VOICES

What Kind Of President Does South Africa Require?

28/11/2016 05:59 SAST | Updated 28/11/2016 11:59 SAST
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BELGRADE, SERBIA - JANUARY 07, 2014: Time magazines displayed with the portrait of Nelson Mandela on the cover page.

The Save South Africa campaign is a direct response to the depths that South Africa has plummeted under the Zuma Presidency. As our Call to Action states: "There is no doubt that we need to inject new energy and urgency into our body politic...

We must recommit ourselves to realize the vision of our Constitution: "To heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights."

In the 22nd year of democracy, we face the biggest crisis since the dawn of democracy. We are at risk of losing the freedom we gained in 1994 because this Government is handing over the reins of power to a greedy and unscrupulous coterie of people. At the centre of this web of deceit and theft sits none other than the President of this country.

Whilst calling for the removal of President Zuma we must also ask ourselves: What kind of President do we require?

As Anthony Samson wrote in Mandela: The Authorized Biography, he "symbolized a much broader forgiveness and understanding and reaching out. If he had come out of prison and sent a different message ...this country would be in flames. So his role is one not be underestimated nor be taken for granted, that those leaders whom emerge from the political party he so loved, would also possess the same characteristics he did..."

Unfortunately, had he still been with us today, one can imagine what Madiba would make of the current leadership and how he would feel about his beloved organisation dishonouring the Constitution; how they treat its people, especially the poor and disadvantaged, in their pursuit for power and patronage, the high levels of corruption which are prevalent in all spheres of our government, incompetence and utter disregard to be accountable to the people.

How do we have a President who is not able to negotiate South Africa through the current financial and economic crisis and the social justice challenges that come with it?

The leadership vacuum in this country is glaring and while the country slides down from being the "miracle rainbow nation" to becoming one where the inequality gap between rich and poor is one of the highest globally, then we must ask: How do we have a President who is not able to negotiate South Africa through the current financial and economic crisis and the social justice challenges that come with it?

Perhaps the answer here is that he surrounds himself with sycophants – people who tell him what he wants to hear or what they think he wants to hear. These people may seem smarter but their real motive is to ensure they take their cut of all deals and loot from the state, with the President's blessing. We all know who most of them are - the Public Protector's Report on State Capture lists many of them.

Poor leadership produces poor performance from those one leads and we have seen this manifest itself - the Marikana massacre, the murder by police of Andries Tatane, brutal responses to continuing student and community protests, as well as Ministers visiting girlfriends in prisons abroad; visiting shebeens near the Gupta compound, having manicures in massage parlours owned by unsavoury individuals – we have a Minister charged with state security openly flirting with shady characters from the underworld ... this is what the Zuma presidency has visited upon us, this what his leadership produces. And this is why he must go and go NOW!

A necessary requirement of good leaders is their ability to learn, be on top of matters, develop knowledge of some of main projects one leads, including being able to remember your Government's nine priorities. If a leader isn't extremely curious or knowledgeable about every aspect of their responsibility, then the problems we face intensify. We have seen this during President's question time in Parliament, where giggling becomes a substitute for rational debate. Responses have no depth of understanding and in many cases the truth is compromised. The truth becomes the victim, and we are all poorer for it.

Weak leaders deny knowledge of most things which suggests either a less than enquiring mind or one that does not care and take its responsibilities seriously.

Failure to communicate is an impediment to those who don't seem to get it, to understand issues, and then we witness the paranoia that comes with it blaming the media, foreign funded civil society organisations, regime change agents and agents of imperialism and white monopoly capital. Great leaders can communicate effectively. Weak leaders deny knowledge of most things which suggests either a less than enquiring mind or one that does not care and take its responsibilities seriously.

A leader who doesn't understand the concept of "service above self" will not build the trust, confidence, and loyalty of those they lead. A leader's word must be matched by their deeds. Arrogance is not a positive leadership trait. Real leaders take responsibility, accept the blame and give the credit – not the other way around.

The devastating consequences of this failure of leadership and the absence of a moral and people-centred approach from the President can be seen in the ugly expressions of racism that continue to blight our beloved country. Just this week we saw the brutalisation of a farm worker in Middleburg, beaten and placed in a coffin by 2 racists. Such behaviour is unacceptable in this democracy, must be condemned and the perpetrators held to account. Zuma is too busy fighting his corruption battles and undermining state institutions to give any meaningful attention to the fight against racism. Perhaps nothing demonstrates the gulf between Zuma and the days of the Mandela Presidency more brazenly and painfully than this.

We must demand that our leaders have the attributes, skills and conscientiousness to relentlessly pursue the kind of society envisioned in the Preamble to the Constitution.

Our collective challenge must look beyond removing Zuma from office. Once we have achieved that we must address the question of how we rediscover and revitalise the democratic norms and values that we hold so dear, that guided our struggle for national liberation, so that the vision of the Constitution becomes a lived reality for more of our people, and not just another dream deferred. We are determined to build a society premised on the respect for human dignity that the Constitution demands.