This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Ethnicity And Ethnic Leadership In Perspective
I. ETHNICITY AND ETHNIC LEADERSHIP IN PERSPECTIVE
1. Recent Trends and Development
This section reviews the trends and developments around the concepts of ethnicity and ethnic leadership, as they have been experienced within multi-ethnic democracies of North America and South Africa. The review is based on inputs and observations obtained from a preliminary research study conducted amongst South Africans drawn from diverse race, ethnic, cultural and occupational backgrounds. These inputs and observations are evaluated with assistance from secondary source data from position papers, research material and other literature on the theme of ethnicity, ethnic revival and ethnic leadership. Comparative analyses are conducted with the aid of ethnic leadership material which track the behaviour and reactions of ethnic minorities as they struggled to integrate themselves into North American society. The material with particular relevance to the South African ethnic revival phenomenon includes essays on Jews, African-Americans, Irish, Germans, Native-Americans as well as Eastern and Southern Europeans who settled in North America.*
The review is intended to highlight comparative areas of America versus the post-apartheid democratic South Africa. Central to the analyses are the kinds and quality of inter-ethnic relationships and related communal as well as societal dynamics. The review will also attempt to scrutinize how relational dynamics at both communal and societal levels enhance or retard the competing interests of the respective ethnic groups. Additionally, the review will attempt to answer questions about the roles of ethnic leaders in helping to shape the development of both their immediate communities and the broader, open society. It will also look into how different ethnic leaderships have sought to identify and address the specific interest of their communities against the competing interests of rival ethnic groups. It will also evaluate the methods or strategies employed, leadership styles exhibited, challenges and problems faced. Although the source material is American, the interpretive comparisons will, wherever possible, draw attention to the implications that these issues may have for leadership possibilities within South Africa's open society. This will ensure that the exercise moves out of the realm of intellectualisation to practicable strategies and options.
The exercise will draw on a combination of heightened expectations and deep-seated frustrations and anxieties, which have been so characteristic of the South African transformational processes. The transformational process has and continues to require the political, economic and cultural leaderships of our respective ethnic communities to re-assess their historical positions against the new challenges and opportunities presented by an open democracy whose outlook is the exact opposite of the apartheid way of life. Life in the open society requires that the respective ethnic communities and their leaderships enter into new, highly collaborative and inter-dependent relationships with each other.
Needless to say, the challenge of seeking and entering into new communal relationships takes place against a climate dominated by risks and potential threats real and imagined. As they experiment with this and that set of relational combinations or permutations, the leadership of the different ethnic groups are keenly aware of the dire consequences likely to befall them and their groups, should they fail to secure a viable, highly rewarding and sustainable share out of the multi-ethnic open society. The prospects of marginalisation and demise are real, urgent and ever-present. As the re-alignment process rolls on, South Africans have witnessed how groups that stubbornly clung on to outmoded and exclusively non-democratic relational arrangements found themselves marginalised to touch in the democratisation game of change or perish.
2. Ethnic Revival
In his analytic interpretation of the dynamics of the ethnic revival phenomenon, Anthony Smith (1) says that, unlike previous revivals, this modern renaissance of ethnic solidarity and sentiment has taken its cue from a highly charged romantic nationalism which, though often aggressive and fanatical, has tried to channel the passions and claims it unleashed into the creation of a new global political order based on the 'nation-state'. Ethnic nationalism has striven to turn the ethnic group into that more abstract and politicised category, the 'nation', and then to establish the 'nation' as the sole criterion of statehood. Its lack of success to date in securing such 'national congruence' has not deterred nationalists from pursuing their ideals or from spawning new separatist movements in every continent. Though it has many powerful opponents, the ideal of the nation has been generalised to encompass a vast number of ethnic communities, large and small, and now exerts considerable pressure on the global system of states, which has been constructed with scant reference to the aspirations of ethnic communities and ethnic nationalism.
Today, ethnic nationalism proposes a radical alternative legitimation and rationale for the world political system to the prevailing statist framework. This new ethnic legitimation has its disadvantages. These include the difficulty of providing a clear-cut demarcation for the entity entitled to be called a 'nation' (though such vagueness may aid particular nationalist causes), the chronic problem of controlling nationalist passions and preventing them spilling over into aggressive acts which will undermine the hopes for an 'orderly' development of the world system, and the dangers of ethnic closure and exclusiveness both for individual citizens and for foreign immigrants, especially where the state becomes closely identified with a single ethnic community.
Before we proceed with the review of the dynamics, trends and challenges posed by ethnicity and ethnic leadership within our emergent democracy, it is appropriate that we take a brief look at some of the factors or conditions that drive ethnicity and ethnic aspirations. Critical factors in the life of any ethnic group centre on whether or not the group possesses legitimate credentials that enable it to assert their claims or concerns within the mainstream group or society. The legitimacy is based, in turn, on elements such as the authenticity and make-up of the ethnic group i.e. whether or not its origins and history confer on it the status of being one of the rightful members of the multi-ethnic society. Should, for example, the group's history or origins be in dispute with known facts and myths, its claims will generally be dismissed or contested as illegitimate. It is not entirely an oversimplification of the facts to say that as one of the ethnic groups or sub-groups, South Africa's Coloured community has over the years had to live with the stigma of illegitimacy. Neither the white nor the African groups have been overly keen to accept this group or sub-group as legitimately of its own.
In a country previously obsessed with the fairness or otherwise of racial arithmetic, South Africa's ethnic groups and sub-groups find themselves permanently locked in struggles to determine who actually belongs or does not belong here or there. Thus, many groups and sub-groups continue to have their claims questioned about whether or not they possess the requisite cultural and language credentials to belong this or that side of the river or mountain. A case in point is the situation of the Mfengu whose Xhosa neighbours continue to view or treat them as temporary sojourners. There are indeed many similar claims by small remnants of ethnic groups whose unresolved claims have kept them in limbo. Notwithstanding their perpetual state of suspension, many of these indeterminate ethnic or sub-ethnic communities live with the hope that one day soon their claims will be settled so they can exercise their full rights to demand their fair share of the opportunities offered by our society.
3. Size and Composition
Another contentious point to preoccupy the energies of the ethnic leadership is the question of numerical size and composition. Many of the smaller or peripheral ethnic groups or sub-groups blame colonial settlers for having interfered in a manner that saw the affected groups lose parts of their traditional constituencies. In fact, many of South Africa's traditional communities consider themselves to have been victims of the colonial deprivation. This is particularly true of the Sotho, Tswana, Ndebele, Tsonga-Shangana and Pedi who believe their empires were previously much larger than they presently are. Consequently, members of these groups seldom pass up the opportunity to claim, as their own, outsiders whose clan- or surnames bear some resemblance to those of the former. Such groups or sub-groups are hell-bent on pursuing that the powers that be intervene to restore these old claims or imbalances no matter how spurious they may sound. For them, these are legitimate legacies of colonialism, apartheid or both.
One other important factor to consider when dealing with matters ethnic is the group's pursuit of survival strategies. In essence, every ethnic group or sub-group places group survival above everything else. This explains, in large measure, why issues such as the maintenance of language, culture values, and customs and ritual practices have become highly emotive triggers of inter-group rivalries and tensions. The issue of access to or 'ownership' of land is central to the point under discussion. Therefore, amongst groups or sub-groups for whom threats to the group survival are urgent and real (or imagined), controversy around any of the emotive triggers is treated as a matter of life or death. Given the foregoing situation, South Africa's mainstream groups should be more tolerant toward claims that, from time to time, emanate within such ethnically vulnerable groups as Afrikaners, Jews, Indians, and Coloureds. Until or unless their claims are managed to the mutual satisfaction of both the affected group and members of the mainstream group, the former will feel their distrust of the latter is legitimate.
One of the ironies surrounding ethnic groups stems from the fact that their sense of internal unity, cohesion and well-being is constantly nourished by external pressures and threats. This is, perhaps, one of the most important findings to emerge from the interim research study. It identifies and explains the very source of envy, jealousy and even resentment which spur members of the broad shall we say, amorphous mainstream to frequently complain about. Whenever they compare themselves and/or their group with the numerically smaller so-called closed or introverted minority ethnic groups such as Jews, Indians and Coloureds, members of the black South African majority blame their lack of impact on the absence of those attributes they generally associate with members of the minority groups and their leaderships. More specifically, the black majority suffers from what appears to be deep-seated collective feelings of low self-esteem, inferiority and self-hate; disunity, lack of internal cohesion, and discipline; lack of requisite competence or capacity to achieve outstanding results; inability or lack of willingness to recognize or celebrate the achievement of individual members of the broad African group as well as reluctance to assist one's kind.
Black people's ingrained feelings of low regard for self are exacerbated by their prolonged exposure to conditions of an alienated under-dog group. Their status as colonial and apartheid society's most inferior group forced them to learn to play the 'catch-up' game whereby every aspect of their life, being or relationships are measured by the standards borrowed from those of their 'superior', 'advanced' and 'all-together' minority ethnic groups viz. whites, Indians as well as Coloureds. Given the fact that they now have to pick themselves up from the rungs of sub-humanity to the apex of their society, it is not therefore surprising that black South Africans increasingly feel exasperated by their inability to 'walk' erect and make their long-overdue mark on the new society.
