finweek

SA needs decisive leadership

On describing leadership, the Austrian-born management consultant and author Peter Drucker said: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

South Africa has been to hell and back during the misrule of former President Jacob Zuma. 

For this country to regain the lost ground, there must be strong and decisive leadership at all levels – national, provincial and local – but also from businesses, at schools and universities, and from traditional leaders, for example.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has rekindled hope of a new dawn, but no one needs reminding that the country still faces some serious challenges. 

Some of South Africans’ major anxieties currently include frighteningly high unemployment, grand-scale corruption, substandard education (often in areas where education has the power to truly break the cycle of poverty) and lawlessness.

We want to remain optimistic that the future will improve, but this will require all of us to do the right things. Central to this is strong leadership.

The land question

The question is not whether there should be equitable land redistribution or not, but rather how we do it as South Africans. All South Africans must have access to land based on the demographics of the country. 

It is the right thing to do. But it requires strong leadership.

It should not come at the expense of food production, the economy, and the much needed income from exports and foreign investments. 

Most of the land is bonded to banks and we cannot risk upsetting our banking system. 

It must also be remembered that all forms of production assist in creating taxable income, which supports our huge social grants system. 

The process of land redistribution should not be about power politics. It should be about doing the right thing right, and doing it in the best interest of the country.

I have no doubt that President Ramaphosa knows the economic, social and political consequences of implementing land expropriation incorrectly. 

He understands the world economic order that South Africa operates under. 

I also understand the balancing act that he needs to do within the ANC, with a Zuma faction who would want to see him fail at all costs. 

But like the shrewd negotiator who helped broker the democratic dispensation in the period leading to 1994, he must get everyone in our society on board. 

He must not be afraid to engage all our people, including commercial farmers. That will not be a sign of weakness. 

Organised agriculture has repeatedly shown willingness to be engaged on the issue of land redistribution so that there could be a win-win situation. 

The land question is bigger than the ambitions of any single political entity. 

It is not for one political or racial group to resolve. It requires all of us to work together to find a lasting solution.

Corruption and lawlessness

Since taking power early in the year, President Ramaphosa has demonstrated the will to tackle corruption. 

The clean-up of state-owned enterprises, led by minister Pravin Gordhan, shows this resolve. 

However, there are still challenges. Often senior leaders within the ANC are implicated. 

The state capture inquiry is underway and more evidence of corruption by senior politicians, civil servants, politically connected people and corporate sector leaders will come out. 

President Ramaphosa must strengthen institutions that can recover state resources looted by the perpetrators.

He must ensure that all the law enforcement agencies are staffed with competent leaders. 

Above all, these institutions must be independent. This should include Chapter 9 institutions like the Public Protector.

Another area where the president must show leadership is the manner in which the country deals with lawlessness. 

The burning of infrastructure, trains, buses, trucks and schools, can never be justified. Action against such behaviour should be swift. 

Corruption knows no boundaries.

This we’ve seen recently, with various corporates implicated in irregular and criminal activities. If found guilty of corruption, both private and public sector leaders need to serve jail terms.

Leadership needs to step up, speak out and have the courage to make unpopular decisions in the run-up to the elections – regardless of the potential political losses. 

Let the people of SA see the results of our leadership – leadership that addresses the anxieties of our people. 

Bonginkosi  Dhlamini is former chief of staff in the office of the Public Protector under Advocate Thuli Madonsela. He is currently managing director for the Thuma Foundation. He writes in his personal capacity.

This article originally appeared in the 13 September edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

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