The second Great Trek has begun

2008-05-20 00:00

During or about the year 1800, Boer families living in the Western Cape, disillusioned by life under British rule, packed their wagons and headed north to start a new life. Two hundred years later a second Great Trek is under way as South Africans from all race groups and all walks of life are emigrating to “start a new life”. When quizzed, these people will typically tell you that their motivation for leaving is “fear of violent crime” and because they “don’t see a future here for their children”. The first reason is clear enough but it is the second that is harder to put your finger on. What exactly do these people mean? The answer lies in leadership, or more precisely a lack of confidence in leadership. These people simply don’t trust the current leadership or indeed the future leadership of this country.

Confidence is a fragile thing. Stock markets offer a fascinating insight into the psyche of investors where those two emotions, fear and greed, wrestle each other daily. When the grazing is lush they follow like sheep, but at the first sign of danger they bolt en masse — like nervous stallions. Investors will drive the price of a share up on the news that a highly regarded CEO has been appoint-ed to a company. In business people are judged by their track records that are seen as indicators of future performance. Successful people have a way of drawing top employees around them while weak leaders typically surround themselves with incompetent people who pose no threat to them. Both business and sport punish the losers swiftly and harshly. Leadership of a country is no different. A president and his government need to have the trust and confidence of the people. If they don’t, the consequences can be extreme as citizens and foreign investors alike shun them.Mbeki’s term of office has seen the gradual disintegration of his reputation and standing as he lurches from one crisis to the next. Whether he will see out his second term before being ushered to the door remains to be seen. The recent attempt by the SACP to unseat him was nothing more than a warning shot across the bow. The real battle can’t be far behind. Frankly it can’t come soon enough. His misguided

loyalty to Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Robert Mugabe, his attitude to Aids and his attempted cover-up of Jackie Selebi are all examples of a man with poor judgment and little perception of reality.

No day goes past when the newspapers are not filled with some new revelation about corrupt or incompetent politicians or public servants. The decision to disband the Scorpions simply because they keep catching dishonest politicians is chilling. This notwithstanding that a report commissioned by the government years ago justifies their existence. The sacking of Vusi Pikoli simply because he wanted to arrest Selebi and the more recent boardroom battles at the SABC all point to a government in disarray. The result of all this is that people “don’t see a future here for their children”.

If South Africa is to have a future, the leadership of this country has to gain the confidence and respect of its people. The decision to elect Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC in preference to people like Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale, who have proven track records, does nothing to suggest that is likely to happen. Add to this bewildering decisions like appointing Tony Yengeni, a convicted criminal, to the NEC and the position looks even worse.

In life perception is reality and unless the government can change people’s perceptions of the government’s ability to properly manage the affairs of this country, the trek will continue.

The consequences of the second Great Trek are still to be felt. But you can be sure of this: losing some of the best people that this country has to offer, regardless of race, will cost this country dearly.

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