Put in this context, the resentment, envy and jealous against the 'more advanced, highly effective' ethnic minorities become easier to handle. Regardless of whichever point they choose to enter the South African socio-economic system, many of the African 'economic' immigrants arrive without the cultural deficit that is thwarting black South Africans' quest for rapid entry into or ownership of strategic sectors of the political economy. In some ways, these economic immigrants enjoy similar group benefits as are enjoyed by white, Jewish or Indian minorities. Therefore, whether they choose to operate as street hawkers, health workers or university professors, the African 'foreigners' have a head start over their local counterparts. Further, as peripheral players, the economic immigrants are forced, by pressures external to their small groups, to build functional networks that are quick to identify and direct members to high opportunity areas. Like other minorities, therefore, they have had to learn the art of self-preservation through mutual support and covering for each other. Whenever a member stumbles on opportunities, it is his or her duty to bring the rest of the uncommitted colleagues into the game.
4. Basis of Xenophobia
The foregoing explains, in large measure, black South Africans' dislike of foreigners more especially their better skilled or more resourced continental brothers and sisters whom they blame for threatening to subject them to another spell at the bottom of the political economy. Those who chastise black South Africans for seemingly ungrateful or xenophobic attitudes, appear to have forgotten that similar sentiments have, to this day, soured relationships between Jewish and black Americans. To be precise, their rivalry is almost exclusively around differential access to economic and political opportunities. As the dialogue between Michael Lerner and Cornel West has shown, black Americans accuse their Jewish counterparts of hogging all access to economic and political opportunities. Also black Americans believe that while Jews continue to streak ahead economically and in any other way, their leadership is reluctant to lend a helping hand to blacks.
A paradoxical twist to the situation currently facing members of the black majority is that as the mainstream group, they need to come to terms with the realities of being a majority group. For instance, without the critical internal and external pressure points, they are less likely to achieve much-needed internal cohesion, discipline or integrity. For this to happen, they will need formidable external pressures or equivalents to such pressures to bring disparate members of the group closer together. Such pressures must simulate the kind of pressure that pushed Jewish people to reach levels of achievements that astound even themselves. Alternatively, the mainstream black group will need to craft the equivalent of Jewish or Muslim religious commitment and routines to bring about much-needed internal disciplines within the individual, the family, the community and the entire society. These challenges are formidable and cannot, unfortunately, be short-circuited through rote learning or borrowing habits from minority ethnic groups that have already bridged cultural, scientific and digital divides.
Literature from American studies on the subject reveals that as a result of their being accepted within mainstream American society as first-class Americans, Jewish Americans are progressively abandoning their long-term preoccupation with the survival of the group. This is largely a result of their having broken through to the mainstream of the American political economy. As mentioned elsewhere in this document, issues that hitherto complicated Jewish Americans' loyalty and commitment to American nationalistic ideals are said not to be as important as before. Put differently, the survival of American Jewry is no longer a matter of life and death. Also the spectre of antisemitism appears not be posing as serious a threat as it has in the past. Findings from our research study suggest that a similar trend is beginning to emerge amongst sections of the Afrikaner ethnic group. For instance, the bulk of Afrikaner leadership sees no need for the pursuit of strategies that will 'result only in pushing the group further away from mainstream society and into oblivion.
Conversely, the Jewish group has expressed serious concerns about its future prospects, given the current climate of rampant crime, lawlessness as well as an increasingly antisemitic trend the latter emanating from the Muslim community. Jewish leaders argue that collectively, these negative factors are likely to undermine the economic fabric of the democratic society which, in turn, will undermine Jewish interests. The concerns of the Jewish leadership cannot be dismissed as cheap political grandstanding. Instead they must be weighed against this group's past history and experience in host societies that subjected them to similar conditions. In a nutshell, Jewish people have always moved from one host country to another whenever prevailing societal conditions were not sufficiently conducive to sustain normal business and Jewish ways of life. This issue is discussed in greater detail in the section of the study dealing specifically with Jewish leadership and related matters.
We must state, in summary, therefore that intrinsically the ethnic group is a link with the past and a bulwark of stability. It depends on instinctive sympathies and ancestral loyalties of a wholly non-rational kind. More importantly, ethnic groups are greatly affected by factors including internal integrity, cohesion and discipline as well as their effectiveness in conserving and enhancing group status within the overall society. As Higham points out, conservation and enhancement of group status takes various forms e.g. the display of cultural attainments, combating prejudice and discrimination, raising the socio-economic level of the group. Beyond these outward-looking endeavours, the leadership must endeavour to secure the internal integrity and cohesion of the group, which is rarely secure. The ethnic group must sometimes confront the elemental issue of survival. Nearly all of these basic concerns pose for ethnic leaders alternatives of accommodation or protest.
5. Contemporary Ethnic Leadership and the Open Society
Unlike the mature multi-ethnic societies of North America where the fortunes and powers of ethnic groups rise and fall rhythmically, the situation within post-apartheid South African democratic society is at this juncture totally unpredictable. The process of replacing years of racist colonial and neo-colonial regimes has brought about a society full of unfathomable possibilities as well as unsettling anxieties and risks. Ethnic communities that had enjoyed near-total security, peace and prosperity find themselves wrong-footed by the challenges of living in a full-scale democracy. None of the ethnic communities were fully prepared for the ups-and-downs of an open society, let alone a multi-ethnic democracy. The democratisation process has rendered irrelevant and unworkable communal structures and patterns of relationships that relied on the apartheid resources.
Under apartheid, only groups that were designated 'white' or first-class could go about the business of building strong ethnic leadership structures without fear of interference from the apartheid state. If anything, apartheid protected, guaranteed and encouraged white ethnic groups to groom leadership cadres with the requisite skills to protect and defend the interest of the apartheid state. Yet, African, Coloured and Indian ethnic communities were ruthlessly discouraged from engaging in anything that would encourage the development or promotion of strong, independent-minded leadership. Much time and resources went into costly containment programmes whose sole objective was to nip black leadership talent early in the bud. Consequently, the three pillars of any healthy and functional society were targeted for hyper-vigilant supervision and disruption: the individual, the family, and the community (and all its formal and informal institutions).
After a brief review of the concept of ethnic leadership; its history, contributions and trends especially within the society of North America, the research team applied some of its arguments to the study of African leadership. As in most other areas of social research and analysis, we have found the arguments based on the American experience to be most pertinent and most useful in assessing the relevance and application of several social issues that are present in both the American and the South African societies. Both societies have a strong multi-ethnic base made up largely of European and African ethnic groups; they have and continue to experience divisions and conflicts born out of racially segregationist policies; and their democracies are built around the concept of an open society in the fullest sense of the word.
At the risk of keeping embroiled in the semantics surrounding the concept of ethnicity, we should, for the purpose of definition, clarify what the concept stands for and, more importantly, what it does not stand for. The most important prerequisite for the existence of an ethnic group is that there is, in any given situation, more than one group and that one or more of these groups are collectively viewed as the mainstream group, the broad society or community. To paraphrase Abner Cohen, (2) one cannot have an ethnic group but one can only have ethnic groups. The term ethnicity will be of little use if it is extended to denote cultural differences between isolated societies, autonomous regions or independent stocks of populations such as nations within their own national boundaries. The differences between the Chinese and the Indians, considered within their own respective countries, are national not ethnic differences. But when groups of Chinese and Indian immigrants interact in a foreign land as Chinese and Indians they can then be referred to as ethnic groups. Ethnicity is essentially a form of interaction between culture groups operating within common social contexts. (2)
The preliminary research has established that experts on the subject agree that 'the other' endows ethnicity with a structural meaning that transcends cultural content. As Mintz argues, love requires its lovers and deference its squires and labourers. Put differently, the essence of ethnicity lies in our ability to establish or differentiate between 'we' and 'they.' Thus, 'we' and 'they' signify that there are boundaries, however much such boundaries may be crossed, or even changed; we know well that the boundaries themselves may endure at times, in spite of the movement of objects, ideas and even personnel across them. We know, moreover, that their capacity to endure by no means signifies that they are rigid, fixed, unchanging. From this perspective, Mintz urges that we take a more 'neutral' stance in the analysis of inter-group boundaries seeing that such boundaries are complex phenomena which are, in turn, also potentially very fluid.
Having established that the boundaries of ethnic groups are both figuratively and literally very fluid, we should then find agreement on a workable understanding of the core attributes or characteristics of this phenomenon. Experts (2) on the subject of ethnicity suggest that ethnic boundaries may or may not involve significant cultural or institutional differences which may, over time, come into existence, be maintained, break down, or disappear. They may also become more flexible or more rigid or they may be impermeable for the members of the groups involved (as in situations of apartheid), or may permit an inter-group flow of personnel. Further, institutional differentiation may occur without the development of ethnic differentiation and boundary maintenance and modification may be going on simultaneously in different sectors within the same ethnic/institutional arena and so forth.
