Socratic engagement please…

When it comes to our political leaders here in Africa, we haven’t had many good ones, have we? The definition of a leader is as follows: A guiding or directing head of a movement. It’s a very general definition but I like to think of leaders as conductors in an orchestra and politically, our countries are like symphonies that need conductors who understand how to play the smallest instrument and are able to show the rest of the team how to participate in something beautiful.

That being said, I doff my cap to leaders like Helen Zille, who take the time to sit in the line of public fire and openly address the issues that us mere mortals face. Zille does this on a regular basis on HeartFM and my hope is that anyone reading this will urge their local community leaders to step up to the plate and start following the Premier’s example. Whether it’s on the radio or on a soapbox in the street. We need leaders who speak TO us, not AT us from behind their lawyers and PR teams.

Socrates had a method of engagement that brought the general public and the powers that be, into a constructive discourse that didn’t always end well but only to the detriment of ignorance and bigotry. Within the boundaries of those discussions, which were held in public spaces, participants were able to display their temperance, wisdom, courage and sense of justice. South Africa recently earned a feather in her cap after TeamSA won the 2016 International Schools Moot Court competition in The Hague. This is wonderful and I love that South African youth are taking the helm and showing everyone that yes, actually, we can discuss our challenges without ending up in a public display of cowardice like a lot of our leaders.

With the eye of the racial tornado hovering over South Africa, we, as people, have the opportunity to take a breath, feel the calm and prepare for what we know is going to be a difficult time in the next few years as we tackle these shackles that have been placed on our society. The DA has a mayoral candidate (Atholl Trollip) who has just been accused of a lot of things by the ANC. It’s a tired ritual that just draws public attention to political parties, in the same way that popular TV shows do. With Jacob Zuma doing the same thing, skirting his responsibilities and hiding behind sleazy lawyers who are only in it for the money (?). We have to ask, does any of this benefit South Africa? Well, if all concerned parties were willing to sit in the eye of the public and hash out their differences in a manner befitting adults, we might actually cover more ground when it comes to conflict resolution. On the stand, the public can watch these peoples’ reactions and make informed decisions when it comes to voting for these people.

In the meantime, everyone is suing everyone for more money but what about the crippled water supply? What about the poverty stricken populace? Isn’t time we rediscovered a different form of public leadership here in South Africa?


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