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Credentials for leadership

Former President Ian Khama
William Shakespeare said in Twelfth Night, "Be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them", however one comes about it how one leads is always subject to opinions from different aspects of society.

There seems to be a presumption of corruption that exists for most African leaders whereby it’s a given that we have corrupt leaders and that at the basic level our leaders are at the least unwilling even to step down from power when it’s required.

Events in African countries would seem to bare testimony to this fact added to that the fact that the Mo Ibrahim foundation price had to be initiated in order for African leaders to be encouraged to resign at appropriate times and yet in most years the price has remained unclaimed. Its mind boggling that African leaders want to stay in power for several decades without any hint of shame.

The concept of giving is sometimes sorely lacking in our society, and leaders, selflessness and compassion are unheard of especially amongst the haves and the elites. Leaders are more concerned in their self interest and in amassing wealth and power unlimited. Indeed this is the one major weakness that we possess as Africans; for through this one weakness we become the instrument of our very own self destruction and demise.

One of my favourite paradoxes of all time is stated as follows:

“the most well-known version of the omnipotence paradox the so-called paradox of the stone: Could God create a stone so heavy that even He could not lift it?”Or another phrasing of the paradox being “If given the axioms of Riemannian geometry, can an omnipotent being create a triangle whose angles do not add up to 180 degrees?”Being as that I am not mathematically minded or inclined, yet another phrasing being”Can God create a prison so secure that he cannot escape from it?”.’

In other words if he cannot do so then he is not omnipotent if he can do so then yet again he is not omnipotent. This always reminds me of the greatness of God being that he is above even our basic comprehension and analytical skills as humanity. Given that others would have a different understanding but I digress.

This then leads me to my second most favourite paradox being the one said as such: “the unstoppable force paradox, also called the irresistible force paradox or shield and spear paradox. This is a classic paradox formulated as “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” in this paradox much like in the omnipotence paradox stated above, the immovable object and the unstoppable force are both implicitly assumed to be indestructible, or else the question would have a trivial resolution.

Furthermore, it is assumed that they are two separate entities. The paradox arises because it rests on two incompatible premises: that there can exist simultaneously such things as unstoppable forces and immovable objects. The “paradox” is flawed because if there exists an unstoppable force, it follows logically that there cannot be any such thing as an immovable object and vice versa.[1]”

The reason why I raise these paradoxes is because I believe that we all are aware that the world we live in is never simple and straight forward, nothing is ever black and white, or clear cut, more so for those who lead us, decisions have to be made and sometimes choices made between the worst and the most worst option. I think I would say I understand the difficulties that African leader’s face, the extreme challenges that are unique only to our environment. Is that a justifiable reason for the lack of Mo Ibrahim price winner’s maybe so but then again maybe not.

However, great African leaders are somewhat a rarity and are facing a hostile world and an environment that is not forgiving or accommodating for third world challenges and therefore most sorely needed paradoxically. The continent that needs the best leaders has reportedly some of the worst and first world nations that don’t need the best leaders seem to have them in abundance. Do we as Africans have the leaders that we need or the ones that we deserve? Seems to me like it’s more like the ones

we deserve but sorely lacking in the leaders that we actually need.

Botswana has been lucky in leaders that it needs, even in the midst of third world challenges we have had a president who was able to always remember to put his people first. Given that most of us can come up with reasons why we are unhappy with his leadership, one wonders whether we are aware of the full challenges and whether faced with similar challenges would we do better. Given that our president has been an inspiration he has led by example, and if ever we are not happy with his performance one would think we can hope to emulate and build upon that which he has created. I believe he has shown himself to be an innovator, and someone willing to break new ground in order to serve the nation the best way he knew how.

I find that in great leadership one needs to exist in a constant balance of such paradox, having within them the existence of both qualities in order to exemplify good leadership, being an unstoppable force and yet paradoxically being an immovable object.

In standing for ones convictions and principles as a leader one fulfils in my view being the immovable object, in that there are times when it is required to be immovable and in addition one does require to have unstoppable force qualities in order for one to inspire and lead their vision and enact it into being. A leader cannot be subject to one’s own desires and comforts in order to serve the greater good; also they need be willing to sacrifice their own comfort, and even risk rejection in order to challenge the status quo. There is no leadership without sacrifice.

I am reminded of the words spoken about corruption and the full quote is shown below:

“Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means.” As stated by Sir John Dalberg-Acton.

And one would think that our former president is someone who indeed has a lot of power at his disposal, given so how then could we ever expect him to remain incorruptible and yet in his time as a leader of this nation, he has shown great compassion for the less fortunate, he has spoken for the voiceless and he has done so even for those who are not even Batswana. He has reminded us of simple truths that actions of kindness have power to change life’s, he has consistently chosen to  see the best in us and in that has chosen to appeal more to our better angels than to our faults and divisions.

We have had many presidents in Africa who have never and would never dare to utter a truth to a long standing president, who would choose diplomacy, comradeship and friendship at the expense of the suffering of millions. However, we have seen that indeed Africa has great leaders, has leaders who are willing to see a vision that is beyond their own comfort and wealth, one that is about building and enacting a better tomorrow for its people –Lt. General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama is one such a leader and I personally am proud to call him my leader and have learnt a lot from his example! This article is my simple and humble way I would seek to state my admiration and gratitude for his leadership and to wish him well in all his future endeavours.


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