Our preliminary research has revealed that scholars of ethnicity and ethnic leadership tend to confine their analysis to inter-group political relations and dynamics. Consequently, they ignore other and equally important aspects as well as problems associated with or emanating from the interaction that different ethnic groups engage in. The kind of ethnicity these authors intend to help us to understand is political ethnicity, ethnicity in the service of politics, or - as political scientists sometimes prefer to call it - ethnic mobilization. For some scholars, there might not seem to be any other important way to reveal what ethnicity is - as if difference takes on its significance only when expressed in the form of claim. Some draw the distinction between 'ethnic category' and 'ethnic group' while others refer to the proclivity of people to seize on traditional cultural symbols as a definition of their own identity either to assert the Self over and above the impersonal State, or to obtain the resources one needs to survive and consume. (2)
In a society where, until recently, every minute aspect of life was defined and determined along rigid racial lines, the concept of ethnicity remains an uncomfortable and unacknowledged fact of cultural, social and political life. Deeply scarred by the legacies of apartheid, South Africa's multi-ethnic society responds with extreme sensitivity to topics that touch, directly or indirectly, on the ethnic dimensions of our society. Democratic South Africa prefers that such repugnant terminology as racism, apartheid, tribe or tribalism, ethnic and everything that relates to it should be shut away, to wither and perish, in the attic of our recent past history. Yet, the day-to-day realities of our life require us to confront the very issues we consider anathema to life in a democratic, open society.
Our reluctance or lack of stomach to work through the unpleasant aspects of our ethnicity and tribal make-up continues to introduce, into our new democracy, ambiguities and contradictions that tend to provoke controversy around transformational programmes such as those based on the concept of equal opportunity and individual achievement. Our ethnic leadership has, thus far, failed to bring about alignment between those aspects of our transition which contain paradoxes, and ambiguities that are central to communities and societies in transition everywhere. A case in point is ethnic leaderships' failure to persuade their respective constituencies to join hands in speeding up the implementation of the long overdue corrective programmes based on the concept of affirmative action. Instead, different ethnic leaders frequently go out of their way to squeeze whatever short-term political capital they can out of the paradoxes that form the backbone of such transitional programmes.
In their rush to score political points off the transformational programmes, ethnic leaders seem to have forgotten that ethnic leadership is not only a matter of who gets how much of what, and by which means, but also a commitment to the principles on which our democracy is based: equity, transparency, accountability, non-racism and non-sexism. Instead, the leadership appears to be wedded to the pursuit of a society that is too often egalitarian in pronouncement and racist in fact. Consequently, some of our ethnic leaders thrive on fears and anxieties that their groups may not receive what they consider a fair share of opportunities or claims due to them. As the American scholar, Abner Cohen (2), observes, one need not be a Marxist to recognize that the earning of a livelihood, the struggle for a larger share of political clout and income from the economic system including the struggle for housing, for higher education, and for other benefits, and similar issues constitute an important variable significantly related to ethnicity.
The concepts of ethnicity and ethnic leadership were very much in vogue especially during the second half of the twentieth century. Until the introduction of concepts such as 'the marginality' and the black 'marginal man' of American society by Kurt Lewin and Gunnar Myrdal (3) respectively, the ethnicity and ethnic leadership remained locked up in the cupboards of anthropologists. In recent times, issues surrounding ethnic conflicts and ethnic mobilization in world affairs have brought about a resurgence of interest in the matter especially amongst scholars as well as political, economic and environmental leaders the world over. Contemporary scholars including Joane Nagel and Yossi Lapid maintain that the substance and rhythm of national and international politics are shaped by the various ethnic configurations confined within or spanning the boundaries of the world's states. Scholars have observed that since the second half of the previous century, ethnic minorities have been making a dramatic comeback. In a sense they have never truly disappeared from the socio-political landscape.
However, in surveying the dynamic areas of the contemporary world one usually finds unexpectedly vigorous ethnic factors at work. Against the context of the phenomenon of globalisation, the world community has not been able to escape the pervasive nature of ethnic resurgence. The new tide of ethnic activism has swept across virtually the entire international system with a remarkable disdain for geography, for level of economic development, for form of government and for political philosophy. (4) The resurgence of ethnicity and its impact on various shades of leadership has prompted sociologists, anthropologists and political scientists to revise the conventional wisdom concerning the relationship between ethnicity, mobilization and democracy. Out of these efforts to explain the scope and timing of modern ethnic nationalism there emerged a 'revisionist' school that predicted increasing rather than decreasing trends in ethnic mobilization and ethnic activism.
The realities and challenges posed by our open society require that the leadership within various levels of society seriously and urgently address the issue of what the citizenry thinks about the distribution of the opportunities and risks that the new democracy dishes out. Critical issues that require vigilance and attention from ethnic leaders operating within a multi-ethnic, open society are discussed in the paragraphs that follow.
6. Ethnicity and Ethnic Leadership in Democratic South Africa
South African society has been rather too cautious about the positions and role to be played by the leadership of the ethnic groups on which the new open society thrives. Given our preoccupation with the arithmetic of race and tribe, it is understandable that politicians, corporate managers and the leadership of civil society institutions have elected to focus attention on not doing anything likely to provoke or exacerbate our permanently fragile inter-group relations. Those who attempted to initiate or pursue objectives designed to place their ethnic groups at the head of the emerging society have done so at great risk to their leadership reputations. Many were suspected or accused of pursuing racist agendas carried over from the era of separate development. The affected leaderships, mainly from the white right, countered with accusations of their own i.e. that the new leadership was bent on exacting revenge through reverse discrimination. Needless to say, they had altogether missed the central plot of an inclusive, open society.
However, as post-apartheid society prepares to celebrate its first ten years of democratic life, indications are that various levels of the country's leadership are becoming increasingly more relaxed about the need to cultivate stronger, healthier and long-term ethnic agendas. Members of the respective ethnic groups are openly encouraged to display and promote the traditions, customs and rituals of their respective groups as long as such activities are in line with the dictates and principles of democracy and the rights culture. Barring the occasional outbreaks of apartheid-style racist attacks at different levels of society, the rest of South Africa appears to be ready to move on to the next phase of the democracy roll-out viz. the building or revival of ethnic values, customs, and rituals.
The issue of ethnic unity at the pan-African level falls outside the scope of the current study. Suffice it to mention that one of the strong points made by newly arrived or settled Africans from other parts of the continent centres around what these respondents have described as black South Africans' unfathomable capacity for tolerance and good-naturedeness. These respondents observe that most local black South Africans appear to be conversant with more than two to three languages; appear too ready to assist or accommodate people who cannot speak or understand the local languages; and even they appear ready and willing to forgive their erstwhile persecutors. The respondents argued that, given the abundance of inter-group goodwill, South Africans stand a better chance than some of their counterparts in other parts of the continent to contain the scourge of incessant ethnic or tribal conflicts. Some of the respondents mentioned that the much-publicized xenophobic antipathy of black South Africans tended to be blown out of proportion by elements bent on pursuing sectarian agenda. These statements do not, however, absolve genuine incidents of lack of tolerance against foreigners especially genuine refugees. The foregoing goes to highlight the many paradoxes of contemporary South African life.
However, while they prepare themselves to turn their attention to community-building programmes, ethnic leaders have first to contend with the unresolved question of boundaries i.e. who belongs or does not belong where? This is more than a simple matter of semantic definitions. It is an issue that threatens to blow off the lid which has, thus far, suppressed pent-up aspirations about such emotive issues as the restoration of pre-colonial and/or pre-apartheid rights to land, ethnic or cultural boundaries, unhindered and equitable access to socio-economic and political opportunities, wholesale reparation, and so forth. The task of re-drawing cultural boundaries is bound to be difficult given that the most readily acceptable definitional terms will always threaten to throw the whole argument back to segregationist diacritica such as language, custom, and ritual. Courtesy of apartheid, the task of settling inter-group boundaries is likely to be readily more solvable than in America where issues of ethnicity and ethnic boundaries are obscured by the amorphous nature of that society. For the reasons just highlighted, South Africa's ethnic leaderships need to broaden the scope of the debate on the open society well beyond the political agenda.
While the bulk of the mainstream black ethnic groups have no immediate fear about the future of their groups vis-à-vis the retention or revival of respective cultures, customs, rituals, and language, the same cannot be said about the minority black and white ethnic or sub-ethnic groups. The Khoisan, Ndebele, Venda, Afrikaner, Jewish and Indian ethnic and/or sub-ethnic groups have genuine fears of losing everything inside the 'rainbow potjie-pot'. Like a magnetic field, an ethnic group fades out as the distance from its centre increases. Its history is one of the energy it generates and the direction in which it moves. For this reason, leaders of the ethnic or sub-ethnic groups whose survival is at risk should be encouraged to focus attention on galvanizing the consciousness of the endangered ethnic groups as well as making their identities more visible. As the interim research reveals, the matter should go beyond the mere promotion of language rights in the public broadcaster's radio and television programmes. Members of minority ethnic groups believe that not enough is being done to give effect to constitutional provisions or guarantees. Some feel the numerical ethnic majorities have little regard for the concerns of the minorities.
7. Positioning Ethnic Leadership within mainstream groups
The theory behind the concept of ethnicity and ethnic groups holds that one or an amalgamation of ethnic groups will, for historical or other reasons, claim centre-stage i.e. it becomes and behaves like the mainstream societal force. This group, therefore, assumes the primary role i.e. the legitimate 'sons and daughters of the soil'. These are the so-called 'all American' or 'true Brit'. To add legitimacy to their claim as the authentic 'majority' group within the white ethnic group of apartheid South Africa, the Afrikaner group took to referring to themselves as the true or 'ware Suid Afrikaner' as opposed to foreigners ('uitlanders'). Once established and regarded as the true blue-bloods of South Africa, the small white ethnic or sub-ethnic group dismissed claims by the rival indigenous African majority as spurious claims that could not be substantiated by scientific facts.
