The leadership gap – A South Africa we could have

One of the blessings of growing up in South Africa in the mid to late nineteen nineties is that I grew up in a country that was truly alive with possibility. Mine was a generation that did not really directly experience the repressive laws of the apartheid era. My memories of the apartheid era are the collapse of the Bophuthatswana homeland with the strikes that surrounded it. This was a time of great excitement, hope or anxiety and despair depending on which side of the divide you were. The records of the department of Home Affairs at this time show a lot of emigration in particular among the white minorities for fear of the “swart gevaar”. It was also around this time that most black people began to have access to certain things that they had not been able to access before such as going to former white only schools and being able to purchase property anywhere that they wished as long as they had the means to do so. So in the middle of this anxiety and excitement when some thought that the country would descend into a full blown civil war, we managed to pull through. The level of optimism among those who were well informed was high. The question is why?  My answer is quite simply that we had a crop of leaders that were courageous enough to do the right thing. Leadership is one of those things that is always thrown around, a day can hardly go by before you hear someone mention the word be it when looking for a future employee, member of a team or even a child to admit in a school. They must possess leadership ability. This is critical as author Dr. John Maxwell states that “everything rises and falls on leadership” i.e. leadership determines the direction and effectiveness of any individual or organization. Upon this basis then it is my thesis that the biggest crises that we as a country currently face is not unemployed and economic inequality but a dearth of leadership. Quality leaders as it has often been proven in history have an ability to come up with a vision and mobilize people behind such a vision. One example is when Winston Churchill led the United Kingdom and all of Europe to resist the takeover of the Nazi Hitler in all of Europe. The odds were stacked against Churchill and the English people yet they managed to pull through! Why? Because they had a leader marshalling them to move forward and providing all the necessary ingredients to succeed! In a similar vein South Africa had that magic De Klerk moment and in my view this was very vital in catapulting South Africa into the democratic transition that we now enjoy. Of course for its part the liberation movement had a set of quality leaders who could read the times well and cast a vision and rally the black populace around their vision of a free and equal South Africa. An important point that I wish to raise here though is that in this time it does not mean that there were no challenges or differences of opinion amongst the different groupings that gathered for CODESA in the early 90’s, however the difference was that those who were in the seats of influence and possessed power were great leaders who were more focused on achieving the vision than on individual gain. In the last few months it has been noted that this great nation has been on a collision course and is set to self destruct. The news paper articles are not inspiring confidence as the court’s are reversing the decisions of the president and questionable appointments are being made in our criminal justice system. Our soccer national teams have failed to qualify to play in major tournaments i.e. the African cup of nations and the Olympics respectively, our national psyche is down. Julius Malema has been suspended in the ANC and this has caused a lot of instability within the ruling party which has also spilled over into the government. Malema it is believed by the president and those who are on his side that he is on a mission to unseat the president. The strategy that he has employed in this endeavor has been multi-pronged ranging from meddling and making comments on issues of the sovereignty of other states, comparing current and past leaders as well as raising issues of economic freedom through the vehicle of the nationalization of mines. However what has exacerbated the situation is not what Mr Malema did or said at any point in time but the response that was given by those in leadership of the African National Congress and subsequently the country. Rather than taking measures to address the issues that Mr. Malema was raising in a manner that will ultimately be beneficial for the country as a whole those in leadership started the fires by giving the wrong responses. For instance a visionary leader would have informed him or herself of the situation of the inequality in our economic landscape and engaged the issues and repositioned the arguments in such a manner that it never became inflammatory. However the leadership ignored the messages when there was still time until it was too late and reacted by resorting to a disciplinary process that was marred with inconsistencies and controversy. The result was a suspension of Mr. Malema and his crew which has led to further rattles in the stability of governance. This as those who are seen as opposing the president are being witch hunted victims range from the former chief spy Mo Shaik, to the Limpopo, Gauteng and Free State provinces financial management practices being investigated one could argue that the finances of these provinces have been in disarray for a while and why only now is intervention being made? Shouldn’t similar actions be taken in Northern Cape and Kwazulu Natal where financial management is reportedly as bad? In addition it is interesting that of all the provinces Limpopo is the only one that will cede all the full powers of its financial administration to the national government while Gauteng and Free State will be on some type of mentoring relationship which will see them working with officials that will equip the provincial staff and then leave once the situation  is stable. Given that it is common knowledge that relations between Limpopo premier and the President are at an all time low is this a mere coincidence. But to conclude the current leadership of the ANC has failed this country and continues to do so. Should the president be worried about party officials leaking confidential information when business confidence has declined for a fifth month in a row? Or should the president be working on reassuring the business community and the populace of a better future? Should the president be worried about fighting political battles while thousands of South African’s are living below the poverty line and are unemployed? One can only hope that the ANC comes out of Mangaung with the type of leadership that has made it a darling of South African people or else it must be ready to face the consequences!
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Joel Maine

Joel Maine is a full time minister, scholar and a part time business consultant. In his spare time he enjoys working with community development organizations to improve the lives of the less fortunate. It is his deep conviction that it is the time for African's to make an impact in the world and take a leadership role in all spheres.

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