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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
The African Leadership Experience
A Foundational Report of Findings and Observations from an Exploratory Assessment of the History and Evolution of the Concept of Leadership with Reference to the Development of an African Leadership Approach
It is customary for scholars and researchers of universal or contentious concepts to announce their contributions to the debate about aspects of such concepts or themes with a litany of apologies and qualified excuses why they opted to approach the topic of their investigation the way they did. After agonising about the prospects of offending professional archaeologists through his amateurish report about the Mapungubwe archaeological project, Gardiner (1) came to the conclusion that 'excuses are usually futile and denote incompetency or worse…but I trust that this brief account of some of our difficulties will render our critics more lenient towards us. They may rest assured that no important fact was overlooked and that no negligent or scrappy excavation was undertaken…That this book is full of deficiencies nobody knows better than the author…I have given the facts as they appeared…and the conclusions are my own, interpreted from the facts. Everybody's interpretation may not agree with mine; but one has to offer a hypothesis that will embrace and include all the known phenomena, both cultural and anthropological, for the one cannot be divorced from the other'.
While anticipating negative Jewish reactions to his book on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Alfred M. Lilienthal (2) prefaced his work thus: "while I have no illusions as to the storm that would descend on me for writing so frankly on so sensitive a subject, it was my hope that the gravity of the problems I discussed and their profound consequences for the United States and the free world, and for Jewry and Judaism, would win from readers a minimum of group emotionalism and maximum of individual thought.
While he was about to launch a book which resulted in his leadership being likened to that of the 'king' or 'messiah' of modern Israel, Theodor Herzl (3) chose to defend his book thus: "I wish it to be clearly understood from the outset that no portion of my argument is based on a new discovery. I have discovered neither the historic condition of the Jews nor the means to improve it. In fact every man will see for himself that the materials of the structure I am designing are not only in existence, but actually ready to hand…I must, in the first place, guard my scheme from being treated as Utopian by superficial critics who might commit this error of judgment if I did not warn them. I should obviously have done nothing to be ashamed of if I had described a Utopia on philanthropic lines; and I should also, in all probability, have obtained literary success more easily if I had set forth my plan in the irresponsible guise of a romantic tale. But this Utopia is far less attractive than any one of those portrayed by Sir Thomas More and his numerous forerunners and successors. And I believe the situation of the Jews in many countries is grave enough to make preliminary trifling superfluous".
To begin with, we must invoke established clichés that warn readers that they are about to embark on an intellectual journey into well-known but little understood territory. It is in place to state that the ideas and ideals surrounding the concept of leadership are as many and as different as there are people willing to define them. The central of leadership is one of the most observed and least understood traditions of human society. Man's fascination with the qualities and deeds of effective leaders has nourished an undying quest to discover both the shorthand and the shortcut to leadership. Not a science but more of an ancient art form, the study reveals that mentions of leadership will be found not only in Plato, Caesar, and Plutarch but also in biblical texts e.g. the Pentateuch or the first five books of Moses.
The Chinese classics are filled with hortatory advice to the country's leaders. The ancient Egyptians attributed three qualities of divinity to their king: authoritative utterances, perception, and justice. (4) They also demanded that their leaders possess all the ingredients of the first unknown quality ('x-factor') of effective leadership, namely, authority, discrimination, and just behaviour. The Greeks, on the other hand, believed the important ingredients of leadership include justice and judgment, wisdom and counsel, shrewdness and cunning, and valour and action. And the British, according to Shakespeare, believed the combination code of leadership comprised 'king-becoming graces' such as justice, verity, temperance, stableness, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, and fortitude. (18)
One of the most important findings to emerge from the interim study on the leadership approaches, practices and experiences of five different ethnic or societal groups – western, Indian, Jewish, Afrikaner and African – is that contrary to what racially prejudiced historians and other classes of social commentators have preached over centuries, African society possesses a highly dynamic history. Granted that it has suffered and continues to suffer immensely from lack of mastery of science and technology, African society had – until it was disrupted by the combined scourge of slavery, colonialism, racism and exploitation – a highly effective leadership system which was backed by traditional customs, philosophies, rituals and taboos. Africa's leadership problems started when western explorers, travellers or settlers sought to interpret its societal institutions and leadership systems according to the mindsets and value-judgements already etched in the minds of foreign explorers, travellers or settlers.
Contemporary historians have often referred to the fact that foreign travellers and explorers went about looking for African equivalents of western rulers i.e. kings, queens, captains and so forth. Where no such equivalents existed, the indigenous people were dismissed as inconsequential and backward. Conversely, where African leaders of formidable power, clout and resources were encountered – as in the citadel of the Zimbabwe – the foreign travellers paid similar respect as they did their own rulers back in Europe or wherever. Unfortunately, highly developed empires of the calibre of Mapungubwe, Zimbabwe and several mentioned in the works of Davidson (8), (11), (27); Cheik Anta Diop (28); Ken Mufuka (30), and Eric R Wolf (29), were literally and figuratively too far and few between. As the review of the birth, growth and demise of Afrikaner leadership has revealed, the Khoisan's lack of elaborate leadership or kingship institutions contributed, in large measure, to their ruthless exploitation by both burgers and boers. Yet, the Bantu groups were saved from similar harsh treatment by the protection offered them by relatively strong traditional leadership systems – although these were eventually conquered by a combination of British and Boer military might.
Research has established that leadership occurs universally among all people regardless of culture. Bass (4) notes that the earliest literature on leadership was concerned almost entirely with theoretical issues. Theorists sought to identify different types of leadership and to relate them to the functional demands of society. In addition, they sought to account for the emergence of leadership either by examining the qualities of the leader or the elements of the situation. Earlier theorists can be differentiated from more recent ones primarily by virtue of the fact that they failed to consider the interaction between individual and situational variables; and they tended to develop more comprehensive theories than do their more recent counterparts. The failure of recent researchers to investigate certain areas of the leadership problem can be attributed in part to their empirical as opposed to their theoretical orientation. Whereas theorists may attempt to comprehend a problem in its entirety, empiricists tend to concern themselves with those aspects of the problem that are perceived as researchable in terms of availability of samples and measurability of variables. But theory and research combine to yield insight into a problem.
The current study on the identification of suitable and relevant ingredients for the development of an African Leadership Model has been motivated by a widely shared belief among contemporary black leaders that it is time for Africa to produce leaders with the requisite capacity for high performance and moral impact to ensure that the people of the continent secure their fair share of opportunities in the twenty-first century. For decades black leaders have watched leaders of rival communities transform and record achievements that relieved their communities of under-dog status and all the complexes that undermine capacity for high performance. While they did not sit on their hands, blacks found out that whatever actions they took to ameliorate their predicament, their actions were never enough to keep pace with the progress of rival communities.
The case is illustrated by the relative progress made by Jewish, Indian and Portuguese communities whose first generation immigrants started life in South Africa as poor and unsophisticated working class labourers. Beside the protection and privileges that came with the awarding of a 'white' status especially to Jews and Portuguese in this example, black South Africans find themselves at a loss to explain why these erstwhile underdog communities streaked ahead while the indigenous people remained mired in ignorance, poverty and helplessness. Thus began the search for the first unknown factor or factors behind the successes and achievements of South Africa's ethnic groups.
Since the days of colonial and apartheid rule, black South Africans have cursed their gods for not endowing them with the factor or factors that determine which, how and why particular individuals are blessed with an abundance of 'king-making' virtues and the attributes of high performance and effectiveness. Simultaneously, humankind also wants to understand the circumstances, which condemn the many among us who have the blessing of Sisyphus* i.e. to work very hard and diligently without much to show for it. Research has to date failed to reveal the 'x-factor' that lies hidden in the Pandora's box of our communities. This failure has largely been responsible for many flawed scientific and quasi-scientific or 'flavour of the decade' leadership theories that sought to quench our burning thirst for leadership knowledge and wisdom. Each year, institutions spend or make fortunes over these failed leadership theories or so-called breakthroughs in leadership knowledge or development.
As in many areas of human endeavour, whenever everything else fails, the last resort is basic personal instinct or our rich store of superstition. Throughout history, man has always relied on his superstition capital to explain extraordinary occurrences. Such explanations cannot fail because they are attributed and justified on the basis of divine intervention. Even here, at the level of divine or supernatural intervention, the problem has always been: how and why certain individuals have reaped disproportionately more benefits while others' rewards have been dismal in spite of the fact that they all relied on the aid of the supernatural? To illustrate with more familiar contemporary example: the issue is why one shopkeeper is able to attract more and profitable custom while another failed dismally to generate enough traffic from the same community with identical merchandise and service – regardless of supernatural aid.
It is this failure of the rich and famous to explain how they made their fortunes that sets our tongues wagging. We become suspicious and even resentful when the recipes offered by our high performers fail to advance us one bit. For this reason, society has over the years had mixed feelings towards high achievers who fail to give convincing accounts of how they got it right. Many a reputation, property or life has been lost largely because the community's serial high performers eclipse us ordinary mortals with superior business or trading outputs, artistic products or productions, livestock or produce from their fields. In practice our ambivalence makes us switch from admiration to envy, jealousy, the ejection of the offending high performer from the community of under-achievers and lacklustre leadership. By the same token high performing members of the community were also blamed for natural disasters that befell the communities in which they lived. As the expression goes, the effective individuals discovered to their sorrow that the journey 'from hero to zero' depended on the speed of rumour spread by rivals who failed in the game of life and work.
In their sojourn along the route to enlightenment, communities and societies have had to graduate from a way of life and work dominated by knowledge based predominately on belief in the power of supernatural forces and superstition. Those who have failed or are yet to move out of the realm of superstition to embrace ways of life and work determined by science-based knowledge continue to treat their leaders and high performers indifferently. It is not surprising that many ordinary men and women will decline leadership or supervisory positions for fear of having their lives extinguished both literally and figuratively.
