I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.
My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.
The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.
The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.
At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito.
A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say – I am an African!
I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape – they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and dependence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.
Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again.
I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, part of me.
In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture a part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies from the lash of the slave master are a reminder embossed on my consciousness of what should not be done.
I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.
My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.
I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind`s eye and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.
I am the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food for which my stomach yearns.
I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.
Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that – I am an African.
I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and the other, to defend the indefensible.
I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.
I know what if signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub-human.
I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had improved themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.
I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.
I have seen the corruption of minds and souls as (word not readable) of the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.
I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.
There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality – the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.
Perhaps the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly proportional to their personal welfare.
And so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill in furtherance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. They murder the innocent in the taxi wars.
They kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.
Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past – killers who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.
All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!
Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.
I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.
I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice.
The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric.
Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.
Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be.
We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.
The constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes and unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender of historical origins.
It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.
It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual.
It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.
It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.
It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, promote them, strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.
It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.
It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.
It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.
As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.
Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds.
Bit it is also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves what we want to be.
Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, petulance, selfishness and short-sightedness.
But it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we make a super-human effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda – Glory must be sought after!
Today it feels good to be an African.
It feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as a foot soldier of a titanic African army, the African National Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to the millions who made an input into the processes we are concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators who pitted their wits one against the other, to the unseen stars who shone unseen as the management and administration of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends across the globe – congratulations and well done!
I am an African.
I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.
The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.
The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.
The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.
This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.
This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.
Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now!
Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!
However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!
Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!
When I was still engaged in corporates in a conventional sort of way, i would open the year with a nice wrap up of the previous year followed by a sense of what is coming in the current year and most importantly first Quarter. I always assumed every leader did this sort of thing though my experience has been some of the people i worked with/ worked for did not bother.
So, without letting out too much around my own views of the space i occupy now versus those days, i will attempt to do the same combining my official, personal, social activities and moments in between to review 2015 as well as what is to come in 2016. These will be shared over a series of posts themed #2015Reminiscence to thread the various moments together.
Enjoy as you share in my my journey.
According to Collins et al, there are five attributes that typify a true Leader:
They are self-confident enough to set up their successors for success.
They are humble and modest.
They have “unwavering resolve.”
They display a “workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.”
They give credit to others for their success and take full responsibility for poor results.
They “attribute much of their success to ‘good luck’ rather than personal greatness.”
It is my wish that the dangerously risky task of leading humanity continues to draw on the strength that is heart leadership and all efforts will be expended to cultivate and nurture such through this medium.
In attempting to discuss the person of Jesus Christ in the context of leadership, it is important to specify that both historical accounts and structural records do not project Christ as a warm and fuzzy character that has come to be the theme of most sermons. Jesus Christ was and is the epitome of leading change.
Firstly, those involved in the process of leading change will tell you that it is one of the most difficult roles a human being can attempt. This is so because as human beings, we hate change even though admitting so is politically incorrect. So we resist moving from our comfort zones especially when the next zone does not guarantee comfort upfront.
So Jesus Christ introduces an ideology that challenges the established Jewish religious foundation while at the same time declaring himself the son of the living God. This makes his mission dangerous for itself and for him as the face of it.
See more at: http://www.spiritdominion.com
For a first piece, I thought it prudent to touch on an aspect of leadership that is often taken forgranted: integrity. In leading others, its always important that who we are publicly is exactly the asme as who we are privately. The degree to which these two worlds differ, is the degree to which trust is gained or lost.
Corporate Integrity: It Starts at the Top
I heard of a story about a gentleman who used to be affiliated with a construction company whose owner ordered the workers to cut corners in every way possible without getting caught. Some foremen were even chastised for taking extra care to do a good job. Did this philosophy work? No. The company did make money, but the employees who took pride in their work went elsewhere, leaving a workforce who simply was not trustworthy and a company which had a shady reputation.
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Andre Malraux one said, to command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. I am often perplexed at how much those of us in positions of influence (structurally speaking) miss the mark in terms of what the art of leadership is especially in direct comparison to those without the formal positions of influence.
As often mentioned, I am firm a believer in leadership being a state of being rather than what we do. In other words who we are comes before what we do. It is in the moments when the formal power layers have been taken off that we see the real person. Sometimes the titles we are formally given make us not be who we are and thus rob the world of an opportunity to experience the greatness we are.
One thing I have come to appreciate is that leadership begins with the heart. A heart that is consistent in allowing the leader to live steadily while moving among the team. A heart that is contrite enough to allow humility and willingness to show humanity regardless of who witnesses it. A type of heart that is courageous enough to chart the right path without shrinking from doing the right thing.
A leader should be able to communicate his/her convictions regardless of what the implications. We have many great examples of those who led with conviction (our very own Madiba, Ghandi, Marcus Garvey, Patrice Lumumba, Martin Luther King and others are often referred to in this context).
They are committed to a course regardless of how unpopular that may be. And finally they are totally captivated by what they believe in so much so that it matters not if that survives them (being ready to die for an idea that will live than live for an idea that will die).
This makes the task of leading people quite risky as we can never really tell how we are perceived by others and therefore in a manner of speaking, “putting ourselves out there” could be in actual fact providing evidence that we cannot be trusted. For instance, a politician goes on a podium and declares that they care nothing about themselves, and all they do (including running for office) is driven by a deep sense of care for the people (something we hear all the time). They maybe saying that with the hope that they are convincing beyond shadow of a doubt. Furthermore, they maybe also hope that the audience does not include individuals who know facts that prove to the contrary.
No matter how upright a leader may strive to live their life, if they are genuine, there will always be self conscious: “did anyone see me last night?” “Does anyone in this audience recognize me from university days?” “Did people really believe that I meant everything I said?” “Will they support this new direction given the track record of the leadership team?” This constant struggle on the inside is the harsh reality that most leaders have to live with everyday: And so the wondering continues, day after day.
Beyond managing people’s perceptions, leaders (and people generally) often struggle with themselves as they attempt to manage what’s inside (thoughts, values, believes) against what’s coming out (words and deeds). Sometimes the internal world of thoughts is just not palatable for general consumption. This is because often what we think is uninhibited and uncensored as “no one will know”. Being ourselves in deed and in word, unleashing the inner voice will often times compromise us publicly. In other words, in our constant struggle for self preservation and being truthful, we justify the discord that results between who we are and who we say (and or act) we are. If we are to go with Gandhi ‘s line of thought in one of his most referred to sayings, “happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony” then most leaders (and indeed people) are not happy with their lot in life.
We do however; know that most great leaders were regarded as such because of the courage they displayed in standing for their convictions. So we go on admirably quoting and attempting to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and so forth often without due regard for the risks they took in standing for what society frowned upon. It is the clarity and complete mental resolute to stand by their convictions that made it easy for those in power to single them out and at times not only threaten their physical safety but often negotiate them out of their convictions.
Leadership therefore is about taking risks, by making oneself available for public scrutiny, assessment of congruence between who we say we are and who we really are. Those who choose to lead with deep understanding and appreciation of this perilous reality; knowing that leadership is never about the leader, but those they lead, are a rare breed indeed and society will continue to build monuments around their persons. What will society say about you when all is said and done?