Studies on ethnicity and ethnic dynamics have tended to focus more attention on groups that are not members of the mainstream i.e. those on the periphery and less on the composition and behaviour of the 'majority' or mainstream group. The South African experience is that the task of determining which group or groups have the legitimate right to claim the mainstream or centre-stage status has tended to be overshadowed by the rush to install and operate a functional democracy. Conventional wisdom maintains that each and every ethnic or sub-ethnic or tribal group that was in apartheid parlance collectively designated 'black' or 'non-white' should automatically consider themselves legitimate members of the mainstream group i.e. the true sons and daughters of the African soil.
The reality, however, suggests that all is not well as members of the respective broad as opposed to the narrow black group have been left to sort one another out. For starters, while they do not wish to relinquish their claim to being one of the erstwhile under-privileged groups, Indian and Coloured groups are struggling to have their claim treated with seriousness or urgency by the African majority which considers itself the undisputed owners of (South) Africa including everything once considered white-owned. The point should be made that discordant voices within both the Indian and Coloured ethnic groups are increasingly disputing and/or rejecting claims for or against members of the so-called 'broad' black majority group. For more cultural, linguistic and other reasons, large sections of these communities have no interest in having themselves, once more, restricted to a minority status: one that threatens to render them inferior and, therefore, second-class.
Yet, others motivated either by genuine commitment to the principles of democracy as well as the values of the open society would rather see Indian and Coloured groups forego their ethnic boundaries. This makes absolute sense especially from a political vantage point. Findings from the interim research suggest that the majority of ordinary Indian and Coloured people prefer to retain their ethnic identities and all those attributes or traits that help them define their own boundaries. Their reasons are motivated not only by their rejection of the prospects of being subjected to further second-class status but they are also fearful of the political intentions of the African majority. Many suspect that many ordinary Africans harbour feelings of revenge for the fact that, under apartheid, Indians and Coloureds were one or two notches above them. The Indian community is, from time to time, from within and without their community inclined not to forget that the Zulu have yet to reckon with Indians for humiliating the Zulu during the 1949 skirmish. Consequently, inter-ethnic relations between the two so-called black groups are, at the best of times, lukewarm.
To reiterate a point made earlier in the report, the situation of the Coloured group remains largely unresolved. It is doubtful whether there is any agreement amongst members as well as between members and the leadership about the fundamentals of being an ethnic or sub-ethnic group. The central issue of identity remains a sore source of mixed self-image and lack of self-identity. The research findings appear to suggest that this matter goes far beyond the capacity of the Coloured community. This is an issue that should be resolved at the same time as this country resolves its overall National Question. This statement does not, however, suggest that Coloured ethnic leaders and their followers or supporters should not embark on the serious process of how they wish to have themselves defined, viewed and positioned within mainstream society. The issue, therefore, is not one of whether or not they prefer to be referred to as blacks or Africans. Attempts to answer such a mischievous question is to give credit to both the insult and stigma that has been with the people from the day the colonists decided to call children of mixed-race birth 'coloured' effectively, a half-way status.
The situation concerning the status of the Coloured ethnic or sub-ethnic group cannot be treated with the thoroughness it deserves within the confines of the current study. Suffice it to say that the historical 'half-way' definition and status of the Coloured group is untenable. Addressing himself to a similar problem vis-à-vis African-Americans as an ethnic group within American society, Higham states his opposition to a tendency, he describes as euphemistic and misleading, which likens the 'minority' to the idea of 'ethnic group.' There are no 'half-Negroes' in contemporary North American life, unless one of one's parents is foreign. All 'half-Negroes,' both of whose parents are North American, are not half-Negroes but all black unless, of course, they are phenotypically white, in which case (if their genealogy is not known) they are not black at all.
Although the point of Higham's comment is obvious, what must not be lost sight of is that some minorities, as highlighted above, may also be ethnic groups; but not all ethnic groups are minorities. For this reason Higham argues that it not useful to treat diacritica of difference based on perceptually dramatised features that are inherited, and those based on socially acquired features (such as posture, gesture, language habits, and the like) as if they formed a single class, or were arranged along some sort of continuum, or could be handled in exactly the same way and I suspect that it is usually confusing, perhaps at times even disingenuous, to treat them thus. Historically, structurally and otherwise, populations that fall within the categories once called 'racial minorities' such as the Jews, the Irish, and the Poles differ qualitatively from other social groups. This does not mean that group disadvantages maintained in part by the employment of non-inheritable diacritica have never been acute. But some diacritica are genetically determined, while others are not, and this difference cannot be treated as merely one of degree. (2)
In terms of the interim research findings, issues of ethnic definition, boundaries, positioning and modes used to distribute opportunities and national resources have created serious problems within the mainstream African group. These problems have been allowed to fester while the leadership of the respective groups jostle for political power and clout. The research findings suggest that the installation of the democratic government and its national, provincial and local level structures has, in effect, brought to the fore inter-and intra-tribal problems which were fomented and then swept under the carpet of 'homeland rule' and other containment structures. The deployment as well as appointment of black people within governmental, parliamentary and other public sector structures and/or organizations has often been criticised on grounds of favouritism, nepotism or cronyism based on tribal affiliations. The mass media carries, from time to time, criticisms and allegations that insinuate the existence of a Xhosa-sponsored scheme under the pejorative label 'Xhosanostra'. Although it has been proved to be baseless, the pejorative myth serves to caution the ethnic leadership within the mainstream group that rival ethnic groups are constantly untrusting of the intentions and behaviours of the leaders of competing groups.
We should, in passing, mention that the ethnic dynamics raised in the foregoing paragraphs are not confined to groups that have, historically, been lumped together in the amorphous 'broad black group'. The section of the study dealing with essays and position papers by Jewish scholars, writers and commentators highlights how the issues of ethnicity and ethnic leadership are increasingly making themselves felt throughout the post-apartheid open society. The Jewish debate appears to have opened up an opportunity which other ethnic groups should consider emulating. Although it does not appear to have produced practical strategies and solutions, the Jewish debate has given the Jewish leadership a head-start vis-à-vis the need to start engaging with both outstanding (apartheid-related) issues as well as new ones presented by the demands of a democratic, open society. Indications are that sections of the Afrikaans group have been conducting their own debate and dialogue on how they wish to position their group vis-à-vis the black-led mainstream society.
The question should be posed whether or not members of the broad mainstream community are aware and/or taking appropriate steps to address strategies for confronting or managing challenges posed by the democratic, open society. The interim research suggests that while small groups may, from time to time, attempt to form so-called think tanks, on the whole such efforts have come to naught. The research concludes that even President Thabo Mbeki's call to persuade African intelligentsia to join him over these issues has drawn a humiliating blank. It is as if the leadership of the new mainstream are unsure of what to do now they have caught and climbed into the proverbial bus. Black ethnic lacklustre response to Mbeki should not come as a surprise: we are dealing here with a group of people who have yet to develop a functional tradition of reading, writing and debate. For years as well as during the struggle against apartheid, the African majority had relied on white (especially Jewish), Indian and Coloured leaders, managers and advisors to write and speak on their behalf. The research concludes, therefore, that the habit is too deeply entrenched to be reversed by mere rhetoric and superficial 'networking' sessions.
To conclude, there is an urgent and serious need for the respective ethnic leaderships within and without the mainstream African or broad black group to pay attention to the simmering tensions which have been left unattended especially at local and provincial governmental levels. Contemporary African society has for decades, to this day, been rocked by conflicts born out of an accumulation of the unfulfilled expectations and aspiration of ethnic or sub-ethnic groups whose leadership believed they were not receiving their fair share of opportunities.
8. Ethnic Leadership and Minority Groups
While the discussion, thus far, has placed more emphasis on several areas of inter-group sensitivities and concerns, it has not reflected some of the positives that have been emerging from the post-apartheid open society. One such positive is trapped in a paradox, namely, that notwithstanding their fragile status or position within the mainstream 'rainbow' society, many of the smaller minority groups have and continue to have a rich source of some of the best leaders this country has produced. The South African Jewry has produced more than a fair share of men and women who, to this day, continue to share their leadership skills in various sections of society. The same can be said of many other African, Coloured and Indian ethnic minorities.
The foregoing finding does not in any way suggest that the other African ethnic majorities have failed to deliver outstanding leaders into mainstream society. The point being made here is that, relative to their numeric population sizes and profiles, the peripheral or ethnic/sub-ethnic minority groups have proportionately delivered more than the majority groups. This phenomenon is neither new nor exclusive to post-apartheid South African society. The larger and more matured multi-ethnic democracies of North America and Western Europe have, over the years, benefited immensely from the leaders produced by peripheral minorities including newly settled immigrant communities. Roth and Jacobs respectively, have produced astonishing lists of Jewish men and women who, over decades and centuries, have made outstanding achievements and contributions to human civilization.
More recently, American Jewish and black scholars and writers e.g. Whitfield, (6) and Lerner and West (5) have produced long lists that illustrate Jewish and black Americans' capacity to produce high-calibre leaders. Similarly, Robert Berkhofer (7) reports that while the rest of America's ethnic groups are failing to breed highly visible, quality ethnic leaders, the Indian-Americans have delivered some of the finest leaders ever to enter the contemporary American leadership scene.
