By Tapiwa Gomo
Leadership is a complicated term to define but oftentimes it is seen as a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual, group or organisation to provide progressive ideas, influence or guidance to teams, organisations, States and others.
Political leaders, in general, are assumed to have a compelling vision to improve the conditions of their people.
To achieve this feat, they are expected to use various ideas to rally their people to join this cause inspired by the desire to be better their lives.
It is about harnessing members towards a common goal which often marks the success of an organisation or society.
Some studies define leadership as a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
Others, mainly democrats, have challenged the more traditional managerial view of leadership which says that it is something possessed or owned by an individual due to their role or authority, and instead advocate for the people-driven type of leadership where authority and power are distributed at all levels both within and outside formal roles with the people being the deciding factor.
In some context, there are those who believe leadership and success are influenced by spiritualism.
In addition to the distribution of power and authority, there is an added aspect of strategic vision.
It is argued that a leader must represent or present certain ideals, ideas and ideologies to which she or he rallies the people towards a better future.
This school of thought, largely influenced by meritocratic and democratic thinking assumes leadership to be a matter of intelligence, public service, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline.
Notwithstanding the inherent weaknesses in each of these attributes, the broad goal is to drive groups, organisation or states to better situations.
Aside from these, there is the human element in leadership.
The above ideals possessed by human beings are products of socialisation, who exercise agency and have their own biases and human interests.
In the absence of checks and balances and in a situation where power is centralised, the human aspect in leaders tends to be more dominant than the ideal attributes of leadership.
It is for this reason that political leadership’s promises tend to run parallel to what they do or what happens during their tenure as leaders.
One Thomas Macaulay, opines that: “The measure of a leader’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.”
But it is also about what they do with their power and authority when they are caught.
Let’s bring this closer home. Since the new administration in Zimbabwe assumed power through a military coup in November 2017, it did not stop its quest to amass power and to use it for personal gain and to enrich those close to it.
Leadership and power are rarely used to develop the country but those in leader’s circles.
There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate this.
So far most of the high-level corruption cases have been acquitted and courts have been used to sanitise criminality and corrupt elements.
There are also instances where those accused of corruption or looting have been rewarded with appointments.
This situation tells us that those involved in high-profile cases were either working on behalf of power or were linked to it.
Cases of smuggling of precious minerals out of the country are on the rise. Considering how tight our border security is, these can only happen with the blessing of leadership.
When such cases are presented in court, it takes ages before they are tried — giving the looters ample time to do more damage and tamper with evidence and witnesses.
In short, criminality perpetrated in the name of power is now the fastest way to get rich.
Our security agents have also proven that they are very efficient when it comes to silencing opposition voices.
They have not missed a chance to arrest opposition or anti-corruption activists.
In that area, they have demonstrated their prowess, regardless of how corruption is destroying everyone’s life and future.
That then defines what leadership stands for; it is allowed to plunder national resources on its behalf and it is illegal to challenge it.
The same power is efficient at dealing with anyone challenging it but the same efficiency is not exhibited when it comes to the development of the country. One would be forgiven to think that there would be less opposition pressure if power is used to improve the conditions of the people.
This misplaced prioritisation is not only limited to the obsession with power and looting.
There is occultism that is masked as culture, religion and tradition based on the belief that whatever goes wrong because of abuse of power can be countered by surrounding leadership with spiritual people or spectres.
We recently witnessed some prophets getting government appointments and just when we thought that was enough, Grace Mugabe is fined for the improper burial of her husband amid rumours of a possible reburial which some have linked to the supposed existence of a spectre.
Again, on the same aspect of things spiritual, Mbuya Nehanda’s statue is scheduled to be unveiled this week.
- Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.