I don’t know very much about Kgalema Motlanthe, but I think he has the potential to be the type of leader of which South Africa is desperately in need need.

My impression of him, which is based on the few public comments of his that I have read, and his role in the run up to, and at Polokwane, is that he is a thoughtful, humble, principled, conciliatory, unifying public servant who seeks to put the interests of the collective above narrow individual interests.

He demonstrated this as ANC secretary-general by publicly expressing concern about the growing trend within the ANC of politics-as-industry. He examined the branches of the ANC in an attempt to end the manipulation of party structures and elections for business purposes- seeking office in order to influence the award of lucrative tenders and contracts- and for personal gain.

I was impressed by his efforts in this regard, as one of the few party leaders to openly and honestly confront this worrying trend. This reflected the overdue and welcome realization that negative trends within the ANC have serious implications for the nation as a whole.

I was also impressed by his criticism of Julius Malema’s comments about ‘killing’ for Zuma. Anyone with any serious overstanding of African history and politics would recognize that such comments are beyond unacceptable. That is before even taking into account the tragically violent character of South Africa society, and the negrophobic attacks which killed at least 60 African brothers and sisters in May. I sincerely hope these comments are not representative of the leadership Mr. Malema hopes to offer the youth of South Africa. It is a testament to Motlanthe’s leadership that he was one of the few in power to publicly confront this rhetoric, at a time when many senior ANC leaders seemed reluctant or scared to confront the ANCYL leader.

He has been described as having “historical knowledge and theoretical assuredness“, which I believe is a vital knowledge for anyone aspiring to lead a nation. I think this intellectual seriousness and historical overstanding was well demonstrated in the above examples. Our public sphere and discourse could do with an increase in intellectual seriousness. I also firmly believe, I think at least partly due to the tragic legacy of Bantu education, we also have a ways to go in terms of historical overstanding. Our leaders should work to remedy this. Personal demonstration of these virtues is perhaps the best method, and is no doubt a great first step.

I am optimistic.

Mr. Motlanthe, I hope we all make progress under your leadership.