The dearth of leadership in South Africa

16 August 2013 marked the one year anniversary of the death of 34 black African miners who were shot by their police. The Marikana commission of inquiry is in session trying to piece together a credible story of what transpired. Allow me to uncouthly pre-empt the process and prophesize the outcome. Credible findings will point to a dire lack of leadership in the actions of the police, politicians and the business elite implicated in the most macabre massacre in democratic South Africa. My thesis proposes that the biggest crisis facing South Africa in 2013 is a dearth and death of leadership.

It is poignant that I write this at a time when South Africans follow with bated breath the long illness of Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. This blog is titled Constructive Critique-ism, before I continue with this piece allow me to quote Mandela’s opinion on criticism. In a conversation with Ahmed Cathrada cited in Conversations with myself he says “You see criticism must be dignified. We must be factual, we must be realistic, we must be honest, but at the same time, you know, within a certain frame because we are builders”.


Trade Unionism

I will not entertain the Vavi debacle at great length. As far as I am concerned, which is not very far, the implicated lady is no Succubus. Let me save you an expedition to Google. Succubus is a female demon. Legend has it Lady Succubus is capable of descending upon a man while he sleeps and have sex with him. More pressing than Vavi’s urge to unzip his pants is the state of trade unionism in South Africa. Undeniably great strides have been made in attaining workers rights, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The efforts of trade unionists culminated in the adoption of labour-friendly legislation such as the Labour Relations Act, 1995(Act No.66 of 1995) and representation in bodies like National Economic Development and Labour Council. In the recent past we have witnessed multiple protests that make you question the negotiation abilities of the trade unionists. The emergence of  the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and the Workers and Socialist Party are to a large extent a result of the workers’ illustrating their discontent with the leadership provided by the dominant trade unionists. Comments from prominent members of COSATU suggesting that the reason for the dissatisfaction is that there is a gap between leadership and members are worrying at best.


The more Angie defends the state of education in South Africa the less we believe her. We are not convinced, even when Helen Zille joins in defence of the minister of basic education. The proof is in the proverbial pudding. Speak to any high school teacher in a school attended by poor black learners and they will tell you they receive Grade 8 learners who have not mastered basic reading, writing and math. Basically they do not know the basics but the Minister of Basic education is under the illusion that things are improving. Take it a step further and quiz a Social Science university lecturer and they will tell you that students reach university without the ability to write an essay never mind understand the difference between a discursive or descriptive essay.  When Jacob “Every day I’m shuffling” Zuma announced the fourth cabinet reshuffle in five years Angie’s survival was notable and seen by many to be unjustified.

The fish rots from the head

It is easy to write about the flaws of our president. He is an innocent man with 786 charges of corruption which are yet to be tested in a court of law. Four reshuffles of the cabinet in one presidential term resemble Chippa United’s chopping and changing of coaches. For those who are not admirers of the beautiful game Chippa United had 6 coaches in a single, 9-months long, PSL season and were unceremoniously relegated at the end of the last campaign. No such luck with President Zuma. The shocking lack of leadership in the current ANC elite will see him bounce back into parliament next year. Let me not bore you with my thoughts on Nkandlagate and other such scandals.

Epidemic proportions

A comment by Agri SA deputy president Theo de Jager went unnoticed by most of you reading this. According to the Sowetan he said “Since 1994, this government has not had to manage a drought. If it happens, the government will have to decide very quickly how the country’s resources should be used”. In accordance with Theo government needs a natural disaster to be spurred into action as all forms of communication with government has been to no avail. This exemplifies a defining and depressing trait of our leadership. Our leaders are reactive, not proactive.

Perhaps the greatest indictment of leadership in present times is the ‘Pooh revolution’. No this is not a plagiarism of how Winnie the Pooh interacts with her or his friends. Unfortunately not! The Pooh revolution refers to an innovative, inimitable or downright shitty form of protest that is gaining momentum and stench. Pioneered in the Western Cape young people, alleged to be ANC Youth leaguers, collect human excrement from portable toilet containers and toss it at politicians, municipal buildings and even the Cape Town International Airport. Talk about taking ‘smear’ campaigning to a whole new level. The grievances are legitimate, people are unhappy with living in squatter settlements without proper sanitation, service delivery is slow. The form of protest on the other hand borders on mental retardation. Ask yourself the following questions. Who thought of this plan and was satisfied with it defining their legacy? Which cadres volunteer to collect the ‘ammunition’? What is the content of conversation while you drive from the squatter settlement to the airport with the human excrement in your car? Following the event, what is accepted as a good outcome? A lot was said about the leadership of Julius Malema when he was the ANC Youth League president. However infuriating he may have been he never endorsed such lunacy.  He has instead acted within the law and started his own party, Economic Freedom Fighters, and is campaigning for revolutionary changes within constitutional and democratic processes. Good luck to him and his new set of comrades. Sushi for all. Amandla! Asijiki!

Who to look up to:

A shining beacon in this current leadership crisis has come in the form of one Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His constitutionally aligned and morally correct decision to publicly admonish homophobia is commendable. Regardless of what your religious or traditional leadership tells you Tutu is correct and the constitution tells us so!

In the quagmire of desolation and adversity arose a giant, born in Qunu, with the audacity to not only hope for but promise and deliver political freedom. Thus it is fitting then that we look to what Mandela described leadership to be. In a letter to Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela he wrote “Internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life”. I will contend that the assertion that these qualities are ‘within easy reach of every soul’ is a great over estimation of human potential by Dr Mandela. However the least our leaders could do is to try, or even pretend to try…Image

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu.



Allow me to postulate, I think Mandela would much rather we adopt his values and magnanimous leadership as opposed to honouring him with bank notes. 


Julius Malema: Self proclaimed Commander-in-chief of Economic Freedom or nefarious opportunist? The jury is still out.


One thought on “The dearth of leadership in South Africa

  1. Yep. SA is definitely in need of strong leadership. We have produced many great leaders in our past. Leaders who had the intelligence, vision, integrity, humility, and who could relate to the citizens of the country. Many in the current leadership of the country are an embarrassment to Mandela and countless others, known and unknown, who gave their lives to make SA a better place for all!

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