A free local newspaper I picked up had a quote I thought gave an honest picture about our leadership challenges. It read, “There are two kinds of African leaders. There are those who inspire people and get them to achieve big things, and there are those who represent our weaknesses and reinforce them”.
When we were given the whole day off on 22 April 2009, not just to vote, but to apply our minds carefully on who exactly we wanted to lead us, we came out with the leadership we have today. It therefore represents the best of our ability.
Clearly we cannot blame anyone else for the poor leadership or leadership vacuum we now face in South Africa. In fact it is our fault, all of us, including those who distance themselves from voting for Jacob Zuma and the ANC.
South Africans do not believe in acting in unison. Collectivism is just not our thing. We are so compartmentalised into political parties that represent isolated values, economic interests and racial differences, things when viewed holistically make microscopic contribution to the lives of the people.
In South Africa we trust the leaders more than we believe in the people. In fact we believe that political parties have the ability to breed leaders which we all will investment our trust in.
We probably all know the famous words by Joseph de Maistre, “Every nation has the government it deserves”. In fact, this quote has been changed a number of times to fit the desired meaning. This envoy to Russian king Czar Alexander was reacting to reforms that were being introduced at the time, moving Russia to a more European-style constitutional government. Clearly, he was against democracy and pro monarchy. His actual words were, “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.” Meaning, every nation has the government which it is fit for.
So do we deserve the leadership, or to be precise, the government we have?
Abuse of power
What is ridiculous is the lack of outrage in the decisions by the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) in the recent past, firstly, to contemptuously withdraw the corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, propelling him to the Union Buildings in 2009, then recently the bizarre charge of 259 Marikana mine workers with the murder of their own friends, colleagues and brothers using a flawed law that was used to prosecute and hang struggle heroes. It clearly means that despite our profound trust and belief in our “world class” Constitution, we remain in the mercy of the organs of state that must execute it and if they continue in the path in which they are treading on now, then we are doomed.
- Interestingly, a shopping list of charges levelled against estranged ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has also been trimmed, raising questions about the sincerity of the entire charges, someone save the NPA.
- We still hope to hear something of the JSC drama involving John Hlope on his alleged interference in the judicial system, attempting to save Zuma from facing justice.
- The mayor of one of the Eastern Cape municipalities has two RDP houses. Homes that could house two of the many destitute families in her municipality. Then when asked why she owns two RDP houses, her argument is that her son must have a house when he is old enough. Can we wake up South Africa.
Capacity of the state
Questions keep popping up about whether the state has the adequate capacity to service its people despite the overwhelming mandate it enjoys from them. With so many municipalities unable to account for the resources afforded to them to service their residents we can hardly proclaim that the state has this capacity.
Half of government departments in Limpopo and some in the Eastern Cape have been taken over by the national government, basically sending a message that all is not well. The department of education is in a mess, with government’s own study showing that primary schools are not providing adequate reading, writing and mathematics to 80% of our children, yet the Eastern Cape is threatening to lay off teachers as if this problem was just an agitation from alarmists.
There are still many who are regarded as temporary staff and many so called schools lack the necessary infrastructure. Then there was the notorious books saga in Limpopo. If South African Breweries can deliver alcohol to 35 000 taverns across the country every week, they deserve the tender to deliver books with more efficiency and punctuality than the service providers the government has appointed.
The anger that is brewing in the country, in the mines, in townships and that which is displayed through violent protests is a telling signal that people want, DEMAND change, but as to whether they are brave enough to experiment with a party they do not know is something else.
Marikana mine workers have taught us something as South Africans and if we turn a blind eye to these lessons, we will never forgive ourselves. They have taught us that after 18 years of freedom, the ANC can no longer claim to need more time to bring about the change it promised. I believe that with thousands of mine workers abandoning NUM, as their trusted representative, and joining AMCU tells us that people are ready to look beyond the history and are prepared to ignore the guilt trip in favour of better, quality service.
If we can for a moment, look beyond our fundamental differences and challenge our leaders to represent our values, change our living conditions and be loyal to the future we so desire for a better South Africa, a lot more we can change.
Where are the leaders?
What kind of leadership do we have? The one that is happy to maintain a comfortable distance between itself and the people that chose it. Who are clearly out of touch with the issues and challenges that people face? We have councillors who do not even reside in the wards where they were elected and when people question the quality of service they get, they are met with a dismissive “beggars can’t be choosers” smug reply. Who are these people?
When workers seek a leader in the mines, they call on Julius Malema, and when communities want a mayor removed in the Northern Cape because he has failed them, they turn to Thuli Madonsela. We have a leadership void.
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