**Note from the editor : This article was co-written by Gift Mbewe and Zangose Tembo**
Leaders are the first to run into the unknown and they sacrifice themselves and what is theirs for the greater good. At least that’s what it ought to be. It is more than a title but a responsibility.
Many have said that the problem with Africa today is that we lack true authentic leadership. For many the underdevelopment of African nations can be attributed to poor governance. Deep levels of disillusionment and dismay soon followed the mood of optimism which enveloped the people when the wave of political freedom and independence came. The promises of liberty and wealth did not materialise, but sooner gave birth to new forms of oppression, economic hardship and despair. In Zambia for example, with each new leader, key structures and mechanisms put in place to protect and serve citizens have gradually deteriorated. Leaders are corrupt, there is an intolerance for political opposition and there is a severe breakdown of inter party relations.
I grew up realising the value of each and every human. My mother always told me to treat all with respect and that no one is below another because every individual serves a role and purpose. Through her words and actions, she taught me that everyone exists for a reason , and everyone that crosses your path is there to help you grow, see or learn something. One therefore ought to inspire those they lead to follow positive values and inspire them to do the same for others.
Good leaders possess distinct characteristics and I dare say, with pride, that many African leaders, both past and present have served in a manner that indeed demonstrates some of these important traits:
Great leaders are not only good, but consistent. Nelson Mandela comes to mind as someone who remained dedicated to a cause to the point where he was prepared to die. Having fought against the apartheid regime, Mandela’s strong message remained in the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised black population of South Africa even after he was imprisoned. He took a stand for an important idea of equality, always crafted his words carefully and remained committed. Following his release from prison, the fight for equality continued and eventually, South Africa had its first multi-racial elections.
As a child, I would watch and even help my mother prepare what I knew would be incredibly scrumptious meals. One thing I always observed is that she would serve every single person before she sat down to eat, sometimes she would not mind if she only had a little piece of bread afterward.
Many of the problems in the world today spring from selfishness which sees leaders make harsh demands and exploit the state and its citizens in order to satisfy their own needs. Examples to point to in recent news include former South African president Jacob Zuma, who resigned in February. Zuma has been charged with corruption pertaining to an arms deal in the 1990s. In the trial that has been postponed until June, Zuma is facing 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering.
In Brazil, President Lula surrendered himself to the police after evading arrest. He is now serving a 12 years’ prison sentence for corruption after accepting a luxury apartment from a construction company as a bribe.
Other leaders charged for corrupt behaviour include Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu whom Israeli police have recommended to be indicted on charges of bribery and breach of trust and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who is facing formal investigation over allegations that the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi illegally funded his 2008 presidential campaign.
Responsibility and accountability
A leader is not omnipotent and therefore cannot do everything by themselves. When we think of socio-economic transformation for the masses and by the masses we can clearly point to the revolutionist leader, Thomas Sankara. Having come to power at a young age, Sankara tried to exert power and create change by never losing direct contact with the people. He would visit the community without any kind of protocol. He refused to seize power even after being pushed by his comrades to do so because he understood that it was not time yet. For him ensuring that the country and its people lived better lives was his main goal and priority.
For individuals to have a journey of successful leadership, developing and nurturing key qualities is key. I believe in a transformed Africa, and it will come with regenerated leaders at the helm in all spheres.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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