Nobody saw this coming. All those loyal South Africans who have been trying to rally support to address the challenges caused by increasingly suspect decision making at the highest levels in the country haven’t been able to get it right. Then along comes help from a most unexpected source – the highest office in the land. Yes, in a matter of days, our State President united our country in a way none of us (probably himself included) ever anticipated. He’s united the country in the name of one cause – to end his term of office as State President.
Judging by what politicians across the political spectrum are saying, his own party included, it would appear that South Africans have finally decided to stand together, regardless of personal and political agendas in the name of a better future for all our people.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has gone from being normally very quiet to rather vocal. In a TV interview, he spoke of the removal of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as “totally, totally unacceptable”. He followed that up in a speech at a fund raising gala dinner by speaking of it being time to get rid of “greedy and corrupt” people, and issued a call to all South Africans to support efforts to live up to the values of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.
What prompted this change? It’s common knowledge that ministers are hired and fired at the prerogative of the President, but when ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe speaks of there being no consultation, saying the President arrived at the meeting with a list and merely informed them of the cabinet changes he would be making, he is referring to the fact that, when you’re making decisions that affect 56 million lives, it’s wise to consult others before making those decisions.
Both Ramaphosa and Mantashe have taken a stand on the matter, as has ANC Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize, who has expressed his unhappiness with the President’s cabinet reshuffle. The coming days will reveal if they and their colleagues who have the power to do something to address the problem are prepared to not just take a stand or talk the walk, but also walk the talk.
Come to think of it, the last time the country was so united was seven years ago when we stood together as one in 2010 when we hosted the Soccer World Cup. We set aside our differences and rose to support a higher purpose – a purpose that transcended personal and political agendas. And we are once again being called to support a higher purpose – what Ramaphosa calls “a moment of great renewal”.
In her speech at her husband Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial service, Barbara Hogan suggested to President Zuma that, if he had ears to hear and eyes to see, he would step down.
Why is it that some leaders have neither ears to hear nor eyes to see? There are a number of reasons. Two of them are:
1 Arrogance. People in leadership positions who are used to demanding and getting their own way forget that all power is borrowed. After a while they overestimate their own power and abilities and underestimate the power and abilities of those they are abusing. Their arrogance deafens and blinds them so they cannot hear or see things as they really are. They hear and see things as they want to hear and see them and lose touch with reality.
2 Self-deception. Leaders who no longer hear or see the truth are deceived – by themselves. It is a universal truth that, when people set out to deceive others, the first person they deceive is THEMSELVES. And once they’ve deceived themselves, they become quite comfortable deceiving everybody and anybody else. And, what’s more, they believe their own lies.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, South Africa’s economy has now been relegated to junk status. The term “junk” is significant – it means: something of poor quality (trash), of little meaning, worth or significance.
There are many definitions of leadership. My one is: a leader is someone who takes people to a better reality. Unfortunately, our “leader” has not taken us to a better reality.
But instead of pointing our fingers at our President, it might be a good exercise to examine our own leadership practices. Have you taken your people to a better reality? What do the people you’re leading think or say about you? If you’re arrogant and engaged in self-deception, you haven’t a clue about what people really think of you and may not realise that you are uniting people against yourself, causing your company to lose its value in the way that our country has lost its value in the eyes of the world.