SA crying out for leadership

An ANC supporter holds a brick with the DA's name on it on Wednesday. The writer says good leaders know that they must serve people before they can lead. Picture: Dumisani Dube

An ANC supporter holds a brick with the DA's name on it on Wednesday. The writer says good leaders know that they must serve people before they can lead. Picture: Dumisani Dube

Published Feb 14, 2014


When people go to the streets, it is often because they first sought guidance from a leadership that failed them, says Makhudu Sefara.

Johannesburg - In his book The Servant as Leader, author Robert K Greenleaf says that “foresight is the lead that the leader has. Once he loses this lead and events start to force his hand, he is leader in name only”.

Greenleaf notes that the “only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader. To the extent that this principle prevails in the future, the only truly viable institutions will be those that are predominantly servant-led.”

Much of what happens in our lives is a manifestation of the failure of leadership or, as Greenleaf puts it, our leaders losing foresight, the lead that the leader ought to have.

Some will say we are a nation of protesters, of noise-makers and stone-throwers.

But it appears we are a mis-led people.

When people go to the streets and give us a taste of their disenchantment, it is often because they first sought guidance from a leadership that failed them. A leadership that forgot that it ought to be, first and foremost, servant-led.

Take service delivery protests. And forget, for a while, commissioner Riah Phiyega’s claims that the police are not coping because of sheer volumes or poor training. At the heart of protests are civic leaders, councillors, provincial and national government leaders who are not responsive to the needs of the people.

Often what people need is merely information on whether or not there is a plan, with implementation dates, to rid them of the lack of services in their lives.

In Pretoria, executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa initially said he would not meet Bronkhorstspruit protesters until they had stopped their violent protests. They did not stop. But he still went to speak to them.

They forced his hand. What does that make him? His putative leadership was undermined. He is, to revert to Greenleaf, “not leading, he is reacting to immediate events”.

In Joburg, ANC members behaved like base hooligans, brandishing bricks and knobkieries simply because the DA wanted to march. Once ANC members assembled outside Luthuli House, the party HQ, the leadership lost control. Could it be the ANC saw and approved of members hoisting bricks while waiting for the DA? Or was it powerless to do something?

Given the violence employed in the “defence” of the ANC HQ, how does the ANC plan to tell communities not to engage in violent service delivery protests, as President Jacob Zuma did in his last two State of the Nation addresses, including last night’s?

What of the ANC’s emasculation of the country’s security forces? Is Phiyega supposed to feel the ANC has confidence in her men and women in blue when it relies on bands of stone-throwing, stick-wielding hooligans for security?

That ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte does not see anything wrong with this, is telling.

Claiming the ANC won’t roll over when provoked (she actually believes this nonsense), she descended to the crowd’s rabidity. She failed the test of leadership – is anyone surprised?

Leadership is foresight. Leaders must see beyond mere mortals throwing stones in the city centre. DA leader Helen Zille also failed this test. She prioritised her publicity stunt and unleashed mayhem.

In Cosatu, president Sdumo Dlamini, like Zille, Duarte and Ramokgopa, suffers from what Greenleaf calls “a failure to foresee what reasonably could have been foreseen, and from failure to act on that knowledge while the leader has freedom to act”.

The federation, built on the sweat, blood and lives of freedom fighters with vision, freedom fighters who understood that workers are better united than divided, is teetering on the brink of a split because Dlamini, poor soul, can’t lead.

Have you ever witnessed a leader so unutterably afraid of convening his constituency as Dlamini? Has this, if you will, foresightless leader no shame?

But our challenges as a society are bigger than this. Statistics SA said recently that South Africa fails to adequately prepare its children for the workplace. Companies like ours must take university graduates through an internal, rigorous training because we, like many others, have accepted that graduates come out of the system not job-ready.

Market research company Ipsos said this week 54 percent of South Africa’s adults believe that Zuma and his government are not doing their jobs well. About 29 percent think he is doing fairly well and 17 percent believe we have a rock star president.

Well, in 82 days, responsible South Africans will go to the polls and let the world know how they, as the led, feel about the kind of leadership we have.

And if Zuma understood that to be a leader is to be a servant of the people, his R208 million castle would have come after having first served the ordinary people of this country. No?

The truth is ordinary people resign themselves, throw their hands in the air in helplessness because they feel they do not have the power to change things. This is rubbish. Those who do not register or vote should not make noise after the elections.

Leadership is vision. It is an ability to see things before they spiral out of control, it’s possession of the wherewithal to take concrete steps to remedy situations in time.

If we had leaders with foresight, we would not have suffered the shame we saw in the Joburg CBD; Dlamini would not be presiding over the Cosatu split; Ramokgopa would not be making a fool of himself and the EFF would not be cashing in on tyre-burning, leaderless service delivery protesters around the country.

We are a country crying out for leadership on many fronts.

We have leaders in name only.

* Makhudu Sefara is editor of The Star. Follow him on Twitter @Sefara_Mak

The Star

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