#changethestory: Country needs brilliant leaders, not bullying loyalists

#changethestory: Country needs brilliant leaders, not bullying loyalists
In an interview recently with CNN, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in reflecting on the recent acquittal of US President Donald Trump in the Senate, stated that she has growing fears of the partisan polarisation of politics. She pointed out the “growing loss of any willingness to listen to people with views other than one’s own”.

In our own political backyard, populists on both sides - who blatantly trade insults and indifference - have destroyed the essential strong centre of bi-partisan governance required to lead any democracy.

A new class of leaders have emerged, who place party loyalty above being in service to the greater good of all the people in the country. They see their election to public office as batting only for their party, and not the country.

There is no longer a strong centre - the essential core that holds the aspirations and values of all the people - that reflects who we are as a country. Our political parties, in their one-upmanship strategies, have abandoned civility, service and caring leadership for television and Twitter sideshows, to get their 15 minutes of fame.

Our politicians, as an insight into their own insecurities, have taken our politics out of the required models of admirable decency and co-operative public service, and have turned every opposing view into a public street fight. They are no different from the gangsters in our townships, who will stab you to death for not handing over your last R2.

Since when has non-stop insulting of the electorate become part of the strategies of the everyday conduct of politicians on Twitter and other social media platforms?

It also appears as if people are preparing for the upcoming State of the Nation Address, by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a similar manner to how they prepared for the recent World Cup Rugby final.

What are we becoming as a country? And probably the deeper question is: who are we becoming?

If our leaders are known more for their bullying than their brilliance, or for being pictured pointing a gun at an unknown target after an unpopular court judgment, we are in trouble. If they are unwilling to take a stand against blatant racism or corruption within their own parties, how can we trust such leaders with public leadership?

If you cannot stand for truth and justice within your own party, at the risk of being kicked out, how do we know you will stand for it in the public domain?

This is the point Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made - show us you can oppose your own for the sake of the greater good, for in that your true character is displayed.

I have opposed a certain minister when he advised our sportsmen, in a major international game, to “moer hulle dood” - when referring to what our team should do to the opposing team.

When you inspire us to win as a nation by appealing to the worst in us, then we have lost the leadership plot. When that phrase trickles down to the local primary school rugby team, we will be watching monsters playing each other, with the outcome being determined by a body count instead of a scoreboard.

In similar fashion, politicians who continually insert the value of colonialism into our national narrative, despite the fact that more than 90% of the world’s countries have suffered at the hands of colonial exploiters, then it’s fair to conclude that a mischievous stoking of a base, and not national leadership, is the core intent.

These colonists’ raped populations, enriched themselves and their home countries, and introduced the global slave trade as an economic imperative to secure their global domination.

Do we really need to still thank them for the taps and toilets, while the dead bodies of our slave-traded families were thrown overboard from the slave ships?

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

Cape Argus