Corruption has become so rampant to an extent that, as British columnist Stephen Robinson hammers it home, “South Africans have lost their capacity to be shocked by it.” More so with daily GuptaLeaks without an action taken against those implicated in them. Third, South Africa is in a serious leadership crisis under the Zuma-led government. Dlamini-Zuma, Mbete, and Sisulu are inherently part of the leadership deficit. In other words, the architects of our problems cannot be our saviors, writes Molifi Tshabalala.
Since August is a woman’s month, it is befitting to answer the question: “Is South Africa ready for a female president?” To start with, the question itself is misplaced, if not patriarchal. Instead, it should read as: “What kind of a leader does South Africa need post President Jacob Zuma?” Therefore, I would answer this question within the context of the first one.
One cannot answer the question without looking at three topmost challenges the country is grappling with and capabilities of the three women – namely, Baleka Mbete, Lindiwe Sisulu, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – who have raised their hands to succeed Zuma to address them.
For nearly a decade now, our economy has not been growing at a required rate to address the triple challenge: inequality, poverty, and unemployment. Consequently, an unemployment rate stands at staggering 28 per cent. Further broken down, a youth unemployment rate stands at 56 per cent, a recipe for an uprising, which political economist Moeletsi Mbeki predicts would happen in 2020.
In the fourth quarter of 2016, a GDP contracted by 0.3 per cent. It further contracted by 0.7 per cent in the next quarter to enter the country into a technical recession. Adding insult to injury, Fitch and the Standard & Poor’s have downgraded the country to a junk status.
As if that were not enough, the General Motors has disinvested in the country and sold its plant to Isuzu and a few companies are laying off thousands of workers chiefly due to the ANC’s economic mismanagement. These developments would definitely impinge on the state’s extractive capacity to address the triple challenge.
The Zuma-led ANC has no a long-term plan to grow the economy. No wonder it wants to revert to GEAR, which produced a largely jobless growth rate.
Second, the country grapples with rampant corruption, which mostly affects the poor of the poorest. Currently, with a score of 45, wherein zero indicates that the country is corrupt and hundred indicates that the country is clean, South Africa ranks 64th out of 176 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index.
Corruption has become so rampant to an extent that, as British columnist Stephen Robinson hammers it home, “South Africans have lost their capacity to be shocked by it.” More so with daily GuptaLeaks without an action taken against those implicated in them.
Third, South Africa is in a serious leadership crisis under the Zuma-led government. Dlamini-Zuma, Mbete, and Sisulu are inherently part of the leadership deficit. In other words, the architects of our problems cannot be our saviors.
In the opinion piece, “Female president? These 3 Titans are up to the Task,” Thami ka Plaatjie, who is a special advisor to Sisulu, cites a few positions that the trio has held within the ANC and in government and its struggle credentials. Having occupied positions of power, or having waged a liberation struggle, does not necessarily make one a leader. Leadership is not a position of power, but a selfless serve to a people or a course of action.
A leader, as Rick Joyner explains in the book, Leadership, Management and the Five Essentials for Success, differs from a manager. “To properly understand leadership we must first distinguish it from management,” he writes.
The trio is a manager, not a leader. A manager, writes Joyner, is “detail-oriented,” whereas a leader is “concept-oriented” – that is, “able to see the big picture.” None of the three women sees a big picture.
Some leadership qualities that make one a good manager, may make him/her a bad leader, vice versa. “That is why,” argues Joyner, “having good leadership qualities does not guarantee that one will be a successful leader.” Therefore, while the three may have leadership qualifies, what would then, secondary to the main question, make them successful leaders?
In the book, Credibility, Barry Posner and James Kouzes list – in the order of importance – honesty, vision, and inspiration as the three leadership qualities that appeared in every survey they have conducted on leadership over the past forty years.
“Honesty is absolutely essential to leadership,” write Posner and Kouzes. “If people are going follow someone willingly, whether it be into battle or into boardroom, they first want to assure themselves that the person is worthy of their trust,” continue the duo, “They want to know that the would-be leader is truthful and ethical.”
The question, therefore, comes to mind as to whether we can trust the trio to turn around our ailing economy, fight corruption, and provide the required leadership. Mbete is yet to get her presidential campaign off the ground and Sisulu has just gotten hers a few weeks ago. Both still have to cover much ground to catch Dlamini-Zuma, who is miles ahead with her campaign.
Yet, there is nothing inspirational about her campaign, insofar as economy and corruption are concerned. Dlamini-Zuma just sloganeers the RET, the WMC, and other vapid slogans. The RET is neither an economic model nor an economic plan.
Interestingly, Dlamini-Zuma has not spoken out against the Guptas, who have captured both the ANC and the state through her former husband, Zuma, and allegedly siphoned off the billions of rands from the state coffers to Dubai to make her worthy of our trust. It is not surprising, though, as her name appears among those who have paid the Guptas a visit in Saxonwold, which in de facto a seat of government.
Sisulu’s insinuation to grant Zuma an amnesty on his protracted corruption case shows her incapability to fight corruption. Zuma and those who are implicated in the GuptaLeaks should have their days in court. This should be her rallying point.
As compared to Mbete and Sisulu, Dlamini-Zuma had an opportunity to unpack her vision for South Africa as an African Union (AU) chairperson. That is, transformed the continent in line with her South African vision. More so, given that South Africa, as a G20 member, is the continental leader on global affairs.
Under her AU chairpersonship, Africa endured a serious leadership crisis when various terrorist groups massacred civilians and during an outbreak of deadly Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Moreover, she failed to show her leadership qualities when scores of Libyans left the continent to seek asylums and refugees in Europe.
The AU’s response to these challenges and others that the continent faced under her chairpersonship, or a lack of it thereof, left much to be desired. Hence, I concur with former Nigerian Human Rights Commission chairperson Chidi Odinkalu that her decision not to vie for a second term was a good “riddance”. Desolately, we may have to bear the brunt of that riddance if she becomes the next president.
Mbete also failed to show her leadership qualities as a parliamentary speaker. The courts have had to instruct her on how to act on key issues, such as Nkandla matter and secret ballot. In all fairness to Sisulu, her ministerial positions are not the fair criteria to benchmark her against Dlamini-Zuma and Mbete.
Above all, we need a leader who knows and understands global geospatial dynamics and a role that South Africa should play thereof. In Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, we had such leaders, whose inputs on global affairs their world counterparts respected and sought.
We also need a leader who would take on Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and other global leaders on global affairs in the country’s best interests. Neither Dlamini-Zuma nor Mbete, not to mention Sisulu, is that leader, not by a long shot. This, therefore, answers the question: “Is South Africa ready for a female president?”
Make no mistake. We do have a stellar of women who can take the country to greater heights. Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s names come to mind.
Madonsela rendered a selfless service to the nation, despite being on the receiving end of insult-laden criticism from some within the ANC and tripartite allies. She showed a great deal of leadership.
Her racial controversies aside, Zille also showed leadership qualities as both City of Cape Town mayor and Western Cape premier. Despite concerted efforts by the ANCYL and the ANC-aligned Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement to render both the DA-governed city and the province “ungovernable,” she turned them into standout performers.
Molifi Tshabalala is an independent political analyst.