The phenomenal productivity of peripheral minority ethnic groups and sub-groups has long been recognized and respected among many nations and societies the world over. For this reason traditional African leaders went out of their way to welcome slaves, war-captives, migrants and immigrants. Conventional wisdom, within these societies and communities has always maintained that the ruling class is largely impotent in more ways than one. Their experiential capital taught them to practice the art of replenishing old leadership gene pools rather than letting them perish from inbreeding. Thus, traditional institutions were always staffed and run by highly capable men (and women) from the lower castes or rungs of traditional society. The point should not be forgotten that two or more of South African white leaders (Paul Kruger and Hendrik Verwoerd) were born outside this country.
The point made here is that the capacity to produce men and women of outstanding leadership is not the exclusive preserve of the affluent, settled or well-positioned sections of society. On the basis of available research input, we may safely say that, as a general rule and not the exception, highly effective leaders are born and raised from surroundings that are characterised by one or more conditions of deprivation. This observation requires further and more rigorous analysis seeing that, if proven factual, its implications are likely to go a long way toward influencing the way society or ethnic groups will go about breeding and grooming future leaders.
9. Ethnic Minorities and Homeland Ties
A constant source of tension experienced within and between ethnic groups and the mainstream societal groups stems from the nature or quality of links they choose to have with their 'homeland' countries or nations. Jewish South Africans have been amongst one of most effective in retaining or nurturing ties with the State of Israel as well as other diaspora Jewry. To a limited extent, the same could be said of older generations of Indians. The maintenance of homeland ties represents, for some ethnic groups, a serious matter of survival, which in turn strengthens the group's inner cohesion, self-image, and feelings of security. Conversely, the retention of strong economic, political and cultural ties between the settler group and its homeland base often generates tensions especially amongst assimilationist members of the mainstream group. The latter can neither understand nor condone what they consider as acts of disloyalty and double-dealing which places question marks over the settler groups' sense of patriotism and commitment to building a single albeit unified multi-ethnic nation. The interim research points to this issue as the source of fluctuations in relationships between the African majority group and their settler counterparts viz. Jews, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Greeks and Portuguese to name a few.
Tensions between indigenous and settler groups over ties with homeland countries or nations will always threaten to boil over especially around issues relating to political ties. Naturally, the leadership of the host country expect all sections of their society or nation to toe the nationalist/patriotic line. Traces of intolerance and irritation often come to the surface whenever Jewish opposition parties attack the policies or conduct of the governing group and/or other African leaders on the continent. Our political leadership should bear in mind that, looked at from the bottom up, the temper of their inter-party debate has the capacity to exacerbate distrust of the leadership as well as the elite of Jewish and other settler groups. As Higham says, leaders must in some sense stand above the rank and file and move in a larger world. (10)
Outside politics, the leadership of other sections of society also expresses resentment at settler groups that siphon the host country's financial and other resources back to their homelands. This explains, in part, the source of South African xenophobia. Similar sentiments were used to drive Asian traders out of the countries of central and Southern Africa during the second half of the twentieth century. The Jewish debate, on the prospects and challenges facing it within post-apartheid society, has expressed concerns about possible breakdowns in Jewish-African relationships as the multi-ethnic society works its way out of the legacy of apartheid.
The foregoing situation is not exclusive to South Africa. The literature on the attitudes of mainstream Americans over attempts, by ethnic leadership, to maintain strong ties with their respective homelands clearly underscores the society's history of intolerance vis-à-vis the matter under consideration. In recent times, however, the ex-European and ex-Asian minorities appear to have escaped the intolerance of their society. The same cannot be said however of Native-American and African-Americans. For starters, the phenomenon popularly referred as the 'American melting pot' was expected to break down whatever cultural, political or financial ties that ethnic minorities sought to keep on the side as it were while they negotiated some workable accommodation strategy with mainstream society. The literature also reveals that the 'melting pot' process has effectively shorn off whatever homeland ties many ethnic minorities had sought or hoped to keep. Amongst the first to do so were American-born descendants of immigrants such as the Japanese, German, Irish, Italians, Africans to name a few. Given their peculiar position within American society, the Jewish ethnic group was amongst the last to give up most of its homeland ties.
Commenting on the position of Jewish American leadership, Nathan Glazer (9) states that the creation of a central leadership for American Jewry was basically made impossible because of the American political framework, in which private organizational efforts were unregulated by government. They could flourish, or die, as they wished. They received neither official public recognition - which might have permitted them to become dominant within their group - nor any public discouragement (indeed, tax exemption may be considered a form of encouragement). As a result, in each area of Jewish life parallel organizational structures came into existence. Jewish trade unionism - which at first was Jewish both in membership and in leadership, later Jewish primarily in leadership - had their own organizations for Jewish interests.
In attempts to build a formidable leadership profile, American Jewry found itself being pulled in opposite directions by political and cultural countervailing forces present within American society. Yet if the patterns of American life encouraged the flowering of hundreds and thousands of organizations, the crises of Jewish life raised again and again the need for unified action. The rise of Hitler, the stripping of the Jews of Germany and then of the lands conquered by Germany of rights, property, and life, the British Government's withdrawal of support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and the restriction of Jewish rights to immigration to Israel, the rise of antisemitism in the United States, spurred by Nazism, the holocaust, the tragic problem of the surviving Jews of Europe, the Palestinian crisis. and then, with the creation of the State of Israel, the permanent need to assist in its up-building and defence - all these seemed to require a central organization, a central voice. (8)
Thus, when one considers the long conflict over democracy in Jewish leadership, one must conclude that it has lost much of its urgency. One reason is because a new homogeneity has been created in the American Jewish community to replace the homogeneity broken by the mass immigration of the 1880s and after. Another is to be found in the fact that a single overwhelming issue dominates American Jewry, the protection of the State of Israel from destruction, and on that issue divisions are relatively minor ' though one may see, as the danger increases, the possibility of substantial splits within the American Jewish Community over what policies Israel should pursue, whether American Jews should intervene in effecting those policies, and how, and what attitude they should take regarding their own government's policies toward Israel.' (8)
Against the foregoing developments, Jewish leadership came under attack from within. As Glazer puts it, while the issue of democracy in American Jewish life has become less urgent, it has not disappeared. For instance, a movement of Jewish youths became critical of Jewish leadership for ignoring the new spiritual needs that arose out of the youth ferment of the late 1960s. The concrete issue that arose dealt with the distribution of communal funds. These go overwhelmingly to Israel on the one hand, and to established American community institutions such as hospitals, old-age homes, and social service organizations, on the other. Jewish leaders were attacked because they achieved their position through wealth, because they were ignorant of Jewish culture and religion, because they ignored youth, because they were not representative of the people. This was a recurrence of previous attacks by young Jewish leaders against ghetto (shtadlonim) leadership for almost identical reasons.
Glazer maintains that this pattern has since been broken by a decline in the role of great wealth in Jewish leadership, first of all because more Jews are wealthy enough to take on communal responsibilities; second, because the unpaid lay leaders - the Presidents of organizations - have generally become less important than the paid officials. Leaders, it is true, do not generally have a deep Jewish education, but then neither do most Jews. The question of who should represent American Jews was a major issue in the first half of the previous century. So, too, was the question of the style of leadership, the means whereby Jewish issues should be brought to public attention - or, indeed, whether they should be brought into public attention at all. Here the American Jewish Committee generally insisted that Jewish needs could best be met by influentials talking to influentials. Not that it always opposed popular agitation.
African-Americans are the only ethnic group to has failed to use ties with ancestral or homeland country or nation as a powerful chip for brokering the kind of political clout that Jews have been able to amass. Central to the black American leadership problem is the fact that the socio-political dynamics of their homeland have remained, to this day, in total disarray. It is nigh impossible for the descendants of African slaves to develop the kind of close and strong bonds that Jews have been able to achieve vis-à-vis material, political and spiritual support. Besides, unlike the Israeli state, Africa is a home to millions and millions of citizens of different sovereign states.
Nathan I. Huggins' (9) assessment of the quality and depth of leadership within the Afro-American group delivers some serious indictments of American society in general, and the black community in particular. Sensitive Americans could not reflect on such matters without being aware of their own society's culpability for the racism that left blacks defenceless against mobs, violence, and murder; that effectively excluded them from the commonweal through social, political, and economic discrimination; that framed legal and customary instruments, engendering a deep social corruption, maintaining one law and practice for whites and another for blacks. The mind that could conceptualise 'our Negro problem' was bound in sympathy with the one that could speak of 'our Jewish problem,' and such minds could find attraction in the same solutions.
Commenting on the history and evolution of leadership within the black American group, Huggins states that at best it is a difficult matter to identify a group's leadership. We are seldom certain what we are looking for. As for the Afro-American, much historical leadership is lost to us because we have not been much interested in the process by which individuals such as Harriet Tubman or the numberless anonymous black men and women who helped to organize the underground railroad or to disrupt the administration of the antebellum fugitive slave laws - were identified and accepted by others as leaders. The Afro-American leader has almost always been thought of as one who had weight in the 'large community'. (9)
Huggins is critical of the tendency amongst scholars to focus on the hero rather than on the process. He is equally critical of scholars' indifference to a need to distinguish between leadership and achievement. In his view, successful or wealthy and other community luminaries should neither be viewed nor accorded the status of leaders. Being high achievers in any field but leadership does not necessarily equip one with the capacity and moral responsibility to respect the onerous responsibilities that go with being a leader. Huggins also points out that the lack of leadership development within the black community must, in part, be blamed on this community's inexhaustible passion for turning against leaders, achievers and other who rise to the top of the community. We should, therefore, not be surprised that achievement evoked resentment as well as respect. Much was expected of black men and women of prominence. They were to lead, and to be agents of change. But in reality their influence was quite limited and their efforts for the race frustrated, resulting in the appearance of empty pretensions. Thus black people might applaud them as leaders of the race at one moment and dismiss them as 'diety'' at the next.
