University of the Free State vice-chancellor and rector Professor Jonathan Jansen on Tuesday encouraged students at the University of Pretoria to question traditional views on leadership.
Jansen told Master’s students in human rights and democratisation from different African countries that leadership should be characterised by being able to relate to others. “We must get over the myth that leadership is done by men. That leadership is testosterone or that you can say horrible things about gay people in Uganda. Or how many babies you can have as a leader. Leadership is not strength but about weakness.
“You cannot only lead cognitively but emotionally as well. Humility does not mean timidity, but it does mean placing yourself at the service of others.” He said the spate of service protests across parts of the country was because leaders had lost touch with the people.
“People asked for water for 20 years. Why don’t you bloody give them water? Why does a child have to drown in a pit toilet in Limpopo? The role of leadership is to come close to people.”
He said there had been no protests over funding at the University of the Free State because the management and students had a close relationship.
“We have a programme that helps buy food for poor students who cannot afford it. We want those students to be able to finish their studies. Your life as a leader should be a powerful example of how to live. Why must you as a leader live in a huge house while people are suffering?” he asked.
The LLM\MPhil in human rights and democratisation in Africa was established in 2000 and presented as a regional co-operation initiative by 13 leading African universities. The one-year programme admits 25 top graduates from across the continent. Students spend six months in Pretoria and the other six months at one of the partner universities.