Mbeki’s apology

2007-12-13 00:00

In a recent observation in this newspaper on leadership, the point was made that a good leader does not take credit individually for successes but attributes these collectively to all who are part of a team, whereas responsibility is taken personally for any failures that occur. President Thabo Mbeki has fulfilled this image by the straightforward apology he has made, in a speech this week in Bloemfontein, for Eskom’s load-shedding of electricity. Eskom had asked for more government funding to improve power supply and this was refused. “Eskom was right,” Mbeki said, “and the government was wrong.”

It is rare to see this human side of Mbeki who, like most politicians, is not easily given to making apologies. Perhaps it is prompted by the run-up to the African National Congress’s national conference, starting next weekend in Polokwane, where the prospect of a defeat by Jacob Zuma for the presidency is likely. Facing this crossroad, he may be making a tally in his mind of his government’s successes and failures. Whatever the reason, his apology is refreshing and it enhances the president’s reputation as a leader. Perhaps similar apologies will be forthcoming, before he stands down as president of the country in 2009, for his questionable approach to HIV/Aids and Zimbabwe.

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