To the extent that many African communities remain trapped in the clasp of 'primitive' superstition, it is to be expected that school children will continue to lead their communities as 'morality and ethics police' against people who resort to or are alleged to resort to supernatural forces (witchcraft) to enhance aspects of the lives or work. Our urban and rural communities will continue to endure their seasonal 'witch-bashing'. In its proper context the campaign to rid the community of witches and other miscreants is about the persecution of high performers and serial over-achievers whose only crime is failure to curb their industrious spirit or competitiveness.
At another level, the foregoing behaviour has left our leadership wondering whether or not contemporary African communities have fully escaped from the pull of the superstition-based culture. The leadership and social commentators have been at pains to explain this society's habit of destroying its heroes. Many in the African community are now convinced that self-destructive behaviour is a product of unrestrained envy and jealousy. Envy and jealousy have spawned a pervasive syndrome commonly known, among the African-American community, as the 'PHD' 'pull-him-down' syndrome that is so typical of crabs in a barrel. This behaviour can only be explained in terms of the prolonged and pervasive culture of deprivation and dysfunctionality that has not lost its grip on contemporary black society both in the continent and the diaspora.
As Huggins points out, the habit of envy and resentment towards the successful sections of the black community accounts, in part, for its inability to compete or out-compete the non-African elements of whatever society black people find themselves operating in. Therefore, the black community's inability to share and celebrate the achievements of individual members continues to destroy many an illustrious career or reputation while leadership looks on powerlessly.
In its transition from chronic deprivation to a world characterised by an abundance of opportunity, post-apartheid black South African society continues to be frustrated and embarrassed by a spate of endless incidents of impropriety including acts - real and imagined - of corruption, neglect or abuse of power and authority. True, the sudden release of abundant opportunities without proper internal discipline and controls has placed many inexperienced men and women into situations where temptation is never too far away. Yet, there are also stories about men and women who have and are making progress on the ladder of leadership success. The heavy cloud of corruption and impropriety surrounding the insurgent black leadership/managerial class comes like manna to those without and within the black community who, for different reasons, revel in sustaining the belief that Africans are genetically incapable of rising above centuries of bad press. The said irony within both the South African and black-American communities is that the modern peddlers of African incompetence and corruption are, in the main, black people themselves.
The hatchet of the destruction of African success and achievement lies firmly in the hands of a category of black men and women who, themselves, suffer from serial under-achievement. This is simply a case of those sinking to the bottom being resentful of those who escaped a similar fate. And there is very little else to it. Yet, hiding behind the noble duty of protecting and promoting our rainbow democracy and the leadership, some African commentators have attempted to demolish the reputations and integrity of some of Africa's most revered leaders - Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu included. Coming as they do from the supposedly enlightened sections of the black community, the mudslinging tactics have been a growing cause for concern among the remaining black leaders and managers who go about their business with the proverbial sword coming closer each day. The interim study has established, inter alia, that large sections of the black community are beginning to see through the hidden motive of the African self-demolition brigade.
While many concerned black leaders had initially dismissed the African character assassination phenomenon as entirely the work of so-called third-force of the disgruntled white right, the leadership has been forced to revise its position somewhat. Findings from the interim research suggest that many of these activities are fabricated and promoted by well-placed members of the black elite. Acting under the guise of concerned employees or committed members of society, they cover their reprehensible actions under the guise of blowing the whistle against corrupt colleagues. Some black leaders and managers have gone as far as to suggest that instead of heaping all blame on the mass media, corrective action should be taken against the true culprits, namely, disgruntled or undisciplined members and/or employees within organizations. This does not let off the hook some black journalists whose hobby and business is to publish unsubstantiated allegations against innocent members of the black elite in general, and black leaders in particular. Looked at from this point, there is little to separate under-informed, superstitious youths from their modern-day African scribes. As will become evident, the behaviour under discussion has roots which are deeply imbedded both in the soul and the underdog history of the black community. Among the Jewish ghettos of Nazi Europe, this behaviour was known as selbsthaste (self-hatred).
In terms of the foregoing, it is not surprising that elements within our society have succeeded in dissuading our high performers/achievers and leaders from playing their roles. Consequently many black leaders and achievers turn their backs on leadership roles in whatever form they may come. It is safe to say, therefore, that for as long as ordinary men and women remain ignorant about the 'X-factor'(s) behind the effective behaviour of colleagues and associates, they will remain reluctant to embrace the achievers as useful path-finders. They would rather make do with external or foreign role models that, historically, have been associated with high performance. Foreign high achievers are seldom begrudged their achievements for the simple reason that the 'x-factor'(s) of their successes remain unknown. For similar reasons, traditional Africans will prefer to consult a spiritual diviner who is either a foreigner or lives in foreign or remote places because such a diviner is associated with extraordinary powers and insights. Locals are more interested in obtaining the assistance of the 'foreign' spiritual guide rather than finding out why he is so good.
The foregoing also explains, in part, black South Africans' misperceptions that members of the white ethnic groups are generally more effective than their indigenous counterparts. Many aspirant black managers are routinely frustrated by those of their colleagues who, on making it into the top executive clubs, elect to surround themselves with an exclusive set of white advisors and specialists. The common explanation is that these white advisors and specialists are prepared to work harder than the newly arrived aspirant black managers. This position holds throughout both the public and the private sectors: the practice is more pronounced the higher one goes up the management/leadership echelons. In short, the first generation of black leaders and managers who are breaking through the remaining complex maze of unwritten practices that were meant to keep the indigenous majority on the outer reaches of white boardrooms and management teams are learning the aphorism 'and please close the door behind you'. This effectively shuts off hordes of black aspirant brothers and sisters who 'could not crack it'. They are said not to possess the 'Effectiveness DNA' of their white counterparts.
For this and other reasons, the study is required to answer the question: how does one go about encouraging white ethnic groups to share the secrets of their success with the insurgent black management/leadership cadres without resorting to punitive measures such as Affirmative Action? At the same time, we are required to establish whether or not the African component of the 'rainbow'* democracy possesses anything that resembles the leadership 'x-factor' of highly effective ethnic groups that have operated within our society for decades or centuries. What is it that the African element of post-apartheid South Africa needs to retain or let go as he or she borrows the effectiveness code from white ethnic groups or individuals who have amassed reputations for high performance and high leadership effectiveness?
The findings of the interim study indicate that the search for a single reason for the effectiveness of one race or ethnic group is less likely to produce the desired results. Faced with this question, a section of the Jewish community proceeded to lecture the black researchers about the danger of providing short and over-simplified answers to situations that require detailed, complex explanations. Without any hint of discourtesy, the Jewish leaders graciously told the non-Jewish researchers a little story about an encounter between one of Jewry's most revered sages, Hillel*, and a keen student of the Jewish Bible. The sage advised the proselyte to pay attention to the item relating to neighbourly love. But the real sting in the tail of the story is the advice to the student to study, study, and study the rest of the biblical text in order to acquire the requisite wisdom. By the same token, the Jewish leaders were telling the non-Jewish researchers that there are no short cuts to the question: what makes the Jews behave differently from other groups inside or outside business? Yes, they pay attention to the survival interests of the group but, in addition, they work painstakingly harder and smarter than the other guy.
In the context of the search for the most effective and suitable leadership effectiveness model, Hillel's wise counsel is that we should not go for the short and simple answers – what is commonly known in leadership/management circles as a one or two answers. In truth, there is no such thing as a single-cell summary or x-factor of leadership. As the saying goes, the devil lies in the detail. It is the lazy man or woman's lot to be content with the over-digested regurgitations of others. Contemporary writers and researchers on the topic of leadership effectiveness warn against the human propensity for the passepartout – the panacea or silver bullet that saves us from digging through mounds of detail before we could get to the enlightening truth. In essence, the fact that real solutions have the knack of appearing too simple does not mean that the processes used to discover them are equally simple. Our science does not as yet possess the requisite capacity to produce single simple solutions.
II. PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF LEADERSHIP
1. Leadership through Traditional Knowledge Systems and Concepts
The relationship between leadership and philosophy has not seen much improvement since the demise of ancient western civilizations. Casual references from scholars and admirers of both philosophy and leadership have kept alive memories of the once flourishing relationship. Such mentions go as far back as Plato, Caesar, and Plutarch. And some of them can be found in the biblical texts of the Pentateuch. The lack of improvement in the tenuous relationship lies in the perception that both philosophy and leadership trace their roots not to science but to a form of ancient art that was the preserve of the intellectual elite of society.
The foregoing highlights an attitude that has existed largely in the west and in societies whose systems are now calibrated according to the systems imposed by or received from the west. Conversely, societies whose traditional systems have – with periodic interruptions - kept their knowledge capital alive through customs and ritual practice view and approach philosophy and leadership rather differently. The same goes for religion, art, music and other disciplines which have retained their currency since time out of mind. They continue to exist and are practised and enjoyed by not only by the intellectual elite but also by ordinary women and men throughout society albeit with the stigma of being backward. However, the value and relevance of traditional systems of knowledge including religion, philosophical thought, and leadership have and continue to be under attack from of the race towards modernization. Many of the world's contemporary societies or communities are experiencing deep and bitter internal divisions over whether or not they should retain traditional knowledge forms whose currency has been questioned by the advocates of modernization.
Compared to many disciplines which are central to traditional knowledge systems - religion, philosophy, traditional medicine, to name a few, leadership appears to have fared rather badly. Attitudes towards leaders and leadership, as topics for study and comment, are not as clearly articulated among old societies or communities that relied almost exclusively on oral tradition to store and transport, from one generation to another, their knowledge, wisdoms, philosophies, and ideas. Many philosophical thoughts, concepts and ideas have lost the tributaries on which they had relied for integrity, completeness or impact. This is particularly true of part of African society which were either ignorant or lacked the habit to preserve their knowledge and experiential capital through the medium of the written word. This, therefore, makes the task of piecing together pieces of old philosophical concepts and ideas exceedingly difficult. The scholar or researcher has to employ an array of tools and resources to accomplish such a task. It is not entirely true to suggest that all is lost for, as we shall soon see, there are communities and societies that have successfully kept alive their traditional thoughts, concepts and ideas. It is to these enduring concepts and ideas that we return later for a preliminary study and analysis of the concept of leadership.