Huggins does, however, address himself to black American men and women who rose to prominence well beyond both the immediate African-American community and American society. These individuals included the likes of Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois and Martin Luther King. Huggins, in contrast, acclaims the rise of an elective leadership among blacks; but none of the black mayors or congressmen to date has commanded the same devotion and trust inspired by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X during their lifetime, not to mention W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas. One might say as much of the Jews. There are, of course, eminent American Jews, but no Jewish organization today has a leader as widely known and respected as Louis Marshall, Louis Brandeis or Stephen S. Wise. In a comparable way the Irish, while continuing to provide leaders for America, have themselves seemed less and less led. The Indians, in this respect as in others, may form a partial exception: they have produced in recent years a self-conscious intelligentsia (Vine DeLoria, N. Scott Momaday) to take the place of the great chiefs of the past. This difference may follow from the fact that the Indians are only in our time becoming a self-conscious ethnic group. (9)
However, the development of national protest organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League pushed corporate managers and administrators to the fore. Consequently, the contemporary black American has been unable to re-produce individual leaders of similar highly visible stature as King, DuBois or Douglas. While the former occupy powerful corporate leadership positions, their support-base within the black community may be insignificant. Thus, concludes Huggins, developments of our present era have made it more difficult for people within the ethnic group to personify leadership. Activities on behalf of the race have become the province of organizations. Government, local and national, has become so highly bureaucratised, and blacks have become so dispersed within government that it is impossible to imagine a single 'Negro advisor' to the President. Thus, we can hardly expect to find, after World War I, a personality to dominate this age as Booker T. Washington did his. (9)
10. National versus Corporate Leadership
Some American scholars and writers have lamented the replacement of high profile and charismatic leadership with a brand of low-profile, collective leadership also known as associational or corporate leadership. The rise of associational or corporate leadership within the American political economy has been credited to the growing power of organizations as well as corporations that provide a variety of services within the public sector, private sector or both. Prominent amongst these large organizations are Jewish sponsored philanthropic organizations. Other types of organizations provide high-level policy initiation, review and/or monitoring. There are, indeed, many other organizations whose role is to facilitate the maintenance of relations between different varieties of leadership both within and without the public sector.
With regard to the growth of the corporate or associational leadership within the post-apartheid South African political economy, indications are that the situation is not much different from what has already taken place in America. Barring matters of scale, it must be said that after the youth revolt of 1976, the South African private sector embarked on initiatives that established and/or upgraded many non-governmental organizations for purposes of addressing societal problems that the apartheid regime had neither stomach nor competence to handle. These organizations were led and managed by highly qualified professional managers including development specialists, government lobbyists, as well as consultants of various shapes and sizes. The rise of corporate leadership received a massive boost during the era of the Sullivan Code of Employment Principles and the subsequent over-politicisation of the campaign to force foreign-owned companies to pull out of the South African economy. The robust growth of the labour movement as well as black-led extra-parliamentary political pressure groups helped to widen the growth of associational leadership.
However, unlike America, the growth of corporate leadership within apartheid South Africa did not seek to replace high profile and charismatic leadership. The latter worked side by side with the emergent associational leadership. In many instances there were deliberate strategies to ensure that both classes of leadership worked hand in glove over issues that affected black communities within and without politics. The argument advanced by both political and community activists were that 'every aspect of South African life is political'. In fact, the decade following the Soweto youth revolution saw many public servants (teachers, doctors, nurses and social workers) join 'industry' as facilitators of corporation-to-community relations managers. The joke at the time was that these high profile community activists carried titles that were longer than their job descriptions. But the point being made is that there was a measure of intimate collaboration as well as covert mutual support between the associational leadership and the leadership of political, labour, civic or community activists. For their part, many of the well-connected political-labour activists boasted that the liberation movement(s) had deployed them into organizational leadership positions to keep a watching brief over newly recruited ex-student political activists.
The corporate leadership trend grew even broader and faster during the last decade prior to the fall of apartheid. Some foreign government-funded programmes were used to fast-track the mass training and development of groups of mainly black men and women who would be required to play crucial roles during the democratic transition stages. These men and women helped to swell the ranks of the newly established cadre of organizational leaders. Today, their numbers have been further boosted by another class of professionals amongst whom are highly trained and competent management executives, legal experts, financial and investment analysts as well as aspirant capitalists, tycoons and entrepreneurs. To all intents and purposes, this class of technical or professional operators see themselves as part of the country's new leadership class.
More importantly, the corporate leaders have taken it on themselves to ensure healthy working relations between them and their colleagues in government, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary structures and the corporate sectors of state-owned enterprises. This development, therefore, augurs well for the country's future leadership needs. The question that needs to be asked, however, is whether or not the training and development of one or more categories of leadership incorporate aspects of indigenous values, customs and philosophical thought and ideas which are compatible with organizational leadership.
The leadership research suggests that most existing management development programmes are increasingly being revamped and passed off as genuine leadership development material in the sense that this study has approached the leadership issue. Many of these programmes are sourced from institutions whose leadership principles and values are diametrically opposed to those which apply or should apply in an African setting. We are not in any way insinuating that traditional business school so-called 'leadership' training programmes are without value. What we are taking issue with, on the basis of available research, is that it appears that no serious attempts have been taken to ensure the otherwise management training crash-courses have been thoroughly vetted for relevance and suitability. The research also suggests that the only common element of African custom or values that appears to form part of the 'leadership' training workshops is the inclusion of a much-sanitised concept of uBuntu. Needless to say many of the black leaders and managers who have had first-hand experience in the 'leadership' programme have dismissed it, out of hand, as inappropriate or wasteful.
Lest an impression is created that the foregoing criticism is levelled exclusively at home-grown 'leadership' programmes, we should add that there is very little or no difference in terms of content and relevance between material offered through local and overseas institutions of 'leadership' learning. Our conclusion is that there will always be room for the kind of training that is currently being offered by schools of business administrations and/or their equivalents. This form or level training cannot substitute for material designed, for example, to impart better appreciation, knowledge and understanding of powerful indigenous wisdom, philosophical thoughts, traditional ideas and custom. To put the matter differently, over and above training received from local and foreign 'leadership/management' causes, aspirant Jewish and Indian leaders are encouraged to obtain as thorough knowledge and understanding of Jewish, Indian or Muslim customs, laws and ritual practice. Why are we not encouraging prospective black leaders and managers to acquire intimate knowledge and understanding of African customs and values?
We now return to an abridged, comparative review of American leadership experiences that are likely to help sensitise us to similar problems and challenges whenever they may arise within our own society. By way of emphasis, Huggins blames the advent of corporate or associational leadership for the decline in the black American community's capacity to produce the calibre of leaders such as Malcolm X, DuBois, King or Washington. In separate essays evaluating the occurrence of the leadership decline within other American ethnic communities, Joseph J. Barton and Robert D. Cross have arrived at a similar conclusion: a myriad of professional, philanthropic, developmental as well as other community-support organizations have taken over the business of developing leadership to serve the needs of their immediate communities as well as those of the larger society.
In his review of leadership within the Irish-American community, Cross identifies an important dimension of leadership which many scholars and researchers have missed or lost sight of. According to Cross, the secret of Irish-American leadership lies in its capacity to address the psychological attributes of ethnic leaders i.e. the emotional needs they address, the personal qualities they embody, the subjective meanings their words and gestures convey. The Irish, undoubtedly the most theatrical of American ethnic groups, offer a particularly vivid example of the psychic functions of ethnic leaders. Cross ranges widely over the many sorts of leaders the Irish produced - the politicians, the priests and the bishops, the journalists and the writers who helped the Irish see themselves as they wanted to be seen, the labour leaders and the policemen.
All these roles the Irish performed with a special style in which discordant qualities were often marvellously blended. It was a style of exuberance mixed with pessimism, or belligerence combined with bonhomie. On the one hand, Irish leaders showed a fierce loyalty to their own kind and a combative hostility toward all enemies, real and suspected. On the other hand, they acquired a cheerful talent for working with people of different backgrounds in the pragmatic operation of big organizations. So, men of Irish descent pushed to the top of general or multi-ethnic institutions like the Roman Catholic Church and the Democratic party, without ceasing to be distinctively Irish. (10)
11. Ethnic Leadership Strategies: Protest vs. Accommodation
Another source of potential conflict between ethnic leadership and mainstream or national leadership centres on whether the former chooses to adopt accommodating or confrontational strategies to draw attention to its community. American literature suggests that ethnic leaders who adopted accommodating strategies in their dealings within the mainstream or national leadership, have been most effective in advancing the causes of their communities. Our understanding of what protest and accommodation mean would certainly benefit those ethnic or interest groups that have embarked on a collision course with the majority mainstream simply because their strategies are, rightly or wrongly, perceived to be motivated by sectarian interests that, in the main, undermine the common good. The alternatives of protest or accommodation arise when a group faces a choice in its relations with the surrounding society. But a very large part, perhaps the greater part, of ethnic leadership has to do primarily with internal processes. Leaders create the structures of the ethnic community; they produce (or confirm) its symbolic expressions; they exemplify the style that enables the group fully to experience itself. (10)
Addressing himself to Jewish-Americans' leadership strategy, Glazer points out that accommodation and protest are still issues in Jewish life which are now wrapped up with the question of Israel. Just as the United States was the only nation that American Jews could influence when it came to the Jews of Europe, so, too, it is the only nation they can influence when it comes to the defence of Israel. The issue of protest versus accommodation has been reduced in significance, though it is always present in some degree. Jewish leaders' strategy of adopting both or a combination of protest and accommodation is dictated by the only one major issue of overwhelming urgency and great complexity: the safety and survival of the state of Israel. It has almost totally dominated American Jewish life for decades and its power to obliterate other issues has risen over time. It inevitably has the capacity to raise the question of 'dual loyalty', and of the problem of the attachment of American citizens to a foreign state.
