South African government shows no political will to develop conscious ethical leadership

Was the recent ANC policy conference a nice-to-be-seen-at talkshop or are there quantifiable measures of the effect of such an august gathering? Over the years little had changed so I was astounded to hear a member and former president Thabo Mbeki mention the word consciousness.  But the cognitive understanding of consciousness and their voices would surely be lost in the cacophony of policy, strategy, grandstanding and merry-making.  

After years of asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to engage with conscious, ethical leadership, especially after the insights from global and other figures at the annual Conscious Leadership and Ethics Summit in May and assurances from his office to revert to us, we had realised that there is no political will to read the President’s Report, let alone work with its national framework to embed conscious, ethical leadership in the public sector. The report was put together by the delegates, speakers, panellists and international figures at the summit. 

Courage is taking action no matter what and no matter how alone or incapable one might feel. To quote American writer Richelle E Goodrich, “Courage is doing something daring, no matter how afraid, insecure, intimidated, alone, unworthy, incapable, ridiculed or whatever other paralysing emotion you might feel. Courage is taking action … no matter what.”

To shift this country from the feeding-trough frenzy of our politicians and their well-connected associates, we need courageous, responsible leaders to save our state-owned enterprises, denuded of money and talent, to save the rapid deterioration of our hospitals and schools and to raise awareness and concern for the plight of the poor and older people. 

We need those leaders with the passion, purpose and an innate calling to do the right thing. We need those people who stand at the shore without instruction, as courageous leaders do, who are willing to use their resilience and resources for the greater good of their people. 

Who are they and where can we find them? Where do we find them in the once proud ruling party of Madiba. The much-touted ANC renewal depends on finding them. 

But all is not lost. Instead of perversely defending himself, if Ramaphosa and his executives penetrate the very depths of their consciousness, they would realise that this could be a period of awakening for this country and a call for courageous, conscious action could mitigate the terrible consequences of its devastation. 

In times of crisis, and especially in times of transition, it is time to forge decisions of resilience, disruption and courage to herald change and entrench conscious ethical leadership. The time has come for the political leaders to realise that only when the politician and the economist, the statesman and the soldier, the minister and the citizen has the humility to take responsibility and only when they accepts that political, social and economic reform cannot happen without corrective and conscious behaviour, only then can we turn our backs from the terrifying consequences that lie ahead.  

Four streams emerged in the President’s Report after the summit. 

This was an opportunity for Ramaphosa to evaluate and deepen the understanding of his power, purpose, service and legacy but he is least bothered about such things. 

The four streams were: 

1. The state of leadership in the public sector is mired in corruption, greed, scandal and mud-slinging. Having said that, there are attempts to turn things around with Ramaphosa’s presidency. The political will to do the right thing and put the people of the country first, sustainable job creation, education and skills development underpinned by good governance, integrity, values and ethical behaviour is the core theme of most of the contributions. 

2.The despair of the rampant corruption, looting, fraud, levels of poverty and disregard by the public sector of the people as well as the state of moral bankruptcy, self-interest, lack of decisive action and failing infrastructure that has frustrated and affected the nation. The urgent appeal for the president to display courage and take decisive action has never been more urgent. 

3. Nelson Mandela’s vision to see South Africans stand together, heal the wounds and live their best lives can only be possible with great leadership that acknowledges its flaws and a willingness to strive towards a harmonious inclusive society where trust and credibility is once again restored in the calibre of leadership in the country. 

4. When a political system requires that the president and the people around him spend more time fighting for positional power in their political party rather than putting people first, we need to understand that the political system is going to be dysfunctional. 

The key solutions for a new framework for conscious, ethical leadership to turn around and develop leaders in the public sector who would show up differently in the world as architects of change has fallen on deaf ears. Such is the state of our country.