The issue of whether or not this or that society recorded valuable concepts and ideas in writing does not in any way mean they neither knew nor experienced leadership. The fact that they have thrived to this day is sufficient proof of the effectiveness of whatever leadership systems and approaches were available to them. As we shall soon see from arguments based on African, Indian and Jewish philosophies and traditional concepts, ideas and processes, the very basis of modern knowledge is oral tradition. As scholars point out, it is unfortunate that the communities of Africa did not preserve or transfer their wisdoms, customs, and ritual systems in written form. These issues are presented in more detail in the section(s) of the report dedicated to the philosophical thought and traditional concepts and ideas of African and Indian peoples.
Suffice it to state at this juncture that contemporary research has established that leadership occurs universally. To this end, Bass (4) observes that the earliest literature on leadership was concerned almost entirely with theoretical issues. Theorists sought to identify different types of leadership and to relate them to the functional demands of society. In addition, they sought to account for the emergence of leadership either by examining the qualities of the leader or the elements of the situation. Earlier theorists can be differentiated from more recent ones primarily by virtue of the fact that they failed to consider the interaction between individual and situational variables; and they tended to develop more comprehensive theories than do their more recent counterparts. The failure of recent researchers to investigate certain areas of the leadership problem can be attributed in part to their empirical as opposed to their theoretical orientation. Whereas theorists may attempt to comprehend a problem in its entirety, empiricists tend to concern themselves with those aspects of the problem that are perceived as researchable in terms of availability of samples and measurability of variables. But theory and research combine to yield insight into a problem.
2. Brief Review of the Leadership Thought of Traditional Societies
We have, therefore, looked at two to three approaches which are familiar among scholars and researchers of Indian and Jewish societies. Given that until the last decade of the twentieth century South Africa was regarded by itself and others to be a country more in tune with the western than African way of life and thought, we have decided to introduce methodological approaches and concepts that reflect more fully and accurately the stance to be adopted by scholars and researchers within post-apartheid South Africa. The African approach identifies and confirms aspects of the African mind which appear to have been lost to generations of South Africans who were, for many decades, effectively cut off from their motherland. With few exceptions, the vast majority of South African scholars, researchers and intelligentsia missed out on processes and developments which shaped post-colonial African thinking about approaches to philosophical thought and traditions.
In essence, the contemporary African approach holds that African concepts and ideas about life have survived the combined onslaught of colonial and post-colonial domination and influence. Enduring African concepts are reflected in the way contemporary African people define, approach and relate to the world around them. Notwithstanding the fact that for centuries African people were force-fed foreign or western concepts and ideas – under the guise of modernization – these foreign ideas and concepts failed to dislodge Africa's indigenous concepts and ideas. However, in their daily life, African people have memorised western ways of coping with western-ordered life, work and worship. The task facing researchers of African leadership is which of the enduring traditional African concepts and ideas can be salvaged for adoption or re-use in a situation where Africans continue to experience ongoing conflicts between foreign and indigenous concepts and ideas.
African traditional concepts and methods are compared with those of tradition-rich philosophical systems of India and Jewry. Both these peoples have travelled a similar road through histories dominated by tensions and conflicts with foreign concepts and ideas. Yet, both have successfully held on to their traditions and concepts. Both have used and continue to use home-grown methods to maintain some workable co-existence between indigenous systems of knowledge and those borrowed from foreign cultures. Their respective leaders and intelligentsia can and do function productively and effectively through combinations of indigenous and foreign concepts. Jewish thought leaders have been most active and most successful at influencing western thought and development. There is no area of contemporary society which has not benefited from the outstanding contributions of individual Jewish thinkers, scientists, artists and so forth.
The current research into the philosophical and traditional foundations of leadership is particularly interested in learning about and from the approaches and processes followed by Jewish and Indian thought leaders. We wish to know and understand the strategies and tactics adopted by Indian and Jewish leadership to manage or contain foreign influences which, at one time or other, threatened to extinguish the life out of indigenous tradition knowledge systems they had reduce to embers.
III. THE PHILOSOPHICAL BASIS OF AFRICAN LEADERSHIP
1. Conflict between Old and Contemporary Approaches
An evaluation of the history and evolution of African leadership cannot be considered comprehensive without a review of African philosophical traditions and thought. A people's philosophy reflects the essence of who they are and where they are headed vis-à-vis their history, values, ideals, self-image and the nature of their relationships with the world around them. Leadership is at the centre of these social dynamics and relationships.
Preliminary research interviews conducted thus far suggest that a section of the black population is either sceptical or suspicious of the motives underlying the decision to conduct a wide-ranging study of African leadership. The sceptics maintain that African community has made little or no meaningful contribution to the development of leadership and whatever body of knowledge or science lies behind it. Some suggest that Africa's contribution can be summed up in one word: uBuntu – a concept they believe is often applied out of context. Others have proposed that the study or promotion of African leadership themes and values runs the risk of launching contemporary African society and its institutions on a retrogressive path. Such a path, it is said, will lead to pre-historic African tribal life that has existed only in the minds of romantic historians and writers of African fantasies. The sceptics argue further that contemporary western leadership principles and values have served this country's institutions well and they do not, therefore, see any reason for replacing them with something that has neither proven credibility nor track record.
The position adopted by those against the pursuit of African leadership is identical to that used by scholars who question the legitimacy of African philosophical tradition and thought. Our view is that students of African leadership should borrow the analytic approaches and methodologies used by the proponents of African philosophy – more notably, Gyekye (5), and Owomoyela (6). These approaches and methodologies are highlighted in what follows. Gyekye's approach is premised on the argument that it is legitimate and intelligible to talk of "African philosophy," the basis of which is the common or pervasive features in African cultural and thought systems. He does not claim that the features of African life and thought he presents are peculiarly African, for they are in fact found in non-African traditional settings as well. But this observation is harmless in itself, and does not detract from the need to explore ideas from African perspective.
Given that African philosophical systems will not be unique, the important thing is to see how the ideas of being, causation, the nature of a person, destiny, evil, morality, the nature of human society and social relationships, etc., are comprehended and analysed by African thinkers on the basis of African cultural and intellectual experience. African perspectives on these ideas may be similar to those of others; nevertheless, they are worth examining within African conceptual crucible. After all, the fact that Indians, Chinese and Japanese have concepts of communalism or destiny, for instance, does not mean that those concepts are necessarily the same as those of African thinkers (5).
2. Points of Conceptual Convergence in African Philosophical Thought
The foregoing must be read against Gyekye's argument that a given culture forms the basis of a philosophy and creates the controlling and organising categories and principles for philosophising. Then, a philosophical discourse that critically interacts or communes with African cultural and intellectual experiences, with African mentalities and traditions, will be African. That thesis does not have to be accepted by all Africans in order for it to be African, nor does it have to be generalised for all Africans. It only needs to be the results of the reflective exertions of an African thinker, aimed at giving analytical attention to the intellectual foundations of African culture and experience. That is all.
When modern African philosophers discuss ideas produced by African traditional thinkers, or when they philosophise with the contemporary African situation in mind, diverse, even incompatible, analyses will undoubtedly emerge. Yet they will all come under the umbrella of African philosophy. Even though what will emerge as African philosophy will in reality be a philosophical mosaic, this fact will not detract from Africanness of those philosophies. They will, after all, be the product of the "African mind," just as western culture -western mind - constitutes the ground for western philosophy, which also consists of numerous philosophies. (5)
There is indeed no single philosophical idea or doctrine shared or adhered to by all Europeans or westerners; yet such an idea or doctrine does not, on that account, cease to be European or western. As noted recently by a western philosopher, "There is no such thing as contemporary philosophy, of course, at least if this is construed as some sum total of commonly held tenets of the day. There are contemporary philosophies, philosophies as numerous, one sometimes thinks, as philosophers." But it must be noted that despite the numerousness of these philosophies (produced by western philosophers), they all come, nevertheless, under the umbrella of western philosophy. The reason for this is that they are all grounded in the western cultural experience. (5)
Gyekye concludes that modern African philosophers should turn their philosophical gaze on the intellectual foundations of African culture and experience (in addition to contributions to western philosophy, which some of them are in a hurry to pursue). It is never too late in human history to start from where one should start (or should have started). As part of the people of Africa and speaking their languages - which fact is essential for investigating the philosophy of a people - modern African philosophers are in a unique position to elucidate, analyse, and interpret the philosophy of African peoples and to sharpen its contours on the global philosophical map.
In terms of the approach adopted by African philosophers and Africanist writers, arguments against the existence or legitimacy of the concept of African leadership are, therefore, unwarranted. African people are entitled to exercise their right to conduct comparative analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of traditional and contemporary African leadership styles against those adopted or adapted from non-African societies. They cannot be expected to continue clinging on to foreign leadership approaches, styles or practices that neither acknowledge nor incorporate indigenous leadership principles, values or experiences that are more effective than the former. Further, they should be excused for increasingly questioning the importance of leadership values and practices that not resonate with enduring African values including communalism, humanism, egalitarianism, consensus, and a sense of hierarchy. The affirmation of the existence of African leadership does not imply that this brand of leadership is totally different from, inferior or superior to the western or oriental brands of leadership. The affirmation is brought about by the need to allow Africans to apply and adopt and adapt different leadership practices or styles to circumstances that are uniquely African. (5)
Janheinz Jahn (7) argues that the example of Japan teaches us that a people can appropriate modern technology and modern forms of organisation without abandoning their traditional culture; that modernity can be assimilated into a non-European culture without destroying it. Could something of the same kind happen in Africa? It will be objected that Japan and Africa are not comparable, since their cultures lie on different levels. According to Jaspers (7), history has shown two great advances. First, after the age of myth, which includes pre-history and the history of the great early cultures, reflective thought began between 900 and 800 BC in Greece and Asia Minor, simultaneously but independently. It was this advance that really set history in motion, transformed it and determined its direction.
