Dumi Magadlela
Dumi Magadlela

I’m all for leaders that deliver

In politics, as in development, it is not always true that whoever pays the piper chooses the tune. In case some of our Thought Leader bloggers have not noticed, there is fresh impetus in South Africa right now towards a new leadership culture of accountability and visible service to people in need. Ministers spending nights in informal settlements helps them understand their challenges and should build on real connections made with people beyond the common impact of the imbizo. I think this is to be encouraged. It is not some kind of twisted poverty tourism of a new kind. No, methinks it’s a sign of government leaders trying to be responsive … at least to try and make a connection and “touch the problem”.

Am I being naive or gullible? Cynics among us would certainly think so. What good can come from politicians anyway, right? Wrong? Remember that their political lives and integrity depends on it. The voter is getting smarter with each election …

Have you noticed lately that our national, provincial and local government leaders are constantly challenged to show what they are doing with their annual allocations of our money as apportioned in the (national) budget? I have a strong feeling that some of the local government and provincial leaders who do not deliver this time round will get the boot. I hope those who do not deliver get the message and shape up fast. Let us see examples of actual accountability and holding each other accountable.

It is not only those who voted the leaders into power who must hold them accountable. All of us must watch them closely and play our part. Their peers across other government spheres and structures must do the same and be more diligent in this than Joe Public. Constituents often keep those they elect into office in power for more reasons other than actual delivery and should not always be trusted to elect the best there is. Granted, we are still a young democracy, and must still learn some harsh lessons. If South Africa were a person, she would be a teenager, hormones and all. Need I say more.

So, should the one who pays the piper pick the tune? The real piper’s tune for me is easily the smell of rubber from burning tyres on blocked roads, angry community members fed up with poor service delivery and mounds of rubbish scattered all over the streets during strikes. Timely, effective and impactful responsiveness is the defining element for astute leaders that find themselves faced with such scenarios. There is no room for backing off or for apportioning blame. Here, the specific electorate has very little say regarding how the leader prioritises. It’s a different tune altogether.

There is a palpable push for visible, tangible delivery and anyone who does not wake up to this will miss the train and this one does not seem to have that much gravy on it. Dreaming is good, so let me. It seems as if we are approaching a level of maturity in our democracy where the noises being made by the person on the street are being listened to finally.

I have seen the fresh waves of demand for leadership accountability and it is refreshing. This is the kind of accountability that promises to flush out pretenders and impostors especially at local government level. It should leave in charge leaders who regard their roles not as mere jobs to earn some money, lots of money in fact, but feel the urgent need to serve and relieve the poor of their burden of no-service and limited access to resources and opportunities to change their lives for the better. It is like a calling to be of service to others.

Watch the space for new delivery-driven programmes. From what has been reported in some of the media recently, there seems to be some serious delivery business on the horizon. Trevor Manuel’s planning commission and the new monitoring and evaluation portfolio should be working overtime soon. But then there is this stuff about the pudding and tasting …

I am all for leadership that delivers on its promises, especially if the promises include serious life-improving services for most among us regardless of socio-economic standing. That to me is credible leadership inspired by ubuntu values. That word again. Let’s use another one … The buzz-word is accountability people. Remember that … accountability. So, if the tune among our political leaders is changing, what do you think the dance will look like?