Unlike Jewish leadership's double-pronged strategy, accommodation and protest, among Japanese Americans and German Americans no such convergence took place. Instead, events compelled a drastic situation whereby Jews and most other minorities had to choose between the United States and the homeland. That meant, in respect to American policy, an attitude either of total acquiescence or of embittered resistance. In the Japanese American case, the triumph of an accommodationist leadership was absolute. Pledged to unswerving support of United States authorities, the Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL) rejected the homeland, and it prevailed over every variety of protest. It overcame the Japanese nationalists on the one side and, on the other, those who chose America but insisted on vindicating their constitutional rights before accepting military service.
We should also point out that the Japanese in the United States never developed the fruitful dialectic between protest and accommodation which in American Jewry was given a broad, objective base by the social cleavage between two distinct immigrations. The product of a single immigration accomplished under tremendous external pressures, the Japanese community was dominated by a more physically painful rift between alien fathers and native sons. When authority inevitably passed to the sons, no rallying' point for protest survived. Now that the objectives of the accommodationist leaders have been largely fulfilled, and the sons are giving way to a third generation, one must ask whether Japanese Americans will in future have any central leadership at all. (10)
Within South African society, the history and development of inter-group relations are replete with incidents or events which bear testimony to attempts by leaders of different ethnic groups to use either protest, accommodation or protest and accommodation strategies to secure the interests and objectives of their respective groups. In essence the entire history of black and white struggles provides instructive lessons about how different group leaderships, at different times, won or lost battles and struggles largely due to whether or not they had employed protest or accommodation strategies. On close scrutiny, the effectiveness of legendary leaders of the calibre of Shaka reveals the leaders' capacity to assess which strategy or combination of strategies is appropriate for a given problem or situation.
Anecdotal accounts about the political negotiations which led to the replacement of apartheid with a full-blooded democratic dispensation indicate that whenever deadlocks and there were many were experienced, the strategically minded leaders intervened with solutions that went beyond the obvious. And yet, prior to the earlier 'CODESA'* negotiations, many in South Africa and around the world had entertained the view that courtesy of apartheid contemporary South Africa had no leadership capable to deliver democracy without spilling blood. At the beginning of the twenty first century, the South African leaders who served as 'midwives' to the birth of the much-vaunted 'rainbow' democracy find themselves being approached to share the potion of their leadership success with leaders of the world's trouble-spots.
Literature on the deployment of protest and accommodation leadership strategies has, thus, far failed to scrutinize the responses of ordinary members of ethnic groups or communities concerned. Given that in a democratic society, members require their leaders to consult about and account for reasons behind their choice of this or that strategy, we ought to explain the perceptions and behaviour of the general membership. The interim research findings suggest that many amongst the leaders who led the struggle for freedom (and against colonial and apartheid rule) had their careers prematurely terminated because they had chosen the wrong strategies. By the same token men and women who elected to work through the accommodation strategy of homeland and tricameral administration found their reputations ruined for life. Similarly, many within the broad anti-apartheid movement and a myriad of resistance structures or groups suffered the same fate. The atavistic phenomenon of 'necklacing' was one of the tactics used to dissuade or punish those who were suspected or known to have supported apartheid-approved accommodation strategies.
In more civilized company, leaders and their supporters are subjected to various forms of penance as a reward for opting for the wrong leadership strategies. One weapon that was popular during the anti-apartheid resistance campaign took the form of name-calling. Consequently, many innocent people suffered serious reputational or career loss largely because someone had a sneaky suspicion that the offending party's demeanour appeared incriminating. Many innocent men and women were branded collaborators, sell-outs or stooges of the apartheid regime. The behaviour of some of our current political leadership suggests that this disgraceful habit was not buried with the demise of apartheid and those who collaborated with it. It is not uncommon for members of rival political, ethnic or language groups to silence rivals with derogatory labels.
The full story about successes and failures associated with the deployment of protest and accommodation strategies within contemporary South African society cannot be done justice within the scope of the current study. By his own admission, Nelson Mandela's attempt at revealing factors and events which influenced his leadership falls short of our expectations. Many aspirant leaders are of the opinion that the true and full Mandela leadership story has yet to be told by himself and not only by those around him. Mandela's oft-repeated admission is that the South African leadership industry should also scrutinize the lives and leadership of colleagues and comrades such as Tambo, Sisulu, Mbeki, Khathrada, Sobukwe and many other member of this phenomenal leadership club. By way of paraphrasing his words, Mandela is telling us that our comprehension and appreciation of contemporary African leadership will not be complete until we have included, in our leadership studies, other members who formed part of the Mandela leadership.
As Thabo Mbeki is wont to say, the rush to publish anecdotal accounts by many of our contemporary leaders runs the risk of misstating both the facts and the flavour of African leadership. His unheeded call to the African intelligentsia to start writing the story of (South) Africa and the story of its leadership underlines Mandela's refrain about the need for a leadership account that does not only focus attention on one man or woman but on the entire leadership collective. Both Mandela and Sisulu have been quick to deflect praise-singers who single out one leader from the pack. Thus, the way forward for future studies of leadership in (South) Africa is to spread the searchlight beyond the one and only visible centre of power and/or charisma. Mandela's approach is, therefore, much in line with the traditional African approach to the subject of leadership: it is not and should not be about the 'Lone-Ranger' or the Colossus who towers over his fellow men and women.
12. The Influences of Traditional versus Modernization Dynamics
The consequences associated with the practice of placing the leadership of the ethnic group or sub-group in the hands of illiterate or under-qualified leaders in the South African situation are commonplace. Part of the problem stems from the fact that colonial and apartheid administrators took advantage of many African traditional communities or groups. In spite of their occupation, early European missionaries did not behave any differently either. Instead, they systematically sidelined and ostracised black traditional leaders as heathens or retrogressive-minded. For their part, the illiterate traditional leaders were rightfully suspicious of the (long-term) intentions of the white missionaries. As it turned out, their suspicions were not unreasonable. In the black activism circles of the 1960-80s, the cliché went thus: the missionaries swapped Bibles for black land.
The foregoing examples illustrate the source of what was later to develop into a dominant life-theme amongst indigenous communities. From the Cape to Musina, vast numbers of black traditional villagers were enticed to abandon their traditional settings in favour of life in and around missionary settlements. The latter had successfully introduced a powerful concept viz., modernization. From here onward, indigenous communities began categorising themselves according to their proximity to the missionary life-styles. Thus, those who converted to the ways of the missionaries became known as modern, civilized people who lived in 'vierhoek huis' (four-cornered) houses as opposed to the ubiquitous African ramshackle mud and straw traditional huts. The scene was then set; future generations of black leaders would increasingly come from missionary schools, churches and farming projects. To this day, missionary education is revered for having produced generations of outstanding black leaders who helped to transform the content and style of contemporary African leadership from the Cape to the Congo and from Kamuzu Banda, Julius Nyerere, to South Africa's anti-apartheid leadership. The list of the last mentioned is illustrious, diverse and long and includes almost all past and present senior leaders of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary organizations including the African National Congress, the Pan-African Congress, the Azanian Peoples Organization, the Black Consciousness Movement and the United Democratic Front.
Lest the impression is created that only illustrious or high-profile African political leaders benefited from missionary education, the point must be made that many of the country's traditional leaders also went through the hands of the missionaries. Many even went as far as to convert to Christianity while simultaneously renouncing their leadership inheritance and all customs and rituals that went with it. In the final analysis, a situation was created whereby traditional leadership had to choose to either convert to Christianity and live according to Christian teaching or be left out in the cold as it were. By the time the apartheid rulers introduced the concept of special schools for traditional chiefs and headmen, the damage had long been done. As it turned out, the apartheid-sponsored schooling for black traditional royalty proved far inferior to missionary education. To this day, missionary education ranks as the highest educational yardstick. It has yet to be matched or bettered by anything the democratic dispensation has to offer.
The terminology of 'modernity' versus 'traditional' or backward remains firmly hard-wired into the psyche of black South Africans. Their continued association with the latter mindset or outlook has contributed, in no small measure, to the progressive undermining of traditional ethnic African leadership. The damage reached crucial proportions during apartheid: a number of African traditional leaders who opted for the sham 'independence' status were soon exposed as 'schnorrers und luftmenschen' (6). Almost all 'homeland' leaders dead and alive were objects of public ridicule and oral satire. The same could be said of black men and women who allowed themselves to be co-opted to serve as 'leaders' of urban black people who did not move or associate themselves with any of the so-called 'independent' or 'self-governing' homelands. The legacy left behind by colonial and apartheid prostitution or perversion of the integrity and credibility of traditional African leadership cannot be reversed overnight. Until such corrective action is undertaken, traditional leadership and its institutions will remain as fatally blemished as the evil systems that violated them.
