Wed, 20 Jan 2021

There's a dearth of visionary leadership across the globe, says Solly Moeng.For many, including SA's own Nelson Mandela, the ideals for which they made great sacrifices no longer seem to have champions.In a world where inspirational leadership has become rare, African leaders must see an opportunity to march to the front, take the baton, and show others how it can be done.

Looking back on the world I grew up in, I'm beginning to wonder if my world was clouded by the naivete of childhood or if, indeed, there used to be more great, visionary and inspiring men and women whose influence led to many of the civil liberties and other good things we enjoy today.

Many names of late liberation heroes and heroines in much of the developing world are still cited with much nostalgia in songs, literature and poetry - or even adorn banknotes. Some even had statues erected in their honour, or had streets and other national and global monuments named after them.

But for many, including South Africa's own Nelson Mandela, the ideals for which they made great personal sacrifices no longer have champions in those that came after them. Often, the values that underpinned their lifelong struggles - irrespective of racial and ethnic and ethnic identity or creed - have lost meaning. Instead, one all too often sees revisionist accounts of history.

The United States of America remains a powerful economic and military force in the world, but it has long lost the kind of leadership that could inspire others around the world to want to be like it.

Instead, it has become a subject of much ridicule and derision the world over, thanks in large part to its current president. By all indications, the man elected to lead the United States of America has no desire for his country to occupy a leading role as a defining democratic force.

In China, meanwhile - the fast-growing contender for world military domination and economic leadership - human and environmental rights appear to have little meaning. It is run by a man who could, technically, be president for life, and whose policies will continue to squeeze civil liberties out of Hong Kong, and ensure that its knee remains pressed to the necks of Taiwan and Tibet.

There is, meanwhile, little transparency regarding the terms and conditions attached to loans extended by China to various African nations, including our own.

Even little can be said of Turkey where, incomprehensibly, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in power. His stance and policies on the Kurds in the region do not inspire much confidence. And Russia is no better. Having successfully played the system in the past by strategically stepping aside at the end of his first constitutional two terms in office, President Vladimir Putin is now reported to be working the system again to ensure that he stays in office.

Closer to home, there is similar cause for concern in Africa. Many people seem happy to overlook, for example, the worrisome human rights record of Rwanda's strong man, President Paul Kagame, and focus instead on the good work he is said to be doing in repositioning his country as a Mecca for foreign direct investments, leisure and business tourists, as well as business development.

His well-oiled global PR machine aside, few can deny that Kagame has done a lot of good things in developing his country, particularly the capital, Kigali, into a business-friendly destination where red tape has been reduced to the absolute minimum to enable fast visa application and issuing, as well as airline access. Those who know his ways will assure you that all will be fine, so long as you do not say a word about Kagame's atrocious human rights record. Publicly differing with him or criticising him are also not advised.

Shifting our gaze to the Middle-East and the Arab world - much like Rwanda - visionary, inspiring leadership lies chiefly in the realm of impressive spatial, scientific, technological and economic developments in places like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Meanwhile, there is little hope for an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict any time soon.

In South Africa, the country's people have reason to be not just worried but afraid, as confidence levels diminish with each revelation of corruption, maladministration, and impunity. Business confidence levels fell, in the second quarter of this year, to lows last seen under apartheid.

South Africans have reason to believe that their government no longer represents the aspirations of all South Africans, irrespective of their racial identity. The continued absence of real action being taken against high-level, politically connected, criminal suspects simply sends the wrong message to the populace. Ramaphoria is all but dead.

Yet the president himself must keep his party united, while the larger challenge looms of keeping the country united.

Leadership matters. It is not enough for someone to simply occupy the position if they fail to lead from the front with deliberation, vision, maturity, and a clear set of values.

Leading diverse societies requires empathy, balance, and the uncanny ability not to pit the interests of one group against those of others. In a world where inspirational leadership has become rare, African leaders must see an opportunity to march to the front, take the baton, and show others how it can be done.

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