BusinessSouth Africa needs strategic leadership to weather its storms

South Africa needs strategic leadership to weather its storms


South Africa is in a state of disaster. Its present actuality is essentially formed by historic occasions, not least the outcomes of the political settlement course of that led to the tip of apartheid in 1994.

In contrast to different international locations in southern Africa, the place political independence got here after ugly liberation wars, the leaders of the African Nationwide Congress (ANC), which led the liberation wrestle and has been the governing celebration since 1994 – alongside different political and social actions – managed to barter a transition to democracy. There have been many “wins”, together with assent to the election of a majority-led authorities and the enactment of insurance policies that might guarantee broad-based financial transformation.

This transition could also be seen as a degree in historical past the place the nation navigated one in every of its biggest crises. However its present management is confronted with a number of challenges. These vary from excessive poverty and excessive unemployment to the extreme undermining of democratic establishments by corruption and state seize.

These “depraved issues” are so troublesome and sophisticated that there isn’t a single, silver-bullet reply. There may be solely a variety of clumsy options, all of that are imperfect. The policy-making puzzle, due to this fact, is as a lot about recognising the character of the issue as in search of to mitigate dangers.

Our new e-book, The Presidents: From Mandela to Ramaphosa, Management in an Age of Disaster, assessed the management of South Africa’s 5 post-apartheid presidents – Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. We wished to see what classes could be realized, particularly in relation to their strategic talents. Technique is among the vital management attributes crucial to deal with the robust headwinds that leaders typically encounter.

We concluded that there was a scarcity of actually strategic management in South Africa on this interval, with just a few exceptions. Thus, the nation has been unable to grapple with the underlying structural issues which might be the basic reason for its socio-economic precarity.

Strategic considering

What can we imply by “technique”? Right here we defer to former UK member of parliament and now (UK) Instances columnist Matthew Parris. He says, though the that means has turn into diluted by promiscuous and sometimes inappropriate use  …  technique stays the perfect phrase now we have for expressing makes an attempt to consider actions prematurely, within the mild of our targets and capacities.

Many leaders, governments and organisations confuse planning with technique. So that is an apt consideration to remember: have South Africa’s post-1994 presidents addressed the basic query of what’s mistaken with the society and its economic system, in a strategic approach?

Right here’s how the nation’s 5 post-apartheid presidents have fared on technique.

5 totally different kinds

Mandela, the primary president of a democratic South Africa, made large strategic decisions – not essentially the best ones, however actually ones that had been befitting of the occasions.

A main technique selection confronted Mandela on the very creation of the democratic period. He opted for nationwide reconciliation as his political motif. It was strategic within the sense that the choice was to drive a powerful transformational agenda with out in search of to get the highly effective and privileged white minority on board.

Crudely put, he may have opted for redemption and even revenge, relatively than reconciliation.

This was accompanied by a deep private dedication to the rule of regulation and constitutionalism. He used his presidential energy to drive that message and execute that technique, leaving the element of administration of coverage and authorities to his quantity two, Thabo Mbeki.

The transition from his authorities’s Reconstruction and Improvement Programme (RDP) to the Development, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macroeconomic technique is one other debatable living proof.

The RDP was the ANC government-in-waiting’s flagship programme for socio-economic transformation. It was an primarily Keynesian public investment-focused plan for enhancing public companies corresponding to housing, healthcare and electrical energy to the black majority. The shift to GEAR was deeply contested. Left-of-centre commentators and gamers throughout the broader ANC-led alliance noticed it as a neo-liberal strategy to fiscal and financial coverage that might constrain the federal government’s capacity to drive redistribution of wealth and alternative.

When his flip got here as president (1999-2008), Mbeki strove to step as much as the strategic requirements that Mandela had set. His imaginative and prescient for Africa, wherein Africans would take management of their future, was strategic. So was his dedication to confront the “two nations” drawback – one affluent and white, the opposite poor and black.

The shift to GEAR was executed with strategic objective and an iron fist. There have been unfavorable penalties, particularly in the long run. However few, if any, large strategic decisions could be win-win; there’ll invariably be a draw back. The query is whether or not the chief understands after which confronts the dilemma, and in doing so can articulate the upside and recognise its intrinsic worth, one which justifies the draw back.

Mbeki was a flawed visionary. His legacy is scarred by his inexplicable lack of judgment on HIV/AIDS, and his cussed refusal to just accept that his authorities ought to present antiretroviral remedy.

Motlanthe, who succeeded him, in his modest approach, additionally recognised the strategic crucial of his quick, caretaker time as president – (25 September 2008 to 9 Could 2009): to consolidate authority in democratic authorities and to stabilise an unstable physique politic within the context of the palace coup that had taken place throughout the ANC.

Even Zuma, his successor, in his personal mendacious and deviously self-serving approach, had strategic intent: to seize the state for venal private achieve. He executed it with a ruthless sense of objective.

Present president Cyril Ramaphosa seems to be the least strategic of all of them. His failure to understand the strategic nettles inhibits his presidency. On points such because the transition away from coal, the federal government stake in state-owned enterprises or the necessity for a primary earnings grant, Ramaphosa has dithered, in search of to attend till adequate consensus has fashioned or setting up cumbersome session processes, earlier than reaching a transparent determination.

He will get issues carried out; he will get there in the long run, however his design and use of course of is that of a grasp tactician, not a strategist. He has not risen to the management heights required by the gravity of the historic second. This requires management that might unshackle authorities from the congealing embrace of the ruling ANC and its fractious factions. A pacesetter who would rise above the each day throng to encourage odd residents with a compelling narrative of hope and alter, underpinned by iron dedication to take courageous choices and to execute them with a way of objective and pressing expedition.

Circling the issue

The crises that confronted these 5 presidents have been very totally different, with various ranges of depth and composition. Every has confronted large challenges, that might inevitably not be resolved solely by their government workplace. Undoubtedly, a part of strategic and visionary management is the power to determine present and potential allies who’re prepared to speculate what’s required to drive a transformative agenda.

All have responded to “what went mistaken”. However, due to limitations to their strategic management, none has totally met the problem of confronting “what’s mistaken” head-on. Their capacity to deal with the query of “what’s mistaken” has been constrained by the very actual calls for to place out fires, and retaining the boat afloat with out an eye fixed on the navigation system. And the place they’ve targeted on navigating the tough seas to get to the vacation spot of a extra equal, inclusive South Africa, the vessels of governance with a mandate to steward these transitions haven’t at all times delivered.

Mandela, Mbeki and now Ramaphosa have circled the issue (whereas Zuma weakened the state’s functionality). However maybe as a result of it’s such a depraved drawback, and the structural difficulties run so deep, they’ve did not outline a strategic course that might confront the underlying structural circumstances, consigning South Africa to an unsure and worrisome future.

That is an edited extract from the authors’ new e-book The Presidents: From Mandela to Ramaphosa, Management in an Age of Disaster.The Conversation

Richard Calland, Affiliate Professor in Public Regulation, College of Cape City and Mabel Dzinouya Sithole, Programme Officer – Constructing Bridges, College of Cape City

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.


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