The need for fidelity, excellence in leadership

Reason Wafawarova on Monday
We often make the mistake that the land we live in is an inheritance from our ancestors, and it is from this logic that we did not take kindly to colonial conquest.

While our ancestry truly gives us entitlement to the land of Zimbabwe, the truth about the land is that we have borrowed it from posterity, from generations yet to be born. We do not owe the debt of continuity to our ancestors, but to the unborn generations. Our past is gone and those of us alive who participated in the liberation war must know that like everybody else, we also need to excel today if we are to earn any respect. If past glory does not move to another glory, it slips into oblivion, and when overplayed or abused, past glory can transform into derision.

Our errors, misdoings, mistakes or excesses of today cannot be washed away by the mere fact that we did glorious feats when we brought down the British colonial empire four decades ago.

There is a sense of responsibility lacking in most of us today. Not many of us are cognisant of the need to ensure that future generations are paid the debt of leadership responsibility. It is tempting to pride ourselves in historical facts, including the fact that we are entitled to our land because of who our ancestors were.

Our ancestors owed this land to us, and equally we should be thinking more about our children, and their children’s children. We have intoxicated our collective conscience with the glories of the past, and many times we have done this at the expense of the time and effort we need to be investing into the present and the future.

There is this bitterness in our young generation of today that every single member of the older generation must be ashamed of.

I am asked many times by youngsters of today if the opportunities that were availed to my generation were any worse than the opportunities we are availing to the young people of today.

Naturally, most of these youngsters imagine that the opportunities could only have been worse, because from a logical viewpoint that must be the order of inheritance — where every generation passes to the next a better standard of living.

It is sad that my colleagues from the University of Zimbabwe unanimously agree that the UZ of the 80s had better welfare for students than the UZ of the 90s, and that the UZ of the 90s was way better than that of the first decade of the 2000s, and that also was better than the current UZ.

Of course, information technology has changed for the better, but the quality of education has not been transformed for the better simply because we now have the Internet. Both the students and the teaching staff are languishing in economic deprivation, and the university infrastructure has been deteriorating ever since, not to mention mere subsistence of the student.

Legacy is not something we get buried with; it is not something we just entitle onto ourselves or dedicate to our departed ancestors. Legacy is for future generations, and it is important that we all understand that the choices we make for ourselves today have a direct bearing on the future of the country we will live behind us.

Today we are where we are as a nation because of choices made by our leadership and ourselves in the recent past. We do not have a currency of our own because of choices we made in the recent past, corruption is rampant and alive because of choices we made in the recent past. We are polarised as nation because of choices made by our political leaders and their supporters. We are disunited as people because our leaders are making deliberate choices to disunite us, and indeed we have generational fissures in our society because we have chosen to live in a nation where one generation considers itself superior to the other, because of a history made before the other generation was even born.

Starting with myself as a writer, I have asked myself if the keenness to have my presence felt is the right motivation to carry out the art of political writing, or is it the science of it? When I started writing, I did so with the sole aim of making sure my absence will be felt after my inevitable departure. It was just attention seeking, selfish identity seeking to a good extent.

It is good to be remembered like the late Sam Munyavi, Masipula Sithole or Willie Musarurwa; so I said to myself, like them I will write in newspapers.

I have now come to realise how vacuous that kind of selfishness is, and I believe I have retraced my priorities significantly.

I now understand that I write for a cause, not for applause, to express not to impress, to benefit, not to deprive, to inform, not to mislead.

Knowing for a fact that I will die one of these approaching days, the desire burning in my heart is to create through my writing something that will not only last for posterity, but something that will give an unending benefit to future generations.

I have a few young people I have helped and mentored into the art of writing, and some of them are excelling well as book writers. I hope one of these days I will be able to establish a consultancy centre for political writing skills.

The imperative for fidelity and excellence calls on all of us. It calls on those presiding over our politics, it calls on those presiding over matters of religion and faith, it calls on those of us appointed or anointed to make governance decisions, and it calls on each and every one of us carrying the title of a parent.

Zimbabwe is a sick society today, and its recovery does not lie in the hands of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputies. Neither does it lie in opposition leader Nelson Chamisa. Our hope lies in parents, teachers, professionals, farmers, students, politicians, clerics, and indeed in all of us doing something towards the recovery path of this great country. What can we do for our country is the question we must address.

We must understand that there is just no escape — the next generation will have to pay for our violence and our intolerance. Our children and our children’s children will pay a heavy price for our selfishness and our recklessness.

We are paying a huge price of some people who made unsound choices in the recent past, and we cannot deny that.

For how long are we going to act like the land we live in was only created for our lifespan?

We can no longer perpetuate this behaviour of avoiding the futuristic look into the huge debt that we owe to generations to come.

We have obsessed ourselves with power politics, and our children must not be witnessing a departing generation whose sole preoccupation is power for its own sake. This is the narrative in our politics across the political divide today.

The greatest election we can ever win is for the vote of the unborn child. Today we preoccupy ourselves with the vote and we say nothing is superior to the vote. Social media debate among Zimbabweans proves our rationality no longer exists.

We place the country lower than individuals. Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa cannot come before Zimbabwe regardless of the rating of our elections here. Even in a dictatorship or tyranny, no individual is worthy sacrificing the collective good of the nation for.

