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Art of leadership: ‘We’ is much preferred to ‘Us against Them’

Perhaps with Robert Mugabe's resignation, we have come to the beginning of the end of an iconic era of Mugabe and a step closer to ending a series of like dictatorships that emerged during the latter part of the 20th century.

A once-celebrated hero who led Zimbabwe to independence and was made more famous for taking back and redistributing the land and industry from its former European masters.

Mugabe stood as a symbol of a liberation movement that offered no apologies for his methods of asserting black rule and autonomy in a reclaimed African state.

His methods often became the extreme standard in the background of the minds of many leaders and activists among black political movements around the world, particularly those that hovered over the questions of assimilation, reparations and the idea of progress within societies once tainted with racism and slavery.

The crude acceptance of his methodology also justified a “by any means necessary” approach in which he ruthlessly suppressed and in some cases banished other tribes, killed detractors and rewarded only those closely related or associated with him through blood or tribal heritage.

Often his methodology was touted by more radical black leaders around the world against those who wanted a more tolerant and inclusive approach, denigrating them as pacifists, and using Mugabe's approach as the “gold standard”.

Maintenance of power became more important than maintenance of any form of principles. That it was he or a black man that ruled the country, and not the former European masters, was to be viewed as the moral equivalent of attaining a just society.

It only follows, with that sort of ethics, that even corrupt and tyrannical government is to be revered above servitude to colonial masters.

To some degree, that perverse logic can be understood but should never be tolerated; certainly not to the extent where any attempts to create or foster a more transparent and open democracy is met with brutality, and where one becomes a victim of a tyranny or loses their life as the fate of any who dared to stand up for fairness or a just and equitable governance against this type rule.

Mugabe knew the secret: he avoided any coherent vision of the future and kept his supporters constantly reminded of the bad, old colonial days. With that preoccupation of the past, he gained the licence and blind acceptance for his modern-day cronyism. Sadly, there is a list of nations who follow that blueprint.

It is incredible that many who have lived in the West, particularly those having participated in the experiment of democracy, can idolise the leadership style of Robert Mugabe.

Unfortunately, too many do venerate his leadership and cast a blind eye to the numerous atrocities he committed against his own people to maintain power.

Sadly, the call towards self-governance, which in fact is meant to be a mature step, becomes reduced by tendencies towards “Mugabeism”.

What is meant as a national consideration engaging all of the persons in a rational dialogue becomes instead the process of the few. The result under any circumstance, without the thought of developing national consensus, can lead only to weakness and division in the society, with only a few seeming beneficiaries left at the top.

The creation of a nation is not an “Us against Them”, it's a “We”. It's about us together forging towards a common good, where regardless of our differences or ethnicities, we agree on principles that bind us as a human family under a constitutional construct that is openly transparent and protects the rights and integrity of everyone.

Yes, we want to celebrate freedom over oppression along with the celebration of all those persons such as Mugabe who fought for it. As a human experience, we recognise freedom often comes with a price tag and at times it has come through war and bloodshed.

Notwithstanding the goal at the end, particularly in our modern era, is the attainment of a pluralistic, just, diverse and harmonious society. So there is a time for war and a time when we need to put down the weapons and exchange them for the tools that build a society.

The art of leadership is the ability to recognise the mode and the real needs that benefit society and, more importantly, to be able to bend and change with those needs. Like a skilled musician, a real leader must be able to shift positions such as musical notes to create a beautiful melody.

Let's hope the lessons are being learnt. Power is not a goal; it's a vehicle.

No laughing matter: former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, seen here with wife Grace before he resigned, stood as a symbol of a liberation movement that offered no apologies for his methods of asserting black rule and autonomy (Photograph by AP)

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Published November 25, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated November 24, 2017 at 9:10 pm)

Art of leadership: ‘We’ is much preferred to ‘Us against Them’

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