South Africa's apartheid masters were neither the first nor the last to interfere with the integrity and credibility of the traditional leadership institutions of indigenous communities. History books bristle with many accounts of similar and worse incidents of the colonial or settler defilement of indigenous leadership institutions. The case of native or Indian-Americans ranks amongst the worst examples of how white settlers not only destroyed ethnic leadership institutions but also followed up with a system that ensured total subservience, loss of communal cohesion and collective self-esteem. The Australian settler community has been equally ruthless in its native extermination programme. Research on the subject indicates that fewer such indigenous ethnic groups have been successful at pulling themselves from the brink of oblivion. The Hawaiian community appears to have made some erratic movement back from the brink of colonial defilement and spoliation. We return to the Hawaiian incident in later paragraphs.
A review of American literature on ethnic leadership dynamics and trends reveals that for this society's ethnic groups, modernization has meant one of two things, and sometimes both. It has greatly weakened the group as a locus of individuals' associations and interests; or it has given rise to an increasingly differentiated, professional, and bureaucratic type of leadership, which works to contain modernization within the ethnic structure. In an early stage, the modern leader is a centralizer, building the big organizations that take over some of the functions of the small community Joseph Barton has described. At that point the modernizer can dominate his organization and make himself felt throughout the ethnic group. Later, the organization loses its centrality or becomes more impersonal. Modernization calls for increasingly technical knowledge. Leaders become submerged in their organizations. (9)
Contemporary studies on ethnic leadership suggest, however, that the issue of traditional versus modernization is not to be taken to mean that the so-called modernised groups are more progressive and, therefore, more able to adapt to societal challenges. Literature on the subject indicates that, within American multi-ethnic society, modernization has been a serious destroyer of a visible national leadership. One of the secrets to Jewish leadership success, within American society, stems from their capacity for professionalization i.e. ensure that Jewish institutions and other community-supporting structures are led and/or managed by professionals with the requisite technical training. Traditionally, Jews turned for leadership to wealthy men who validated their title to authority in the ethnic community by philanthropic generosity.
In the twentieth century power shifted more and more from the volunteers who provided the money to the professional administrators who knew how to spend it. This shift had been especially evident in the growing complexity and importance of local Jewish federations. Not content to leave the matter of organizational leadership in the hands of traditional run of the mill administrators, senior Jewish American leaders stipulated in writing that the executive of their major organizations must exert effective professional leadership and supervision over a specialized staff and, in doing so, coordinate volunteer fund-raising, budgeting and financing, community planning, policy formulation, administration and management, programme design and development, research and evaluation [and] community relations. (6)
The Jewish professionalization initiative was emulated, within the African-American community, by the leadership of the National Urban League which brought forward a professional elite that insisted that the local affiliates of the organization be led by paid professionals. The National Urban League's pioneering move was later to be adopted by the Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), which sought to deploy black lawyers for its crucial legal talent.
Higham maintains that the transition to a modernized leadership is likely to create for ethnic groups a major dilemma. This appears with unusual sharpness in the case of one of the less well known of American peoples, the Hawaiians. For most American ethnic groups, a distinction between 'modern' and earlier kinds of leaders is blurred by the recency of the group's formation and by scholars' uncertainty over what may be called 'traditional' in an American context. The Hawaiians illuminate vividly a traditional-modern dichotomy because their leadership until recent decades was so unambiguously anchored in ancient prescriptions. Hawaiian leadership consisted of the high chieftainship, their rank and lineage elaborately defined, their sacred authority over the common people beyond all question. In the early nineteenth century these ali'i were drawn together in a royal court and topped by a reigning dynasty. All honour and initiative in Hawaiian society flowed from a single source, and the commoners' deference to these superiors was unqualified
The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 by an American clique was profoundly humiliating to the ali'i which remained the unchallenged emblems of Hawaiian tradition. A new leader who embodied the old order arose among them in the early twentieth century. Educated and trained for high office, an orator, wit, and athlete, the new leader accepted the new American government. Yet, after this leader's death, no one took his place. Progressively, the old traditional leadership class became integrated into white society and became indifferent to the plight of the ordinary Hawaiian. Abandoned by their traditional leaders, the rank and file of Hawaiians fell into an intensified dependence on whites. (11) The indigenous Hawaiian community continues to make slow progress toward the adoption of ethnic leadership that provides a combination of traditional and modern leadership values.
The foregoing review has attempted to illustrate the interplay between traditional and modernizing forces or influences on the development or survival of ethnic leadership. As in most situations where leaders are called on to make things happen, the solution always tends to lie in strategies or approaches that straddle both points of the challenge or continuum. In one of the Hawaiian leadership examples cited, ethnic leaders were able to restore the integrity of their leadership institution through a process or processes that combined both traditional and modern leadership strategies. Although it took them a while to resolve problems that had undermined and eroded their leadership and its institutions, traditional Hawaiian leaders used an approach that combined solutions based on otherwise opposing strategies: traditional and modern.
The Hawaiian solution appears to hold some promise for South Africa's traditional leadership. As we have seen, these institutions have lost so much credibility and integrity that current campaigns to persuade the national democratic leadership to ameliorate the situation appear doomed to fail. The conclusion to be made, on the basis of the interim leadership research, is that unless and until these African traditional leadership institutions find a happy balance between the seemingly incompatible institutions of traditional and democratic leadership, little will be served by indulging in the Sisyphean campaign using tactics based on guilt and threat to pressure the national political leadership into doing something about the predicament that has faced traditional leadership institutions for decades if not centuries. The road to a more workable and lasting solution to the problems of the institution(s) of traditional leadership starts with the leaders, themselves, having to restore their much-damaged reputation and credibility in the eyes, hearts and minds of the people they hope to serve. The leaders must come to terms with the reality that what they are praying for is not the return, unblemished, of seamless and authoritarian power and authority. The people's trust and respect is the first and most important hurdle to be negotiated. And as the expression goes, the rest will be commentary.
The process of restoring credibility and integrity to African traditional leadership will also require ex-President Mandela's remedy for good leadership i.e. education; knowledge of local conditions including the needs and aspirations of the people; easier access and availability to all the people; clean administration; and lastly, generous doses of humility, transparency and accountability. The solution lies in the affected leader's capacity and willingness to lead with the aid of increasingly technical knowledge. Thus, effective traditional leaders will be those who become submerged in their organizations rather than standing aloof from them and those who support them. The lesson from all this is that modernization is both a curse and a blessing.
To conclude, it must be stated that the future of African leadership, within the open democratic society of South Africa calls for a more thorough understanding of the positions, roles and concerns of ethnic groups and sub-groups whether they occupy centre-stage or operate on the periphery. The analysis has attempted to identify issues, developments and dynamics that are crucial to the survival of the respective groups in general, and the overall South African way of life in particular. Attention has also been drawn to the concerns and pressure points that preoccupy the leaderships of the respective groups and their memberships.
Further, we have argued the case for the retention and incorporation of ethnicity and ethnic leadership within the democratic, open society. The research on which the study is based suggests that the future and prosperity of our democracy does not lie in the obliteration or sidelining of ethnic groups and/or their leaderships. Conversely, the answer lies in the crafting and implementation of otherwise difficult solutions that require compromises that cover all crucial points of the paradoxes of our society. In the main, there is little room for either-or solutions. As we have pointed out, the routine approach of assessing group strategies on the basis of protest or accommodation is largely unworkable. The fruitful inclusion and involvement of key ethnic groups such as Jews, Indians and Afrikaners, in attempts to strengthen and broaden our democracy, requires mainstream groups to allow the former the latitude to craft participatory strategies that combine the elements of both accommodation and protest. We are, therefore, very much in need of sensitive portrayals of leadership in all South African ethnic groups be they mainstream or peripheral players within the overall democracy.
The discussion about the dynamics of ethnicity and ethnic leadership has not directly addressed the issue of the National Question. The reason is that this matter requires an approach that is more suited to a political review and analysis. Further, the quality and amount of primary research data available does not allow us to do justice to the topic. However, the matter remains one of the priority issues to be researched in the next phase(s) of the African Leadership Initiative.
Ethnicity and Leadership: An Afterword in Ethnic Leadership in America edited by John Higham (The John Hopkins University Press 1978)
Ethnic Political Moblization and U.S. Foreign Policy: Current trends and Conflicting Assessments, in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: An Annual III, Jews and Other Ethnic Groups in a Multi-Ethnic World edited by Ezra Mendelsohn (Oxford University Press1987)
The American Jew as Journalist, Studies in Contemporary Jewry: An Annual III, Jews and the Other Ethnic Groups in a Multi-ethnic World, (ed.) Ezra Mendelsohn (Oxford University Press 1987) pp. 161-177
Native Americans in Ethnic Leadership in America edited by John Higham (The John Hopkins University Press 1978)
Jews in Ethnic Leadership in America edited by John Higham (The John Hopkins University Press 1978)
Afro-Americans in Ethnic Leadership in America edited by John Higham (The John Hopkins University Press 1978)
Introduction: The Forms of Ethnic Leadership in Ethnic Leadership in America edited by John Higham (The John Hopkins University Press 1978)