The second advance is the age of science and technology, which now in its turn is everywhere taking the lead and transforming all mankind. Japan, like Europe, is said to have been affected by the first advance and thus to be a land of higher culture, while Africa is only just being brought into the mainstream of history. Here all signs of a higher culture are wanting. This part of the globe is inhabited by primitive peoples who may choose between extinction or what, asks Jahn?
Jaspers (7) does not even allow these primitive peoples a chance of adaptation. He foresees for them no adjustment, but only their extinction or the fate of becoming mere raw material to be processed by technological civilisation. For the Australian aborigines, the South Sea Islanders, and the American Indians, the thesis of Jaspers seems largely valid. For Africans it clearly fails to hold, for they managed to survive despite the most intense pressure of slave trading and slavery; nor does it look as if they were prepared to furnish the raw material for a technical world civilisation. The present flood of literature on Africa arises precisely from the disquieting fact that Africans are not behaving as those planners and prophets who arrogantly dispose of them predicted they would behave. So the reader rushes from one analysis to another, for he cannot shake off the feeling that Africans themselves have a part to play; he wants to know what Africans are really feeling and thinking, yet the shrewder authors leave him with a question mark.
Jahn poses the question: whether in confronting western culture, Africa reacts differently today from the way she did in the past. Basil Davidson (8) has covered most of the ground raised by Jahn's question. For instance, Davidson maintains that it will be found that even when African peoples have taken much from outside, at different times and places, their process of borrowing – whether of techniques or beliefs – has always undergone an adaptation, through environment and circumstance, into societies and cultures and civilisations which became specifically and uniquely African. Achievement and failure can both be traced to the same complex and endlessly interesting source: the interplay of men and their environment. It is, therefore, within Africa's capacity to fashion the right solutions to its prevailing developmental problems. Africa can match the example of post-Hiroshima Japan. It is our hope that, in the weeks and months that lie ahead, the African leadership initiative will focus attention on ways through which African leaders can or should tackle the 'Japanese challenge'. (8) (cf. Satoru Tsuchiya, "The Prospects for the African Culture: in Appendix I.)
3. False Impressions about African Traditional Philosophy
As has been the case with African traditional philosophy, the sceptics are bound to argue that the legitimacy of the concept of African leadership is grossly compromised by the absence of a well-documented body of knowledge based on the accumulated practices and experiences of generations of African people. Gyekye (5) concludes that the complete denial by some scholars of philosophy among African peoples, the assumed monolithic nature of African traditional thought, the alleged non-individualistic (collective) and uncritical nature of that thought are some of the mistaken impressions about African traditional philosophical thought.
There are two principal reasons for the currency of these impressions. The first relates of course to the lack of literate culture in Africa's history, which has wrought untold, irretrievable damage not only to African philosophy but to other aspects African life, such as its history. The second reason is that some scholars have come to their conclusions on the basis of incomplete and superficial research and analysis. (5)
4. Constraints Impeding the Study of African Traditional Leadership
Contemporary African and Africanist scholars – and notably Kwame Gyekye - have identified a number of methodological constraints and challenges that must be heeded by those intending to study issues such as African philosophy, culture or leadership. The ideas presented in the next few paragraphs are paraphrased and borrowed from an essay by Gyekye on the study of African philosophy.
The most obvious and the greatest difficulty in studying or researching African traditional philosophy stems from the fact that it is an unwritten, an undocumented philosophy. The question then becomes how one can succeed in resurrecting the philosophical doctrines and arguments of African thinkers. In Africa, philosophy can be found in the myths, proverbs, folk tales, and beliefs of the people. There are, however, enormous difficulties in understanding and interpreting them. The possibility of misunderstanding and misinterpretation is real; the possibility of wrongly attributing views is always there. One may undertake interviews and discussions with living traditional wise people in an attempt to overcome this difficulty, but one can never be sure that the conceptions or interpretations of the traditional elders are themselves not coloured by ideas and doctrines of Christianity or Islam* with which some of them are acquainted. (5)
Although some philosophical ideas can certainly be distilled from sources mentioned above and from discussions with traditional thinkers, a further difficulty arises in connecting isolated and sometimes unrelated ideas into a coherent system, even assuming the compatibility of those ideas. The scholar of African philosophy must pay attention to the logic of ideas, that is, the logical relations between them, draw inferences, and suggest explanations that introduce some order into the fragmentary and chaotic mass of discrete ideas. This exercise in logic, conceptual ordering, and theorising is not easy. It requires a great deal of experience in scholarship and textual analysis; it requires painstaking care; it presupposes a great deal of sustained interest and enthusiasm on the part of the scholar. Unless one's analytical interpretation is marked by such intellectual and dispositional virtues, one may not make much of it. (5)
5. Introducing Foreign Ideas and Concepts
The scholar of African traditional philosophy, who almost invariably was trained in a western philosophical environment and who perhaps cannot completely and immediately divorce him- or herself from that philosophical background, faces another difficulty viz. the possibility of introducing foreign ideas into the analyses, and thus understanding African philosophy through foreign eyes. This danger becomes more real when one considers that the scholar probably will be using a foreign language in interpreting and analysing African thought, a (foreign) language that is both structurally different from African language (in which the concepts originally occur) and that is rooted in the life of a rather different culture. (5)
6. Translating Concepts
The analysis in one language of concepts originally expressed in another language naturally involves translation. But in translation we are dealing not just with words but with concepts as well. It is the translation of concepts that gives rise to serious problems. This is a further difficulty: how does one deal with the diverse and sometimes incompatible views that emerge from interviews and discussions with traditional thinkers and from proverbs and other sources? These difficulties are not insurmountable nor are they peculiar to the study of an unwritten philosophy. The serious scholar should be able to study and present doctrines in African traditional philosophy as clearly and accurately as possible. (5)
The ideas of one conceptual system can be explicated in the language of another system. In explicating and analysing African concepts in a foreign language, a number of things need to be done. These include profound inquiry into the nature of the concept in both African language and the language which is to be used for translation; where a word has diverse or complex meanings, the necessary qualifications must be made; it may be necessary sometimes both to give reasons why a particular word is being used to translate another word, and to show one's awareness of the difficulties in translating a particular word. Even though these operations may not necessarily achieve complete success, they should ensure a high degree of correctness in our translation and thus our understanding. Thus, even though Akan (Yoruba) thought may in some respects be different in its concepts and doctrines from western philosophy, the differences are such as can be captured by the resources of a western language like English. The problem of translation therefore is not insurmountable. (5)
On the question of understanding and interpretation, the scholar should try to get at the inner meaning of the material in question. Even if one speaks the language of the thinkers whose philosophical ideas he is studying, one should pay particular attention to the philology and semantics of that language. On points of interpretation one should frequently consult not only with those known to be well versed in the nuances of the language, but also with the traditional thinkers about concepts expressed in the language and the designata of those concepts. How a thinker handles a concept expressed in the original language is an essential part of any attempt to interpret and appreciate that thought. The attempt to analyse, interpret, and present philosophical ideas unavoidably requires one to engage in supplying, within limits, "the missing links in thought" (5).
7. Unscrambling Indigenous Ideas from Christianity and Islam
Regarding the difficulty of getting at indigenous ideas in the light of Africa's historical contact with Christianity and Islam, it must be borne in mind that in every African community, there are certain individuals who are steeped in the traditional lore. These individuals are regarded as wise persons in their own right. They stand out in their own communities and command the respect and esteem of their townsfolk. Some of them have had no formal education at all; others have had some formal (Western) education, mostly through elementary school. While some may be Christians or churchgoers and so have some acquaintance with Christianity, all of them, in discussions, are able intellectually to distinguish between traditional conceptions and those of Christianity and of Islam as well. (5)
The scholar should also be constantly on guard against reading preconceived notions into a study of African thought. Consciousness of this pitfall will do much to ward off the temptation to analyse the ideas of African philosophy within a foreign conceptual framework.
8. Prejudicial Profiling of Africa and its Traditions
This search for deeper knowledge and understanding of Africa's traditions and leadership practices starts by looking into the people's group memory that stretches well beyond the first written word about Africa, its peoples and their ways. A mammoth task indeed. The magnitude of the task is compounded by scholastic rivalries that break out each time some essay or (quasi-) scientific paper or book is published about Africa.
Evidently, tenderfoot commentators on matters African need more than the proverbial intellectual thick skin. To be taken seriously by hardboiled Africanists (and their detractors), they need a crash course on competing schools of thought and their respective methodological approaches. They also need to acquaint themselves with important themes and trends that have emerged out of the post-1960s period of heightened African scholarship. In this regard, they can take comfort in the fact that the second half of the 20th century saw African scholarship and literature catching up with trends emanating from western and eastern cultures. By the close of the previous century, trends in African scholarship and literature had almost gone full circle.
