    they will refuse to give it back.
  288. There is no prosperity for our continent
  289. without a vibrant, diverse,
    and truly competitive politics,
  290. founded upon excellence, transparency
    and commitment to the public good.
  291. Our politics will not have
    any of these qualities
  292. unless talented, young people,
    the best people,
  293. step forward at this moment
    in Africa's history,
  294. when we're emerging from that stereotype
  295. of the dark continent,
    the hopeless continent,
  296. and commit themselves to public service.
  297. We must run for office.
  298. We must work in the civil service.
  299. We must disrupt the political status quo.
  300. We must prevent the rush to the bottom.
  301. You really are the ones
    that you have been waiting for.
  302. There are no great saviors
    waiting somewhere in the wings
  303. to save us from future problems.
  304. There's nobody who is waiting in the wings
    to come and save us from ourselves;
  305. there's just us.
  306. And I'm not going back without you.
  307. (Laughter)
  308. So, will you take up the challenge?
  309. Thank you.
  310. (Cheers) (Applause)