Redefining South Africa’s leadership in a relatively young democracy is rather like building a bridge while walking on it, but it is important to do so in order to deliver public value, said Dr Manamela Matshabaphala, senior lecturer and academic director at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Governance.
Matshabaphala said that strong and accountable leadership would be needed to support Limpopo’s goals of improving its financial health and delivering better public service. “We are moving to a stage where we need to start running government departments like a business. We need to start by asking ’what is the business of government?’ It is the creation of public value. Then we need to ensure good governance and develop leaders who are committed to making the world a better place for others,” he said.
“There are men and women of goodwill out there, who are taking to the trenches for the project of humanity’s renewal. There are men and women working to turn our municipalities around, striving to improve our infrastructure. But we don’t have a perfect government. There are those who come to give and those who come to take. The temptations are there — and for some, we need to put in place interventions to protect them from themselves. It’s about mastering ourselves and improving,” he said.
Matshabaphala said leadership should be guided by principles of the value of the community of life; promoting the good over the bad; justice and fairness; honesty, integrity and credibility; and giving and sharing.
“We need to learn from the greats,” he said. “Learn from the likes of the late President Nelson Mandela, who gave up his life to make the world a better place for others, or Walter Sisulu, whose humility and ‘greater than yourself’ philosophy allowed others to rise to positions of leadership and change the world for the better. Leadership is about modelling the way, handling relationships and confronting negative people and situations with a positive attitude.”