Commenting on the status of African scholarship and literature, Jahn observes that Africa is entering world history. There is a flow of books and articles dealing with this process in its political, economic, sociological and psychological aspects. But all these expositions have in common a single conviction; they are all persuaded that one single pattern of cultural change is forming. Through the influence of Europe, it is believed, Africa is adapting herself, giving up her traditions and adopting foreign ideas, methods of work, forms of government and principles of economic organisation. (7)
The time of transition, whether short or long, is thought to be a time of crisis which confronts all Africans with the decision either to accept modern civilisation and survive, or to perish with their own traditions. Some observers believe in a gradual transition, and others in a sudden transition, but all are agreed that a fully Europeanised Africa will be the end product of the process. Europe is alleged to provide the model, Africa to copy it; Europe to be spiritually the giving, Africa the receiving partner. (7)
Since Europe is held to be the teacher and Africa the pupil, Europe is to decide when Africa is ripe: ripe for a faith, ripe for action, ripe for freedom. Europe is thought to know what is good for Africa, better than Africa herself. Admittedly, Europe offers different and rival doctrines - democracy or communism, Christianity or atheism - and in choosing between these the pupil may gain status for herself - a process which is usually regretted; yet this alters nothing in the general pattern. Whether Africa accepts the doctrines one recommends or those one warns her against, she must give up her own traditions: there are no other possibilities to be considered. (7)
The justification for this is that the age of technology has produced conditions from which it is no longer possible for any nation to escape. Therefore those who wish to give up hoe, machete, bow and arrow and to have combines and guns, must also give up healing by witchcraft, polygamy and 'superstition'; in short, they must give up their whole culture. If this argument is valid, then the pattern of African assimilation to Europe is valid also. But if it is not valid, and a third possibility is conceivable - if Africa can master modern technology yet retain a modified African culture - what then are all the prognoses and projects which fail to take this culture into consideration? Thus the question of the future of Africa becomes the question of the existence of Africa with its own culture. (7
Jahn contends Africa is the bedrock on which African leadership is founded. Our view is that, before we start analysing the nature, strengths and weaknesses of African leadership and its values, we have first to come to terms with the influence that African culture has had on the behaviour of African leaders and the nature, quality and performance of African leadership institutions. A review of African leadership becomes, in essence, a review of African history and development, culture and values, philosophy, identity and belief systems.
There are, indeed, no shortcuts and no 'two-pager' answers to questions about the nature and relevance of African leadership in contemporary African society. Such an analysis does not limit itself to so-called primitive African culture and leadership systems. On the contrary, the review of contemporary African leadership focuses on neo-African culture. This is a culture built on two components - the European component, which is generally known to most South Africans, and the traditional African component, which is a source of controversy or scepticism especially among the indigenous African elite.
Jahn posits the view that this needs justification, for it will be objected that there has never been a traditional African culture as a whole, but only a plurality of different 'primitive' cultures. This objection will be supported by various investigations of ethnologists. But the question of whether or not a plurality can also be understood as a unity is to a great extent one of interpretation. European research has always had the plurality in view and has scarcely noticed the common denominator. When it comes to the neo-African culture, it is the unity that is slightly stressed.
Jahn further states, it will be objected that this produces a false picture of the past, a myth instead of an objective picture of history. But this is the case with every history. Every age has a definite picture of all past events accessible to it, a picture peculiar to itself. Legend is not one of the forms, but rather the only form, in which we can imaginatively consider and relive history. All history is saga and myth, and as such the product of the state of our intellectual powers at a particular time: of our capacity for comprehension, the vigour of our imagination, our feeling for reality. The Africa presented by the ethnologist is a legend in which we used to believe. African tradition as it appears in the light of neo-African culture may also be a legend - but it is the legend in which African intelligence believes. And it is their perfect right to declare authentic, correct and true those components of their past which they believe to be so.
Moreover, if it is not objective, the conception of the tradition as it appears in the light of neo-African culture is nevertheless the only true one, since it is the one which will from now on determine the future of Africa. For several centuries Africa has had to suffer under the conception of the African past formed by Europe. As long as this was so, that European conception was 'true', that is to say effective. But the present and the future on the other hand will be determined by the conception that African intelligence forms of the African past. Neo-African culture appears as an unbroken extension, as the legitimate heir of tradition. Only where man feels himself to be heir and successor to the past has he the strength for a new beginning.
South Africans who stayed to fight the scourge of apartheid from within had little involvement in debates concerning the nature and profile of the post-colonial African state. Many were routinely incarcerated, maimed or killed for daring to think aloud about the prospects of a post-apartheid, democratic state. For the majority of black South Africans dreams about Pan-Africanism were safer unexpressed even within one's immediate family. Graduate and postgraduate students were encouraged to steer clear of political themes for their research topics. In the Apartheid State everything was political. It was, therefore, impossible for black people to relate to their children the history, philosophy, self-identity, or aspirations of their own tribe, ethnic or race group without risking being locked up for indulging in some treasonable offence. To the majority of black and white South Africans living under apartheid, Africa was some faraway place that had little or nothing similar to or to do with South Africa.
Given this mindset, generations of black and white South Africans grew up despising anything that came from or happened in Africa. For them, nothing good or better happened in Africa. Now that the apartheid nightmare has evaporated, many South Africans, black South Africans in particular, have to face the uphill task of learning to come to terms with the rest of Africa. More especially, they need to know and understand what it is they may have missed or gained during the decades of colonial and apartheid isolation. Further, they need to work out what or why it is that, whenever they engage with fellow Africans, they experience a sense of incompleteness. In other words, what makes them feel less African than other Africans? And what, if anything, do they need to do or not do in order to gain a sense of African wholeness?
One of the objectives of this project is to find suitable ways to help South Africans in general, and black South Africans in particular, to reconnect with African historical facts, cultural values and philosophy that have hitherto been presented as neither similar nor connected. This is important especially for those generations of black South Africans who grew up believing that they had more in common with African-Americans than with continental African communities to whom they remained tethered by geography, culture and history. Irrespective of levels of ignorance and literacy, South African black people have, over decades, held firmly to the belief that they have a history – one that binds them to the one common ancestor with Africans elsewhere in the continent.
Yet, many generations of black South Africans are poorly informed about how their particular community relates to its continental counterparts especially in the context of the pre-colonial era and the early contact with Europeans, slavery, colonial and neo-colonial periods. Apartheid and its impact on the cultural values and self-image of black South Africans complicate their attempts at building working relationships with fellow Africans. Africa's southward migration to the post-apartheid economic powerhouse creates immense psychological, social and economic strains on African leaders and their attempts to, finally, realize the centuries-old Pan-African dream.
9. Uncomplimentary Positioning of Africa and the African Mind
The battle for Africa (and Africanity) (6) is in a new and more difficult phase than during colonialism, more difficult because in the earlier phase the lines were clearly drawn, and the choices were simple – submission to alien rule or insistence on self-determination. The enemy was also easily identifiable; he was a foreigner and an oppressor. Now the issues are not so clear-cut and the adversary not so easily apparent. The enemy is not necessarily foreign, and his rhetoric is often patriotic and bolstered with concern, undoubtedly genuine, for "development", or scientific and technological advancement.
The scrutiny of the essence of African leadership must pay particular attention to the observations, admonitions and criticisms that African and Africanist scholars have made in analytic projects of this type.
10. Historical Romance and Prejudice
As they take a fresh look at what has been written about Africa's history, South Africans will do well to align themselves with the school(s) of thought whose approach and assumptions reflect accurately or sympathetically their position throughout the continent's history i.e. from the proto-historic era through the episodic periods characterized by slavery, colonial conquest and the post-colonial and apartheid era. Contemporary historiographers and a variety of commentators have, to date, exposed as romantic conjecture, racist and prejudicial, the foundations of most influential history books produced by western writers and explorers on Africa. Davidson agrees that the credibility of many of these anthologies has since foundered on the rocks of prejudice and the whirlpool of romance. (8)
Those who have gone down in the whirlpool of romance are of two kinds. Some have thought it wise and necessary to fill their charts of the African past with tales of Sheba and Ophir, of strange Phoenicians building cities in Rhodesia and mysterious peoples "from the north" who came and stayed but they vanished altogether.* These are the modern versions, to vary the metaphor, of bearded monsters and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders; and a better understanding of the subject is gently but firmly erasing them from the map. Other romantics, moved by a sentiment that may be more generous but is no more scientific, have come to grief through writing "high civilisations" into Africa's past where evidence for them is entirely lacking. On the opposite side there are those who have shipwrecked themselves on the rocks of prejudice: the rock, in this case, of unremitting scepticism. It is an old and hoary rock, mute and menacing, covered with the debris of sad reputations. (8)
McLynn (9) notes that Africa remains the focus for the fanciful imaginations of non-Africans. 'Africa will always be the Africa of the Victorian atlas, the blank unexplored continent the shape of the human heart.' The African heart so described by Graham Greene acquired a new layer of meaning when Joseph Conrad portrayed the Congo under King Leopold as a heart of darkness, a place where barbarism triumphs over humanity, nature over technology, biology over culture, id over superego.
11. Africa seen as a "Continent without a Past"
Graham Connah (10) remarks that four decades ago, Grahame Clarke characterized Africa as a continent that had already during Late Pleistocene times slipped far behind in the race of progress. Such a view at best seems quaint and dated, at worst Eurocentric and prejudiced. This view was indicative not only of the lack of research into Africa's later past but also of an attitude that still exists, at least in the public mind, in many parts of the world outside Africa. In terms of its perceived backward or static image, particularly prevalent around the 1960s, Africa was to be denied parts of itself, its northern extremes being regarded as more Mediterranean than African and Egypt being thought of as more Near-Eastern. In the view of some European historians, however, there was not really anything to remember.
Returning to writers of the early twentieth century, Davidson (11) observes that Georg Hegel - most notably - claimed that Africa had no history prior to direct contact with Europe. Therefore Africans, having made no history of their own, had clearly made no development of their own. Therefore they were not properly human, and could not be left to themselves, but had to be 'led' towards civilization by other people: that is, by the people of Europe and most particularly of Britain and France.
