Inspiring the leaders of Tomorrow

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Rhodes University Business School welcomed Gregory Mills, Head of Brenthurst Organisation and Jeffery Herbst, an American Political Scientist to launch their new book, How South Africa Works. The launch included a presentation from Leader of South Africa’s Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, and a musical performance by Robin Auld of Dan Heymann’s Weeping and his own new single This is How it Works.

The launch started off with a speech from Maimane in which he addressed the key issues discussed in the book and how this information could help develop South Africa and possibly change the political views of the majority voters.

“It could not be more fundamental to read and understand this book in order to move forward and that this country achieves its potential,” said Maimane in the opening lines of his speech. “South Africa has achieved a freedom from a very racist past to what South Africa is at today where we need to have a strong discussion about what that freedom means and how people can use that freedom.”

Maimane went on to address South Africa’s unemployment problems and current energy problems, visa regulations in relation to tourism and other challenges the country faces. “We need to build reliable infrastructure, we need to make it easier for people to start their businesses and we need address the issues of labour relations that matter,” said Maimane. He ended off his speech with a quote he heard at the Supreme Court of Appeals hearing about issues with E-toll, “You can’t come to court to ask us to change government policy, if you don’t like the government change the government,”

The excited young crowd consisting of students from various high schools in Grahamstown as well as students from various departments and faculties at Rhodes University received Maimane’s speech well and were further enthused by Mills who took to the stage to explain the motivation behind the book.

“We chose to write this book now because 21 is a useful anniversary to see how we have done,” said Mills, “It is a coming of age, a motive to reflect on South Africa’s progress against other countries and how they have done in their first 20 years.”

Mills went on to add that in the years he and Herbst have been doing research the most important lesson has been the centrality of politics to any sort of reformed process. “This is absolutely at the centre of why things happen but also equally importantly at the centre of why things don’t happen.”

The final speaker of the evening, Herbst took a moment to acknowledge the young audience and point out that this was the youngest and fullest audience they have had in all the book launches so far. “I am really glad that the students are here because this is for you,” said Herbst. “These issues are not merely academic, they are going to affect you in the years and decades to come so we hope that you read the book and push the debate forward.

Unemployment in South Africa was the main topic of Herbst’s speech, “ We believe that the fundamental challenge and what has to change in South Africa is that people have to have a focus on the unemployed, said Herbst. “Our first recommendation is that the government focuses on economic growth and employment, we do not believe that structural transformation can be achieved through redistribution such as BEE and its associate policies.”

Following the speeches the audience members were allowed a short question and answer section before they were blown away by an inspired musical performance. 

Although this launch is only one of 18 around the country, the importance of the young audience brings to light the fact that leaders of today are working hard to inspire and motivate the leaders of tomorrow.

By: Thandi Bombi