We do not owe Zimbabwe to ourselves, and we do not owe it to our departed gallant heroes of the liberation struggle either. What we owe to these heroes is a sense of responsibility to create for the unborn child a better Zimbabwe, and that is what they themselves did for us, hoping that they were doing it for many more generations to come. Our ancestors who first set foot in today’s Zimbabwe had a vision. They wanted a better future for all of us.

We know the crown for the death of Nehanda and Kaguvi is our land. The land is what these two heroes were killed for.

These are the heroic ancestors who left us an ideological legacy of excellence, a legacy of justice, a legacy of economic hope, a legacy of political unity, and a legacy of spiritual strength. Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi taught us through their death what sacrificial leadership entails.

Do we have leaders ready to die for us today? Thomas Sankara and Muammar Gaddafi knew how many enemies they were making by deciding to do something good for the Burkinabe people and Libyans respectively. They both talked of the possibility of being killed for the cause they stood for, and both were killed with France at the centre of planning and execution of their deaths.

Leaders worth the name are legacy oriented, and they want to make an impact after death, hopefully a good one.

A good legacy is only possible when we understand that relationships are more important than expediency, even in politics. The relationship between Nelson Chamisa and President Mnangagwa is superior to political contestation. It is blood before contestation.

Even ideology plays second fiddle to relationships, and that is why the respect for one another as a people must supersede political affiliation. No one can ever become a lesser being because of political preference, or because of political opinion.

You can loathe the writing of Wafawarova as a Zimbabwean, but you cannot transfer the hate to the person of Wafawarova. He remains a fellow human first, and your countryman as well.

The ultimate happiness for all Zimbabweans is the only measure we can have for our political success.

Before one leaves a legacy, they have to live that legacy. Nothing beats honest living in life, and for a leader honesty must always be a mandatory requisite. A good leader will always cherish the success of those he leads.

It is incompetent for a writer like myself to imagine there is a shared commitment in our leadership for the attainment of collective happiness for all Zimbabweans. The corruption crippling our national fabric and the patronage in our power corridors do not speak of a leadership that cares about the word commitment.

There is no mistake about it; corruption is a shared culture across all facets of our society, even in churches.

Good leadership comes with an obligation to live the talk. We have no shortage of eloquent rhetoricians in our politics, and most of the time these people impress us with convincing articulation of issues. How sweet it is when we listen to the inspiring voice of the politician over matters of patriotism, sovereignty, empowerment, and even justice.

We have others in the opposition eloquently preaching hope and eternal happiness ever after their election into office.

Succession is a key responsibility of leadership. But there is a difference between succession and power fights.

Succession is about continuity, and power fights are about leadership roles, not responsibility. We know we had power fights leading to forced succession in ZANU-PF, and that translating to national leadership.

Every leader leaves his or her own legacy, and we are never going to get another Robert Mugabe again, regardless of however much we may wish to do so.

But, of course, the Mugabe legacy can be carried on. But there have to be good grounds for a legacy to be perpetuated; otherwise it has to be abandoned.

Firstly, only a legacy of achievement is worthy maintaining, and we are aware of the ground-breaking achievements the country has made since breaking from the yoke of colonialism — mass education, infrastructural development, health, and so on. We are obviously not oblivious to the challenges of recent years, leading to the ungracious forced resignation of our iconic founding father Robert Mugabe.

Secondly, there must be success, and this is not success measured by the amount of power in the leader, but by how much empowered the followers of that leader have become.

Thirdly, there must be significance, or the relevance for developing great leaders in the mould of the great predecessor — if great he or she was. Without such significance, there is no point choosing someone to carry over a legacy of no relevance or significance.

Lastly, there must be a legacy in place for one to be able to place leaders who can do great things without the top leader. The country needs to see who to follow and support after Emmerson Mnangagwa, and we cannot stifle or criminalise progressive ambition.

We need visible individual excellence in every Cabinet member or political leader. John Magufuli shone first as a bulldozing Cabinet minister, and that is how Tanzanians ended up voting him in for the presidency. We cannot rely solely on entitlement based on how long someone has been in a political party, important as that may be.

President Robert Mugabe loved being idolised, and that shut out many of his inspiring emulators.

We faced the danger of discontinuity, and that is why he did not support his own successor during the July elections, choosing to vote for the opposition instead, ostensibly on the basis of a mischievous political deal that was meant to smuggle his wife into the presidium.

In leadership timing is everything. Good leadership and good timing will always go hand in hand. It is important that a leader understands the situation at hand before choosing the timing of his actions. It is absolutely vital that maturity supersede one’s ego. Once the motive is wrong, it becomes hard to get the cause right.

Good leadership is about confidence. People follow leaders who know what must be done.

Of course, leadership is about experience, and that is why leaders with no experience need to get wisdom from those with experience. For people to trust the Government, ZANU-PF must show momentum, and there is no substitute for that.

The party needs to prove to us all that it has a good sense of what it takes to recover a collapsed economy, and this is about ability to create the right opportunities for the advancement of the country as a whole. Squabbling with workers will not help achieve this goal. Government needs to appeal to the led, so they can begin looking up to its leadership.

Goals must not only be achievable, but must be achieved.

Electoral promises are not made only for the purpose of winning elections, but also to be pursued and fulfilled. Rewards must not be a matter of impressive promises. They must be reaped collectively.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.

Source : The Herald

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