Typically, these myths projected the picture of an Africa inhabited by 'grown-up children' by beings who, in the words of the famous nineteenth century explorer Richard Burton, might be normal when children, but regressed ever backwards once they reached adulthood. Now this was a picture, aside from its inherent absurdity, that denied all previous European understanding of Africa and its peoples. Previous European scholars knew that the foundations of European civilization derived from classical Greek civilization. That scholarship further accepted what the Greeks had laid down as patently obvious: that classical Greek civilization derived, in its region, its philosophy, its mathematics and much else, from the ancient civilizations of Africa, above all from Egypt of the Pharaohs. To those 'founding fathers' in classical Greece, any notion that Africans were inferior, morally or intellectually, would have seemed merely silly. (11)
In a number of his books on Africa, Davidson* has repeatedly pointed out how western historians and writers have deliberately and over centuries twisted Africa's historical facts to support their prejudiced viewpoints about Africa's perceived inferiority. These writers subscribed, from the onset, to the myth of "hamitic superiority" based on an imaginary early African people who had a "white" morphology which was linked with Caucasian stocks that produced most Europeans. The imagined superiority of hamite over negro – read white over black – has been, and sometimes still is, what Mr. Justice Holmes called "the inarticulate major premise". The Hamites were believed to have been more creative and more adaptable than their more inferior negro compatriots.(11)
Time and again the achievements of men in Africa – men of Africa – have been laid at the door of some mysterious but otherwise unexplained "people from outside Africa".* Whenever anything remarkable or inexplicable has turned up in Africa, a whole galaxy of non-African peoples are dragged in to explain it. Given such a mind-set, it is no surprise that some Europeans should have tried so desperately to attribute the achievements of African people to non-Africans. The Phoenicians are brought in to explain Zimbabwe; the Egyptians are produced as painters of the "white lady" of the Brandberg (Namibia); Greeks or Portuguese are paraded as the inspirers and teachers of those who worked the terracotta and in bronze in medieval west Africa; and Arab colonists are credited with the founding of Swahili cities. (11)
Such views still had currency in the early 1960s when the gates of a South African prison closed on Nelson Mandela. But when at last he walked free, in 1990, those views were under wide attack even in white South Africa itself. In a crucial restoration of Africa's history, the scholarship of the second half of the twentieth century had proceeded from 'what is near', as al-Buruni recommended a thousand years ago, to 'what is distant', and had done this with such success that a reliable outline of Africa's history was available even for remote times, and with clarity and precision from the fifteenth century onward. And this has proved to be a history of development, of self-development, from one level of achievement to another. (11)
Now, every one of these achievements and phenomena is presented as having a purely African origin. The problems of backwardness and progress – even when and where they really exist – cannot be explained along these simple lines. They cannot be explained along any racial lines. Environment, not race, provides the key. And that is why it will be found that even when African peoples have taken much from outside, at different times and places, their process of borrowing – whether of techniques or beliefs – has always undergone an adaptation, through environment and circumstance, into societies and cultures and civilisations which became specifically and uniquely African. Achievement and failure can be traced to the same complex and endlessly interesting source: the interplay of men and their environment. (11)
Nelson Mandela's liberation from prison was received as a moment of affirmation in the record of Africa's history, which has long been one of subjection to foreign powers. It was a moment of celebration of Africa's self-development, of Africa's indigenous history prior to that subjection. Specifically it was a moment to recall that the facts of Africa's own history have always been, and remain, an entirely convincing denial of the mythologies of median racism, in the name of whose lies and legends so many have suffered persecution in South Africa, as in the entire continent. The history of racist persecution is an old one. In a less critical tone, Connah asserts that, quite understandably, African scholars now regard such ideas as the result of blatant racism, but ignorance and stupidity were probably more important. (11)
12. Discarding the Antiquated Racist Mindset
One of the fundamental problems confronting post-apartheid South African scholars and commentators revolves around the need to look at issues outside the context of apartheid. An impossible task, given the ubiquitous phenomenon that apartheid was and, to a large extent, remains. It is still an unavoidable fact of daily life among all segments of South African society. Caught in the euphoric glare of Africa's 'miracle democracy', black and white South Africans profess – to one another's face at least – that they have rid themselves of apartheid's bad habits. Yet a cursory look at the values of apartheid-bequeathed institutions and South Africans' view of and relations with their continental brothers and sisters contradict these otherwise non-racial surface pronouncements. We argue that, given their recent past history, South African scholars, commentators and observers alike cannot be relied on to conduct scholarly analysis without the risk of being influenced or wrong-footed by views and values that were entrenched – over decades – by an apartheid way of work and life.
One of the observations made during 1960s by both historians and Africanist scholars including Jahn (7) dealt with the emergence of a post-colonial African elite whose circumstances and values were referred to as 'hybrids' or 'skokians'* which, in reality, are new forms taken neither from the European nor the African tradition. Similarly, in Malinowski's view, all new objects, facts and forms of life in Africa are the results of European pressure and African resistance. Even African nationalism, which invokes and revives an African culture is, according to Malinowski, nothing but 'skokian': the African, he believes, is seduced by the enticements of western civilisation, and accepts new forms of life. His ultimate aim is to be 'if not European, then at least a master or part master of some of the devices, possessions and influences which in his eyes constitute European superiority'.
Fanon's (7)explanation is that, psychologically, the majority of Afro-Americans are ill, and he shows how they react to the terrible spiritual pressure placed on them. One group wants to become white, to liberate itself from the burdensome memory that a more highly pigmented skin represents. The others seek their salvation in the acquisition of the African heritage of which they have been deprived. Through an emotional stimulus a conscious step is taken - the first step into neo-African culture. The emotional need, admittedly, is for an intoxicant - 'skokian'- yet when it is voluntarily sought it produces an attitude that is of interest to us here as the approach to neo-African culture.
The 'living experience of the black' which Frantz Fanon so vividly portrays, exhibits two facts. It is a fact that whites think they are better than blacks. And it is also a fact that blacks want at any price to prove to whites that their thought life is just as rich, their intellect as powerful. As long as one tries to produce this proof by seeking in African culture values which correspond exactly to the standards valid for European culture, one is bound to fail. But if one measures values by the standards proper to African culture, the question of valuation is shown to be falsely put, since there is no universal standard for the evaluation of cultures. According to its own standard - who does not know this? Every culture is superior to every other. (7)
13. Non-Indigenous Informational Sources and Borrowed Skills
According to Connah (10) the history of Africa is a neglected subject, not only because the evidence is thin, but also because such a variety of skills is necessary to master what evidence there is. The written sources of African history are in English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Afrikaans, Amharic, Greek, Latin and ancient Egyptian, to name only the most important. The unwritten lore of pre-colonial times must be recovered from peoples speaking some six or seven hundred other languages. This early recognition that the study of the later African past must involve written sources, oral traditions, and the interpretation of archaeological data, is most important. At the brink of the twenty-first century, a surprising number of scholars are still clinging to the concepts of the nineteenth. Static images take a long time to get rid of. Times are changing, however, and it is most encouraging to find evidence of a growing tendency to abandon epochalistic terminology and the concepts that gave rise to it. (10)
According to Davidson (11), another legacy of the static image has been the extent to which writers about the later African past have used diffusion from external sources as an explanation for culture change. It would be unrealistic to claim that diffusion did not occur to some extent during the last few millennia in Africa, just as it also occurred in other parts of the world, but it seems most unlikely that it was the major cause of change as was previously thought. It is now being realized that indigenous developments within the African continent were a far more significant factor than external influences, important though these sometimes were. Perhaps also arising from the old static image was a tendency to compartmentalize the later African past. For example, there was the prehistoric past, the ethnohistorical past, the historical past, and the ethnographic 'present' (often at some distance in the past). In the new and more dynamic approach to the later African past, there seems to be a more seamless view of the past. It is nonetheless already possible to know a great deal about African history.
Whether in the field of scientific archaeology, the study of languages or the movement of ideas, the assembly of historical tradition or the elucidation of records written by Africans, Europeans, Asians and Americans, fruitful labour and learning in several countries over the past few decades have produced a large body of explanatory work, and have proved that the writing of African history need be neither the repetition of romantic legend nor the mere listing of faceless names and battles long ago. (11)
These historical advances have swept away some old myths and established some new truths. The seductively agreeable belief so dear to nineteenth century Europe that all in Africa was savage chaos before the coming of the Europeans may linger here and there but among historians concerned with Africa. The happy conviction of European conquerors that they were bringing civilization to Africans against whom the Gates of Eden had barely closed may still have its adherents, yet not among those who have looked at the evidence. Far from being a museum of barbarism whose populations have stayed outside the laws of human growth and change through some natural failing or inferiority, Africa is now seen to possess a history which demands as serious an approach as that of any other continent. What we now have, more and more clearly, is the moving forth of a broad and vivid process of human development. (11)
IV. ENDURING AFRICAN PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS AND IDEAS
Jahn (7) states that after surveying the fifty years of modern African literature, we may say that it began with the rejection of the African tradition and the emphasis on Christianity, but turned further and further away from Christianity, and has now returned to the African way of thinking.
1. The Concept of Africa as an Indivisible, Single Cultural Region
Davidson (11) argues that a rigid dividing of Africa into historical regions can be useful for purposes of detailed study; it will no longer satisfy a balanced view of the past. For while it is true that the Sahara has long placed a barrier between northern Africa and the rest of the continent, and that the great rain forests, further south, have sometimes proved to be a great barrier in relation to central-southern Africa, it is also true that all these regions really belong together, and that what is particular to each of them is general to them all in their foundation and emergence. So there can be little more sense in studying southern Africa in separation from central and northern Africa than in trying to understand northern Europe apart from central and southern Europe. This is not to deny the obvious fact that some of Africa's large regions have developed in ways distinct from the other regions.
Most people tend to view with scepticism the accusation that colonial boundaries have "balkanised" Africa. The scepticism is an indication of the extent to which we have imbibed colonial propaganda which portrayed pre-colonial Africa as a collection of isolated tribes, engaged in regular internecine war, and that it was colonialism that "pacified" and unified these tribes into the various states of modern Africa. Even otherwise radical critics of colonial rule are inclined to concede, or take for granted, pacification and unification as unquestionable virtues of colonialism. The argument is that colonial rule attempted to break down the isolating walls of tribalism in Africa, that it created larger socio-economic horizons, built roads, bridges, railways and markets, and bequeathed supra tribal states which the postcolonial African leaders were tearing apart through incurable tribalism and sheer ineptitude. On what grounds then do we accuse colonialism of being a divisive force in Africa? Are there any historical bases for claiming a unity of African cultures? (11)
The study of African history since the end of World War II, culminating in the UNESCO General History of Africa (12), has shown how very misleading the colonial picture is. In place of isolated tribes unified by colonial boundaries, historians now see a pre-colonial Africa in which cultural frontiers, being nowhere factors of human divide, tended to unite rather than divide neighbours all across the continent. That these cultures, through change and adaptation, have proved resilient and are even today, in spite of the colonial boundaries, still exercising a pull towards unity.
