Typically South African’s Prime Ministers and Presidents have been iconic personalities, often charismatic and idyllic to a fault, sometimes losing their positions through not sticking to the business of managing their country. Examples include General Jan Christian Smuts, whose international accomplishments were in a class of their own but who failed domestically. Tahbo Mbeki’s stand on HIV/Aids and his African rather than South Africa focus also springs to mind. Then there were those who put their particular ideologies ahead of the needs of the nation and her people. Dr Hendrick Verwoerd, architect of apartheid is probably the most obvious of those leaders.
They and all other South Africa’s Prime Ministers and Presidents were elected by the ideologues of the majority party in parliament. Little thought was given to the possibility that those leaders were not necessarily the best administrators nor the best managers nor had they the best visions. They were elected on partisan lines, and did not always deliver the best outcomes for the nation and its people.
Their cabinet choices were also based on ideological considerations and not always on their merits as administrators and managers, also not always with the best outcomes. There have been some stunning failures, in pre and post apartheid parliaments. The reluctance of South Africa’s leaders to admit error and failure in both eras even in the face of undeniable and unbelievable mismanagement, incompetence and ignorance, has seriously damaged South Africa and her people.
By contrast, in most western societies minor infringements of etiquette or abuses of privilege, not even by cabinet ministers themselves but just by their staff, can result in the loss of a cabinet position. Of course, every rule has its exceptions and the current epidemic of financial and economic woes in the West have probably still not ended nor have their political consequences, so the West are not necessarily the iconic success stories they would like to be seen as.
We all have a need to improve.