HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsPoliticians and media are failing the litmus test of leadership

Politicians and media are failing the litmus test of leadership


South Africa has one of the world’s highest Gini coefficients, a measure of disparity of wealth.

Placed second behind Namibia in 2005 (according to the CIA World Factbook), while much has changed in South Africa in the following six years, a disproportionate number of South Africa’s citizens still live in poverty.

If you want to see it for yourself, take a drive on the N3 towards OR Tambo International Airport.

You will pass the township of Alexandria on your right since it is next to the highway. Behind it, not too far away and especially visible on a clear Johannesburg day, are the gleaming buildings that represent Sandton, a suburb of at times crass wealth and exorbitant spending.

Having grown up four and a half kilometers away from where the Johannesburg Stock Exchange now lies, Sandton has changed from being an area which consisted of small holdings and starter home suburbs 20 years ago to an upper middle class enclave which my family wouldn’t have been able to live in today.

An inherent problem affecting South Africa today is a lack of real leadership, not just in the political sphere but within the media at a national level. Real leadership is being able to rally the proletariat and all other sectors of society to face reality and progress.

At this time, South Africa is short of real leaders in positions of power and if one takes the next step, our reality is out of kilter.

President Jacob Zuma has been criticised over his lack of leadership when addressing subjects such as Swaziland, Zimbabwe, corruption and patronage within government.

While he rode a wave of anti-Mbeki bipartisanship into the Union Buildings, those that helped elect him such as COSATU and the SACP must surely wonder if they have been given a fair reward for the price of admission. Another organisation that helped President Zuma to power was the ANC Youth League that has de-evolved, if that was possible, into an organisation with an overzealous and disproportionate sense of importance.

The Young Lions are the current prism through which the disenfranchised are expressing their anger, but in political terms they represent a fraction of the delegates responsible for electing officials within the ruling party.

Their leader, Julius Malema, might think he can hold a gun to the ANC leaderships’ head (who ironically created his political persona in the first place) as he reaches his Waterloo but if he no longer has genuine and sustained support within the ANC itself, he will diminish as a political force.

He hasn’t shown the subtleties of his predecessor Fikile Mbabula, one of the fastest risers in government and the current sports and recreation minister.

As such, the beating future of the ANC is an indictment of why the party of liberation has struggled to enact real change.

Leaders no longer join the ANCYL to affect change but rather become careerists, such as Mr. Malema, advancing their own ends on the back of those who need more but have nowhere else to go.

The media itself isn’t innocent in all this. Even though some media organisations have attempted to foster a directed attitude towards affecting real change, it isn’t out of sheer selflessness.

Often doing a good thing means doing good business and as much as they tell you they care about the person in the street, gaping holes exist within their mandate to inform South Africans of what they should know, what not they want to know.

The big media houses such as Naspers and Avusa are more than happy to exploit the fear of the middle and upper classes through “All Malema all the time” scare tactics so they can sell newspapers. With the Daily Sun now South Africa’s best selling newspaper and the majority of South Africans still lacking Internet access, the media are failing their public as much as the government is.

Opposition parties, or the lack thereof, have also fallen woefully short of the standards required to become a viable force within the South African political scene.

The Democratic Alliance has cannibalised smaller parties such as the ID and the now defunct NNP, but it is still a party seen as being for the interests of the minority and not that of the majority.

Its policy of enacting change through good governance ward by ward has won them support, but it is the lack of a dominantly black opposition party that has hurt South Africa the most.

With COPE being the false dawn many suspected it was, started by disaffected Mr. Mbeki-aligned ANC members and now crippled by the infighting that characterised Polokwane, no wonder the ANC has become a party of hubris instead of evolution.

I, and all other South Africans regardless of colour and class, deserve real leadership to continue the giant yet human work done by President Nelson Mandela. At the moment, we are still waiting.


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