The foundation of African cultural unity lies in the nature of the continent which has provided the geographical context within which African cultures have been formed and developed. Africa provides a number of different ecological zones, with innumerable variations both at local and regional levels. Within each zone, there are variations arising from differences in rainfall, heights, soil formations, human pressure and other factors. These variations over the centuries have facilitated differences in the means and modes of production, and specializations in agricultural produce, crafts, minerals and manufactured goods. These in turn have encouraged exchange, barter and interaction. These varieties of ecological zones have themselves been changing and so have the different African peoples been adapting to the environment and at the same time modifying it in their means and modes of production. (13)
But it needs to be emphasised that these different zones merge one into the other. There are no insuperable human barriers within the continent. Over the centuries, different channels of communication have been developed linking different parts of the Maghreb with the Nile Valley; the Nile Valley and headwaters of the Nile with Eastern and Central Africa, as with the western Sudan; so also the Maghreb with the western Sudan, and the forest belt of west Africa across the Cameroon mountains with the grasslands and forests of the Congo/Zaire basin, and with Southern Africa. From archaeological and linguistic studies, and the oral traditions of various peoples preserved in group memory and handed down over the ages, we know enough about population movements on the continent to say that the geography of the continent has provided the base for the unity of African cultures. (13)
J. F. Ade Ajayi (14) Every African group has traditions of origin often involving stories of migration. If these are taken too literally, you will get a false picture of perpetual and unceasing movement of groups which may be just as false as the picture of isolated tribes painted by colonialists. There have also been significant migrations in African history. Similarly we know, largely from linguistic studies, that Bantu languages were originally spoken in the Cross River basin, and that they spread fairly rapidly from there to Central and Southern Africa, largely in the first millennium A.D.
This spread is associated with population movements due to the rise of iron technology, the planting of new crops, and the spread of new types of cattle. We also know from recorded traditions and linguistic studies about the invasion of Africa by Arab groups from the seventh century onwards, initially as rulers and propagators of Islam. Under the impact of Islam, Arabic language and culture also spread over wide areas of Africa, replacing some earlier languages, and leaving strong semitic influences on others. This immigration of Arabic culture has provided some unities of its own, but has not destroyed the underlying unity of African cultures generally. (14)
Ajayi asserts that Africans have rejected the old dichotomy by which anthropologists used to divide African societies into those with states and those without. We understand states to mean sovereign governments within defined boundaries, and we are not aware of any African peoples that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries lacked defined territorial claims or failed to recognise some ultimate sovereign power. The jurisdiction of some states was small, sometimes no larger than a village group or clan; in others the jurisdiction covered wide areas and several peoples. In some, power was centralised in the person of a king or chief, with or without a council; in others, power was diffused with the council of elders, cult priests, lineage heads, heads of age-group associations and other exercising different authorities - in a relatively informal, often democratic manner. (14)
Nowhere in Africa were there no authorities deciding war and peace, allocation of land and other economic resources, regulating festivals and other religious matters, marriage and family affairs, markets and so on. Rather than think of states and stateless societies, we should conceive of two models of government at two poles, centralised and non-centralised, with a continuum of patterns of authorities in between. (14)
According to the historical development and modes of production in response to the ecology, some centralised states have grown into empires and then collapsed during succession disputes. And dissolved into smaller states maintaining a balance in the competition for land. Other non-centralised states, in periods of prosperity, then perhaps arising from the invention of a new technique or the cultivation of a new crop, expanded their populations and exploited such new technologies to break through the existing balance, dominate their neighbours and establish centralised states with a hierarchy of officials. (14)
For the majority of African peoples, basic economic life depended on the exploitation of land resources at the local level, and this was effectively managed by authorities within the lineage. Higher authorities provided mainly security in return for tribute. Even in the most centralised of states, power remained comparatively diffused. Most people pursued their economic, social and cultural lives with little interference from "government." Cutting across government were age-grade associations, marriage alliances, long-distance trading and other networks of communications. Sometimes it was not certain whether some particular groups were subject to kings and empires claiming rights over them. Some paid tribute to two rival sovereigns just to buy peace. (14)
What we are trying to highlight is that it was not only the geography of Africa, but also the nature of African societies that provided no lines of human divide throughout the continent. The states, kingdoms, empires and peoples never had defined boundaries as such. At any given period, each had territorial claims which it tried to sustain but even these were not static. What existed were cultural frontiers between linguistic groupings, with various other channels of communication and various solidarity contracts cutting across. Thus, when the colonial powers came and were seeking out these frontiers as a basis for establishing colonial boundaries, they had an impossible task. Yet the essential truths and probabilities yielded by research over the past few decades repeatedly insist on two great underlying themes, manifest or hidden, concerning all African development, no matter what the region may be. These themes are unity and continuity of cultural growth among them all, and from an immense depth of time. (14)*
2. Harmony in African Conceptions and Traditional Thought
When we say that the traditional African view of the world is one of extraordinary harmony, then except for the word 'African' every single word in the sentence
is both right and wrong. For in the first place the traditional world view is still alive today; secondly it is a question not of a world view in the European sense, since things that are contemplated, experienced and lived are not separable in it; thirdly
it can be called extraordinary only in the European sense, while for the African it is entirely commonplace; and fourth, the expression ' harmony' is entirely inadequate, since it does not indicate what parts are being harmonized in what whole. And if we
say 'everything' is harmonized, that tells us less than ever. 'Everything' cannot be imagined, nor can we say in a few words what it means. (14)
Adebayo Adesanya (7), a Yoruba writer, found a pretty formulation to characterize briefly the harmony of African conceptions. This is not simply a coherence of fact and faith, nor of reason and traditional beliefs, nor of reason and contingent facts, but a coherence or compatibility among all the disciplines. A medical theory, for example, which contradicted a theological conclusion was rejected as absurd and vice versa. This demand of mutual compatibility among all the disciplines considered as a system was the main weapon of Yoruba thinking. God might be banished from Greek thought without any harm being done to the logical architecture of it, but this cannot be done in the case of the Yoruba.
In medieval thought, science could be dismissed at pleasure, but this is impossible in the case of Yoruba thought, since faith and reason are mutually dependent. In modern times, God even has no place in scientific thinking. This was impossible to the Yorubas since from the Olodumare an architectonic of knowledge was built in which the finger of God is manifest in the most rudimentary elements of nature. Philosophy, theology, politics, social theory, land law, medicine, psychology, birth and burial, all find themselves logically concatenated in a system so tight that to subtract one item from the whole is to paralyse the structure of the whole.' (7)
The unity of which Adesanya is speaking here holds not only for Yoruba thought, but presumably also for the whole of traditional thinking in Africa, for African philosophy as such. This systematic unity of views and attitudes that often appear irreconcilable in European terms has indeed been observed by European scholars, but has led to serious misunderstandings. Since it could not be accommodated to European systems of thought, the African way of thinking was considered non-logical. Levy-Bruhl (7) called the attitude of the primitives ' pre-logical' – a term by which he meant to characterize a kind of thought which does not refrain from inner self-contradiction, a kind of thought in consequence of which objects, beings and phenomena can be, in a fashion unintelligible to us, both themselves and at the same time something other than themselves. At the end of his life Levy-Bruhl renounced his theory of 'prelogicism' and thus furnished a rare example of scholarly integrity. In his posthumous notes he asks himself how he could ever have conceived so ill-founded an hypothesis, and he comes to the conclusion that the logical structure of the human mind is the same in all men.
Levy-Bruhl's insight and recantation, however, left a gap. Till then Europeans had been able to subsume whatever was unintelligible to them under such vague headings as 'pre-logical' or, 'mystical'; now there was no longer any system at their disposal to make the unintelligible intelligible to the non-African. So research workers buried themselves in useful investigations of special subjects and avoided every sort of generalization. But now there have appeared a small series of systematic presentations from particular, strictly limited areas, each of which reveals to us the material for and the possibility of seeking their common denominator. (7>)
3. Continuity and Innovation in African Thought
Another perspective of the historian that needs emphasizing is the dynamic factor in African societies. In the process of earning their living and raising their families, there was not only an ability to interact and exchange but also of constant adaptation and innovation. We need to emphasise this because in the false colonial picture of Africa the tribe was not only isolated but also endowed with an unchanging culture, and therefore without history since change is of the essence of history. Even those who have learnt to accept that African cultures had been changing still insist that European colonialism brought a different order of change. They therefore erect a false dichotomy between Traditional and Modern Africa, with colonial rule marking the dividing line. (14)
Such a dichotomy is false because it assumes that African societies lost their dynamism on the coming of colonial rule, while ignoring the continuities with the past. In the dialectics of change, we must emphasise not only innovation but also continuity. This is as true of the various changes involved in the population movements referred to above, as in the colonial experience. In every case of revolution, conversion, modernisation, etc, we need to explore what is old, how it has been adapted, and what is entirely new. Thus we find that pre-colonial African cultures have responded to the impasse of colonialism not through extinction, but through adaptation and continuities with remarkable resilience. The perpetual confrontation between the modern and the traditional featured in some novels may be good literature because of the drama involved. It may also represent reality at the personal level, and in the short run. The historical reality must however also emphasise the innumerable compromises and adaptations and conflict resolutions, the dynamic factors which recognise in man, each man, neither traditional nor modern, but just man, a product of history and the constant adaptation and innovation.
