In search of transcendental leadership for all

2012-08-11 12:12

When The Spear uproar happened, I was already a black upper-middle-class individual with a high-paying career and four university degrees.

I had travelled worldwide, been published in journals, authored or coauthored several books and presented papers at international conferences.

I also had little respect for racially based organisations like the Black Management Forum, Black Business Council, Black Lawyers Association and the Black IT Forum.

I never understood why black people should maintain organisations that would have served better before 1994.

I am not going to be a victim of black this and black that. Some of us have become victims of victimhood.

I refuse to perpetuate black organisations and black victimhood, but I was deeply pained by the Brett Murray painting.

Was I hurt in my capacity as an individual or as a South African?

No, I was hurt as a black South African.

Black South Africans have a sense of their own hurt, pain and anger, but they don’t necessarily feel the hurt of other races.

When Jimmy Manyi remarked that coloureds were over-concentrated in Western Cape, there was a huge outcry from coloured people.

Interestingly, most African blacks closed ranks with Manyi.

Trevor Manuel lambasted Manyi for his racist utterances, but received no support from the ANC. It was as if it was Manuel who was out of order.

The problem in South Africa is that we have leaders who confine themselves to their constituencies and communities.

When Indians and Muslims are perceived to be insulted, it would be Jay Naidoo and Yusuf Abramjee who defend them.

When black Africans and Afrikaners are perceived to be attacked, Gwede Mantashe and FW De Klerk issue rebukes.

But South Africa needs transcendental leadership which speaks on behalf of its entire people despite their tribe, ethnicity and culture.

Former president Nelson Mandela is a good example. When the furore about Mbongeni Ngema’s amaNdiya song broke out, some black people closed ranks with Ngema and gave him support.

These black people, politically speaking, constituted Mandela’s largest constituency. They never really understood the pain this song ignited for Indians.

Black Africans did not vent anger in support of their fellow citizens (Indians) the way Zuma was supported during The Spear controversy.

There were no calls to boycott Ukhozi FM for playing the song like there were calls to boycott City Press for publishing The Spear.

There was also no march to the recording company that released Ngema’s song like the one to Goodman Gallery over the painting.

Indians had to go through the hurt on their own. The song insulted Indians and made generalisations about them. This song had the potential to create a wedge between Zulus and Indians.

But Mandela summoned Ngema and urged him to apologise for his song. Mandela appreciated the use of art for liberation, but criticised the song for its racism.

Before meeting Mandela, Ngema argued his song was a catalyst to stimulate debate around racial issues in South Africa, and he refused to apologise.

But after meeting Mandela, Ngema admitted the lyrics of his song demeaned Indians and contained a strong element of hate.

He accepted that the lyrics went too far and there would be no live performances of the song.

He further admitted the song had the potential for creating fear within minority groups and he acknowledged that Indians are hard workers who had contributed enormously to the freedom struggle and development of our country.

He even said he would not oppose a ban on sales of CDs containing the song.

Most of the current leaders in South Africa are selfish.

They will never take decisions that are unpopular within their constituencies and each of their actions are determined by the envisaged
outcome of some forthcoming elective congress.

Our so-called leaders are now more concerned with popularity, positions of power and opulence, and tend to confine themselves to their respective tribes, communities and constituencies.

» Dagada is a development economist and author based at the Wits Business School and Sebata Institute of Consulting and Development

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