This article is a collection of thoughts from a time in my life when I was in what I call the wilderness period which I happened to also share on micro blogging site, Twitter and Facebook social media platforms. Excuse the apparent editorial poetic justice taken, this was a “dream” broken into single thoughts congested into 140 characters at a time.
Its a call for a moment to pause and ponder. To stop and think hard about the South Africa of our dreams. A South Africa of Biko, of Hani and many other heroes that died for the country to become such, a colourful nation. Its a call for us to think hard. It is not a prophesy, neither is it an indication of political preference. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed “dreaming”.
As I pause (for now), I put it out there as an appeal to all proud South Africans in politics, civil society, education, health and business. That one day, the country will use its skills and talents for the betterment of its citizens regardless of political affiliation (read slates). Despite all its level of malfunction and misdirection at times, I still have a dream that one day this nation will rise to its founding creed (the freedom charter)
We all should ask ourselves: what would it take for South Africa’s young heart to start imagining and doing? For us to move away from polarization where everything is arranged according to race and or class. Where the system does not make rape something to be ashamed of but instead protecting the victims and harshly dealing with the criminals. Where well meaning men and women don’t spend time lamenting the sickness that has become our society. Where the men of our nation don’t rape their women and children and rather protect them.
In my dream, we (both public and private sectors) served a nation with pride. We saw the opportunity to serve rather than an obligation. Unemployment was lowest in the world and history and the few unemployed were fed, educated and their health taken care of. We lived the ubuntu ethics of ancient Africa. No teenage pregnancies and no abortion laws…there was no need.
In my beautiful native land we had the most sophisticated medical facilities with cancer, TB and infant mortality the lowest in the world. Under Madam Prez no woman worked worked in fear of being raped, no child knew abuse and anyone who dared to dream could thrive without fear of political favour.
South Africa’s president, Mama Prez as we affectionately called her as, epitomized integrity, statesmanship, and the true spirit of ubuntu.When my president spoke, the world stopped and took note…for she was the mouthpiece of the world and represented well.
Leading: The art of getting people focused on an idealized future and moving full steam in that direction. This art has been written about so much that a search for the word leadership brings out 499 million records in 27 seconds on Google.
Key in unpacking the concept is accepting that to lead is to live dangerously! Every day, in every facet in life, opportunities to lead call out to us. At work and home, in our local communities and in the global village, the chance to make a difference beckons. Yet most of us often hesitate. For all its passion and promise, for all its excitement and rewards, leading is risky, dangerous work! Why you would ask. Because real leadership -the kind that surfaces conflict, challenges long held beliefs, and demands new ways of doing things – causes pain. And when people feel threatened, they take aim at the person pushing for change. As a result, leaders often get hurt both personally and professionally. It is my wish that through this medium and other platforms, we will learn to understand that for those of us that are called to lead others, putting ourselves on the line, responding to the risks and living to celebrate our efforts is all in a day’s work
The concept of leadership has more followers and equally experts than most subjects with each publication building on already established ones. This piece does not seek to add to the amount of writing that has been done on the subject, but rather will seek to give my take on the discipline of leading others using Jesus Christ as the model leader. In order to embark on the content properly, it is crucial to accept that the question of nature vs. nurture is key and needs to be resolved up front.
There are people who are born with a gift to lead while there is also a large body of knowledge that seeks to teach the discipline of leading. Both these are crucial as some aspects of leading (for instance values or charisma) may prove difficult to teach while others may easily be taught (for instance the management aspects of leadership). So, are leaders born or made? It depends on what your DNA came programmed with and what social conditions you are raised under!
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).
Haunted by death during his long anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson Mandela looked toward his own “eternal sleep” as a man who fulfilled his duty to his people.
He was willing to die for democracy, the young black activist said during the 1963-64 trial that would send him to prison for 27 years.
“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” he told judges of the apartheid regime.
The country’s presidency had prepared people for the icon’s passing after his fourth hospitalisation this year.
“He never gave death a great deal of thought but he never wanted anything fancy,” a family friend told the weekly Mail & Guardian.
‘When a man has done his duty, he can rest in peace’
A simple A4-page testament quoted in the paper asks a modest last resting place, true to the unpretentious image he cultivated from his presidency from 1994 to 1999.
He allowed himself one fantasy 10 years ago: fellow anti-apartheid fighter and political mentor Walter Sisulu welcoming him to paradise with mobilisation chants and an ANC enrolment form.
After leading South Africa to a peaceful transition and the first all-race elections in 1994, the Nobel peace laureate regarded his life task complete.
“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace,” he said in 1996.
“I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”
Throughout his long imprisonment Mandela lost friends and family, often unable to say goodbye in person.
Already refused permission to attend his mother’s funeral, he mourned his firstborn son Thembekile’s death alone in his Robben Island cell in 1969.
“He was called to the office. We were all in the courtyard, but instead of coming back to us he went straight to his cell and got on his mattress,” his old cellmate Ahmed Kathrada remembered years later.
“It was similar when his mother died. He just kept very quiet and mourned alone.”
‘It seems as if the world is dying’
By 1987, feeling increasingly alone, Mandela became despondent.
“So many relatives and friends have died over these last twenty years, that it seems the world itself is dying,” he wrote in a letter.
Today thousands of bouquets and get well cards at his Johannesburg house and hospital echo his eulogy at the burial of communist leader Joe Slovo in 1995.
“Men and women of rare qualities are few and hard to come by. And when they depart, the sense of loss is made the more profound and the more difficult to manage,” he said.
Wants to be buried in Qunu
Mandela will eventually rest surrounded by his family’s remains, according to the Xhosa tradition.
“My family’s here and I’d like to be buried here at home,” he said at the Mandela cemetery in a 2003 documentary in his childhood village Qunu.
A row of trees surround the graveyard off the N2 highway in the rolling Eastern Cape province hills, around 500 metres from his house.
Simple headstones bearing the family name stand out from the yellowed grass.
In a 2006 documentary he was clear on how he wanted to be remembered.
“I would like it to be said that, ‘Here lies a man who has done his duty on earth.’ That is all.”