The responsibilities of Leadership
As I predicted, Obama won, and won by a large margin. I have made no secret
of the fact that he was my personal choice for the leadership of the USA. My
choice was based on what I saw of the man on TV, the way he handled himself
and ran his campaign and his simple dignity as an individual. He also has a
good family life, no scandal and a wife who was just as capable and seemed
Now that he has landed the job, he will quickly discover that being number
one is very different to being a Senator or a number two. As President he
has to accept that he takes responsibility, not just for himself but also
for all that are associated with him. That is a tough call and history can
be a harsh judge.
Here in southern Africa we are about to see another test of African
leadership. The SADC Presidents will gather in South Africa on Sunday to
discuss two major issues - the Zimbabwe crisis and the situation in the
Congo. Both countries have been a problem for the regional leadership for at
least 50 years. Both represent failures of leadership, both local and
regional and to some extent international.
In the Congo, the colonial power hardly did anything to prepare the country
and its leadership for self government. At its so called independence it had
few educated and experienced people and with its wealth and ethnic make up,
was ripe for trouble. The outbreak of post independence violence was not
long in coming and has lasted right through to today. Corruption, greed and
poor leadership make a fatal cocktail for failure and they are all there in
In Zimbabwe the situation is less understandable or forgivable. While my
forefathers were by no means saints, they did not do a bad job of running
and developing the country. In fact at one stage I think the Rhodesian
government could have been held up in any forum as a good example of a
developing country administration that was reasonably honest, capable and
efficient. Certainly they prepared the country for the eventual transition
to majority rule better that many other States in Africa.
In the mid 80ís I had several discussions with the then leader of the new
State of Mozambique, Samora Machel, in Maputo. During one of those meetings
he said to me that if any country had a choice as to who would be their
colonizer, the Portuguese would have to be low down on the list and the
Rhodesians fairly high up the list.
The Mugabe regime is in fact one of the best educated in Africa - altogether
I once counted 17 PhD Graduates in the Cabinet - many of them taken from
well known Universities such as Princeton in the United States. Mugabe
himself has six University degrees including law and economics and is by all
accounts a very sharp intellect. But it made no difference - we still ended
up almost in the same place as the Congo, a bankrupt, corrupt State with a
failed infrastructure and deeply affected people where millions are dying
early of a myriad of ills, many man made.
But we did not resort to violence to defend our rights or to gain power.
This is interpreted by many as a weakness; I think it represents strength
and wisdom as well as courage. It also represents leadership. The MDC had
the choice of violence as a means to secure change.
For many this was the logical choice as the regime we were up against was
using violence against the opposition. We had experience of violence - the
struggle for majority rule was partially secured through violence and most
Zimbabweans had participated. We know how to use a gun and we understand the
power it wields.
But we chose to seek change the hard way - by peaceful, democratic, legal
means. Since we are up against a tyrannical regime that has not hesitated to
use force against all who oppose them and has access to the full resources
of the State when seeking to defend their hold on power, this was never
going to be easy.
Friends in South Africa pointed to the UDF and the efforts of young South
Africans in the struggle against apartheid. They said we would never get
what we were seeking if we did not use such means ourselves. We pointed out
that with no independent media available inside Zimbabwe and facing a regime
that would not hesitate to use maximum force against us, demonstrations were
of limited value.
We stuck to our guns and despite going through 4 national elections during
which we were faced with blatant manipulation and rigging of the electoral
process, we finally were able, even under completely skewed conditions, to
defeat Zanu PF in March 2008. No matter what they have done since then, they
have not been able to throw off the mantle of change that that singular
event threw over Zimbabwe.
Now we face what may be another seminal moment in the process of transition
and change. All 14 heads of State will gather in Johannesburg on Sunday to
decide what will happen in Zimbabwe.
The indications are hopeful. Ian Khama, the new President of Botswana has
said that new elections should be held in Zimbabwe and that Africa cannot go
on trying to justify frustrating electoral outcomes just because they
involve regime change. The new South African leadership are impatient with
the continued prevarication and want closure. Even elements in Zanu PF are
saying we have to see finality. The one thing that the Sunday meeting is,
without question, is another test of African leadership.
The Congo and the Zimbabwe crisis are an African problem. They require an
African solution. Outsiders cannot really do much apart from help implement
to a solution once it is found and agreed on. The only way regimes such as
the quasi-military junta in Harare are going to give up power is if they are
confronted with irresistible force. That can come from a major power through
the use of military power, but that is unlikely to happen and, as Iraq has
shown, might create more problems that it solves.
It is best for that pressure to come from the region in the form of
leadership. It is quite clear what is required in Zimbabwe (the Congo is
more complex) and all that is needed is for the SADC leadership to agree on
the way forward in Zimbabwe. I have always said - the one country Zimbabwe
cannot say no to is South Africa. If SADC makes a clear-cut decision and
informs the Parties in the Zimbabwe conflict of that decision, backed by all
regional leaders, the decision will be adopted and implemented.
Then the test of leadership will pass to the Zimbabweans. Just as Obama must
now deliver through leadership, so must Tsvangirai and Mugabe plus the team
they chose next week to take over from the Junta. We are on the edge of a
momentous occasion - just like the Obama election in the States, an African
conflict that has not descended into mindless violence and has been resolved
by democratic means supported by dialogue. It could never happen without
Bulawayo, 6th November 2008