Is it their fearless stand against an incumbent oppressive government – whereby, they boldly confront injustice, and ready to die for the greater good of the nation?
Could it be their outstanding oratory skills – which always manage to inspire audiences, igniting in them a revolutionary fire to stand for their rights, whilst also instilling immense hope for a brighter and better tomorrow?
Maybe, it is that person who promises heaven on earth – who manages to identify everything that has gone awfully wrong with the sitting leadership, and painting a most beautiful and glamorous pictures of a life that can be, should he be voted into power?
Or, do we just go for anyone who happens to come along – in a desperate bid to rid ourselves of a regime which has ruined our livelihoods and turned our lives into a horrible nightmare?
Even worse, do we elect a leader purely out of fear – instilled by the leader himself, that should he not be (re)elected, either a far worse government will come in, or there will be hell to pay – since, he will not go without a ferocious bruising fight, where lives may be lost?
How exactly do we determine the suitability of an individual, or group of individuals, to be our leaders?
What attributes do we look for?
Could this be all that is to leadership?
Are we to genuinely expect to receive high quality leadership, purely from these aforementioned attributes?
Surely, there has to be more to good leadership, than such seemingly superficial and simplistic perceptions.
We, in Zimbabwe, should know this by now!
Did we not, at the dawn of the new Republic of Zimbabwe, in 1980 – jubilantly and expectantly elect a leader who had fought valiantly against repressive colonial rule, sacrificed his own professional life (in preference of staying in the bush for years, as he led the armed liberation struggle), and even spent nine years languishing in prison for his brave revolutionary stance?
Yet, how did electing him to lead a post-independence Zimbabwe turn out for us?
Did we not cry in unimaginable pain and suffering – as he ruthlessly butchered all who dared challenge his stay in power – whilst at the same time, driving the nation on the path of destruction, leading millions of Zimbabweans into unbelievable poverty and misery?
Did we not even lament why these people had even bothered ‘freeing us’, since our lives appeared to have worsened under ‘independent rule’, than ‘colonial rule’?
Did we not go as far as saying, ‘the former colonial master was better’?
Again, I ask – what is it that we look for when electing a suitable leader?
As far as I am concerned, the attributes of a good leader, go deeper than the superficial and simplistic things we usually perceive on the surface.
Just as with all other relationships – including, intimate romantic ones – there are always telltale signs in an individual (no matter how minimal or seemingly insignificant), which betrays the type of person he or she truly is…regardless how hard they may try to cover up this unenviable trait.
The signs will always be there – only if we are discerning enough.
All those things we later cry or complain about our partners, were usually already there to see during our courtship – but, we either simply chose to trivialize them as inconsequential, or did not bother to spot them.
There are always signs.
As I always say to those around me – “Never say my partner changed, because they never changed, but they were always like that, but you simply did not want to see it before”.
Let me give an example in the political realm.
If a leader never admits that he is wrong, and hardly takes responsibility for situations that go awry under his watch – then, that is a huge bright RED FLAG!
Any leader – no matter that he is courageously fighting a brutal oppressive regime, and prepared to lay down his life for the greater good of the nation – who oftentimes find faults with others, for things that are not going well under his watch, is a big NO NO!
In fact, sacrifice, if not managed properly, can easily breed a sense of ENTITLEMENT – which, drives most, who went through so much struggles, toiling for a cause, feeling that they deserve to be respected and are owed by the nation…such that, should never be challenged.
A leader who is always defensive, and finds offense, whenever his weaknesses are highlighted, and is always ready to proffer explanations and excuses – believing that he is right, and everyone else who does not agree with him is wrong – is a BRUTAL DICTATOR in waiting.
Any leader who has the propensity of portraying himself as the only solution to our challenges, the only one who is capable of leading effectively, and the only one with all the answers – is very DANGEROUS, as he is EGOISTICAL and prone to INTOLERANCE towards opposing views and challenges to his leadership.
How can anyone trust someone who fails to fulfill even the smallest promises and pledges which he would have made – since, he who is unfaithful with the little, cannot be entrusted with larger tasks and responsibilities?
In my own personal life, if I were to give you my word that I will have a piece of work ready by a specific time, and yet I miss that deadline – that should automatically be a glaring sign that I am untrustworthy, and would be a terrible unreliable leader, who does not fulfill promises (but rather, opting for excuses).
It is as simple as that!
Therefore, before we elect any particular person into an office of leadership and responsibility – we need to meticulously study the individual, in determining their suitability.
Zimbabweans have suffered for far too long, mostly as a direct result of the people we ourselves, at some point, elected into power.
Our major weakness was allowing ourselves to be influenced by the superficial and simplistic attributes of these individuals, which were merely on the surface – naively disregarding any signs (regardless how seemingly small and insignificant), which, nonetheless, actually revealed what was hidden deep down – much to our detriment.
The telltale signs are always there – but, as the electorate, let us train ourselves to detect these, with our sense of discernment.
Failure of which, we will continue putting in office those who will make our lives a living hell tomorrow.
For how long do we want to live in regret – always ending up saying, ‘the past leader was better’ – as that is what will certainly happen?
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: [email protected]