South Africa is now experiencing first hand what happens when leadership and citizenry serve themselves before they serve their country, African National Congress veteran Mathews Phosa said on Saturday.
Speaking at the Agri Limpopo Indaba in Polokwane on Saturday, Phosa said experience, gained over decades of struggle and service, had taught him that lasting transformation did not happen overnight – it was a lifelong journey characterised by hard work and sacrifice.
“Secondly, it has taught me that despite the fact that it takes time, genuine, inclusive, and lasting transformation is possible – but only and I would like to re-emphasize that – only where there is visible, honest, transparent, and ethical leadership and where there is a reciprocal response of responsible, honest, and ethical citizenship. We are now experiencing first hand what happens when leadership and citizenry serve themselves before they serve their country,” he said.
“Today… our Constitution is held up as the finest in the world and it really breaks my heart to know and to see that it is some of our own leadership and some of our own citizens, from the very top to the very bottom of society, who today, are dragging the Constitution though the mud and making a mockery of those comrades who fought – and died – for it.”
Transformation was, and remains, not an easy road to travel. There were times when failure had to be acknowledged and where hard choices had to be made that did not sit well with ones personal values and convictions. “But that is the nature of true democracy, and when your commitment is to serving others and when you are called on to be a transformational leader, tasked with contributing to the growth and development of your country, your continent, and your people, then you just deal with those choices, putting people and country first. Always. Your own personal agendas cannot be allowed to get in the way, because if they do, you will fail yourself and the people and country you serve. And I think we have seen way too much of that in recent years.
“Can we honestly call ourselves ethical leaders and citizens? Will those who come after us call us giants – or will we be remembered as the ones who got onto the gravy train to ‘eat’ until there was no ‘food’ left for our children and our grandchildren? Will we be the ones who are remembered for bringing the movement to its knees, for state capture, and for defying the very Constitution – not to mention the courts whose duty it is to uphold and protect it? Who among our leaders today has the vision that is needed to get us back on course? Ethical leadership means doing the right thing at the right time, all of the time, and that in turn requires consistent, ethical leadership. Who will take up the baton? Who will show the way?” Phosa asked.
Not all leaders were born leaders. Leaders were the products of accumulated experience and training and healthy emotional intelligence. The dustbin of history was full of the names of people who believed that they were born leaders and who acted as if they had the patent on leadership. “We all know that is a myth, and we have had two world wars, multiple genocides, dictators for life, and kinds of disasters and evils that have resulted from really, really bad leadership. True leaders have built lasting, respected business empires and grown flourishing societies. Bad leaders on the other hand have never been able to get businesses off the ground, or they have taken up the reins and driven healthy businesses and successful countries into the ground.
“Two kinds of leaders spring to mind. Beware of ‘people-pleasers’ (populists) and what I like to call the cult of the personality, where people follow an individual, without giving much thought to what it is that he or she represents.
“Clearly, the cult of the personality and the notion of false prophets, are closely intertwined. Today, some churches are big business, and sadly for too many today, government is also good business – to the extent that one sometimes has to ask – are these leaders elected to minister and serve or making money? I suspect that too many are in it for the power and the money, and not for the people who put them there,” he said.
True leadership lies in growing and developing others – in guiding others to success. When it comes to leadership, influence is much more important than authority. No one likes an autocrat – except the autocrat. And the older one gets the more one realises that when people cannot use their influence and experience to get people on board they tend to become autocrats who try to enforce co-operation or transformation by dictate and ultimately, fear. And that is definitely not a healthy situation to be in. If people don’t work with you, they will ultimately work against you. What kind of legacy will we leave our next generation? Do we have the courage to change the status quo. I truly hope so. The choice is ours,” Phosa said.
– African News Agency (ANA)