Our leaders must command respect

WITH the fear of appearing ridiculous to some and also being accused of being Mbeki loyalist or perhaps a Mbeki worshipper by others, let me state it very clearly that I’m a loyal member of the ANC in good standing. But I strongly believe as loyal members we ought to be honest and tell the honest truth where truth is needed to be told at times.

The truth is that even if people disagreed with some economic policies that were adopted under his leadership, former president Thabo Mbeki was a highly respected person.

He was so respectable that even his worst detractors and biggest opposition could not escape from affording him dignity when differing with him.

They fought with him on policy and ideological questions, because that was all they could differ with him about. When it came to issues of ethical conduct, integrity and discipline, Mbeki could not be faulted.

He was not a saint, certainly, but he was not the kind of person you read dodgy stories about in tabloids. Newspapers would not have a field day writing headlines about his moral conduct as if talking about some kwaito star.

They could write all sorts of things, but at all times those things were political. If he was in the papers, it was because of something political, not something related to conduct lacking in integrity, or to unethical behaviour and such. This is one of the most important lessons we can draw from a leader like Mbeki. A leader must be both respectable and respected.

His conduct as a leader and as a person must command respect even from sections of society who don’t like him.

Leading people is not about being liked or defended by loyalists at every turn. It’s about inspiring the kind of confidence that makes those you lead respect you even as they differ with you.

A true leader does not need to be surrounded by permanent defenders of his conduct. He needs to be the kind of person who does not need to be defended for his conduct, because his conduct must be exemplary and above reproach.

Siviwe Kasi aka Svige, Daleview, King William’s Town