In particular, we need to emphasise that colonialism did not and could not have meant a sudden and complete transference of loyalties, values and expectation from the pre-colonial cultures to the new states. Neither colonialism nor the post-colonial new states have so far succeeded in dissolving ethnicity. The pre-colonial polity, linguistic or cultural group, not the new nations, has remained the basis of solidarity contracts in Africa. This is not to deny that the nature of ethnicity itself has been changing. The definition of what is an ethnic group in each particular case has varied according to the changing needs of those who wish to exploit the ethnic sentiment. What is clear is that the modern state with its precise boundaries, foreign inspired laws and judicial procedures, new basis of election and representation, has so far failed to displace ethnicity in the instinctive loyalties of people.
What we call ethnicity or traditional culture, which implies continuities from the past within a dynamic context, has been and remains the instrument of survival from the pressures both of colonial and neo-colonial external factors, as of the injustices and inadequacies of the post-colonial state. Witness the continued vitality of the so-called traditional institutions and how often we have recourse to them in our search for identity and legitimacy, and for channels of communication between the modern state and the masses of the people. Witness also the current revival of traditional religions and cultural values throughout Africa. (14)
This vitality may be due as much to the resilience of our pre-colonial cultures as to the failings of the modern states; or, more specifically, our failure to recognise this resilience and harness it to our development strategies. In particular, the boundaries of the new states have so far failed to become lines of human divide. As in pre-colonial times, a network of ethnic, social, religious and economic relationships cut across every African boundary. Most of the time, our governments ignore this network. There are no mechanisms for coping with the movement of migrant workers and refugees following pre-colonial channels of communication across the borders. The considerable amount of trade, euphemistically referred to as smuggling or trading in the informal sector, remains a problem for those planning the economy of every African country, currency exchange exercises not excepted. (14)
Ajayi states that the argument, here, is not that there is one single African culture. The evidence so far is that in the evolution of man, the transition from hominids to homo sapiens, first took place in Africa. This does not mean that all world cultures resulted from that single breakthrough. The same development could have taken place at a number of other centres. Even in Africa, in the evolution of settled societies in the late Stone Age, several cultures and languages must have evolved. Among the oldest are the Khoisan cultures of Central and Southern Africa. It is still not clear whether the Negro who has now become predominant evolved within Africa or came in from Southeast Asia via Madagascar. But from what we know of developments since historical times, mobility, contact and exchange were far more typical of African cultures than isolation. Similarly, dynamic change and adaptation were more characteristic than the unchanging balance of man and nature pictured in colonial books of anthropology. (14)
The geography of the continent facilitated mobility, contact and exchange. The nature of African societies was such that cultural frontiers developed more as points of contact between neighbours than as lines of human divide. There thus developed a network of channels and institutions of communication, cutting across political frontiers. This is the historical basis for the unity claimed for African cultures. It is this historical basis and the resilience of pre-colonial African cultures that provide the cultural foundation of possible African unity. (14)
Closer to home, historians, archaeologists and anthropologists as well as different classes of Africanist intellectuals and academics have had numerous disagreements over the form and structure of leadership that, centuries ago, presided over such great empires as Mapungubwe and Dzimbahwe or Zimbabwe. Time and space do not allow us to feature a comprehensive review of the issues, trends and developments as well as controversies surrounding the types of traditional leaderships which existed at Mapungubwe and Dzimbahwe. We feature, however, material borrowed from Ken Mufuka's book Dzimbahwe: Life and Politics in the Golden Age 100-1500 A. D.
4. Leadership and Succession in the Dzimbahwe Empire
The next few paragraphs present a review of approaches to leadership and succession at the height of the Dzimbahwe (Zimbabwe) empire. The review is based on the work of Ken Mufuka (30) and his associates – J. Nemarai and K. Muzvidzwa. Mufuka's review starts with an acknowledgment of the premise that in nature all men are born equal and that treated with goodwill, mercy and compassion, all men should respond in a positive manner. At the risk of playing into the hands of racists, Mufuka proposes that Africans at Great Zimbabwe had a different concept of leadership from, say, that of Europeans. This concept was crucial to the development of their personalities and their great civilisation. Mufuka argues that, in fact, every succession created a crisis and a threat that posed the possibility of suicidal fratricide. And yet, African society, mindful of these centrifugal forces, was geared towards unity at all costs, even to the exclusion of individual freedom. Prior to discussing the details of leadership and actual succession, Mufuka dealt with the concept of individualism and corporate responsibility in Shona society.
Mufuka maintains that the Shona, perhaps more than industrialised peoples, were aware of the precariousness of life, death, disease, natural hazards and even outside threats. The pressure towards interdependence was overwhelming. The family stood together and the tribe did likewise. The desire for each man to identify himself with his people is another reason for conformity. If each has to depend on the other, peace is more likely to reign in the group when all have more or less the same activities and interests. Mufuka believed that Michael Gelfand had a good grasp of the crux of the Shona society. The idea that one person may wish to have a different life-style, more material goods than others or may wish to be a recluse is unthinkable. Deviation from the norm was severely punished and frowned upon. Witchcraft was a force in favour of conformity where everything else failed. Accusation of witchcraft was equivalent to an accusation of treason and had equally disastrous results.
The dependence of man on man is exemplified by ritual friendship (usahwira). The family group can be depended on to give support to an individual, whether right or wrong. In political struggles, this can produce intractable results. A man may however wish for unwavering support from an outsider, who also is capable of an impartial view. But it seems that the deciding factor is that this is a tried and loyal friend whom he knows will never let him down, who will stand by him at all hours of need and who will never doubt his cause up to the last of his life. Three motifs are significant. It is expected that 'activities' and 'interests' are congruent with those of one's neighbour. This excludes a plural society. Secondly, the friend and even the ritual relative (vemutupo) will stand by their man, right or wrong. Thirdly, the Karanga are not greedy nor do they want to be the best or cleverest in the world. This philosophy does not make for dynamism. It is this greed, dynamism and rugged individualism on which European capitalism was based.
Mufuka contends that Africans who have lived in the white man's world are bound to agree with Gelfand's observation that in European society there are no such device(s) or mechanism(s). Among Europeans true and absolute friendships are few and far between.
According to Mufuka, the critical element in Karanga society usually creates a crisis response out of all proportion to what was intended. Mufuka acknowledges the work of J.F. Holeman who provided a classical example which contrasts European and Shona approaches to issues which influence leadership Shona leadership behaviour and experience. To advance his case, Mufuka recounts the story of Chipanduka, who brought an allegation against Swikepi of the group. When Chipanduka had rested his case against Swikepi, Nemadziva as a representative of the moyo group replied: 'Listen how they accuse me… they say that I am guilty'. Nemadziva was not the accused, but he saw himself as a personification of the moyo group and responsible for the wrongful action of its members. Swikepi on his part wanted the matter postponed because he could not speak without (his) sons. When his vaHera sons presented themselves, he asked them 'did I speak well?' The lesson is very obvious: an innocent criticism against an action of an individual could very easily be translated as an indictment of the whole group.
Mufuka cites another incident that occurred during the reign of Munembire Mudadi. The incident revolves around a case of promiscuity, which attained a position of cause celebre out of all proportion to its effect on society. A young warrior in Chikanga's territory (Manicaland) fell in love with a girl. Marriage deliberations were unduly prolonged. The young warrior, unsympathetic to the bureaucratic delays caused by protocol, made the girl pregnant. Under normal circumstances, the boy would have been forced to marry and the case forgotten. The girl, however, was related to Munembire Mudadi since she came from the king's mother's family. The king took an interest in the misdemeanour, thus raising it to the level of treason. The young man was called to Dzimbahwe. 'Why did you vomit your dirt in my mother's womb?' the king asked.
As Mufuka points out, there is a need to note that the young woman was only related to the king's mother but obviously the king did not differentiate between his mother and her cousin. To the father of the boy, the next question was equally fearful. 'Why did you allow your bull into my mother's hut?' Again, for the father of the boy to argue that he did not do so was inadmissible. The king obviously thought that the behaviour of the son was inseparable from that of the father. In this case, all the men in that young warrior's family were sentenced to death.
According to Mufuka, the foregoing incident raises the question whether the Shona 'constitution' is more conscious of corporate responsibility in human affairs than other groups. Mufuka asserts that, on the whole, it is known that the behaviour of individual members of the royal family in Great Britain is the concern of the monarchy and may cause damage to that institution as a whole. This also applies to members of the family of the president of the United States. However, what seems peculiar to the Shona-Karanga 'constitution' is that people who knew nothing of a particular crime or misdemeanour could actually feel guilty and accept punishment, including death, on other people's behalf. This shows an acute sense of social responsibility, over and above that created by western Christian charity.
Mufuka posits that if his analysis of European society is correct, a third party may offer restitution for wrong done by someone else without acceptance of the guilt. In this case, the father of the young warrior turned to his son and said, 'our behaviour has condemned us'. According to Mufuka, it is noteworthy that the father was not referring his remark to the king who had passed sentence but to his own son. It is also interesting that the father included himself in the crime, using the words 'we have condemned ourselves'. This acute sense of corporate responsibility raises serious problems of identity in African politics. Since the individual has no identity apart from that of the group, the initial reaction to criticism is likely to be in the form of group defence. It seems sufficient for Europeans to disassociate themselves from the actions of say Adolf Hitler. It seems much more difficult for Africans to disassociate themselves from the actions of Idi Amin of Uganda. The 'corporate' sense seems much more dominant in the African 'constitution' than the 'individualistic' stance. The reverse would be true of European society.
Mufuka maintains that it is, however, obvious that there is a very strong identification between the leader and the people so that the actions of one reflect on the other, along the lines of corporate responsibility. Criticism should be expressed in a hushed tone within the family but not openly. In the first case, Nemadziva was alarmed to hear that one of his own children had pressed charges. He said that it was bitter to see at the end of his life that a child of his family would be so bold as to accuse his own father in open court. For his part, he would say no more and he sat aside, closing his eyes.
In Mufuka's view, the melodrama of such events is lost in the English translation. Against this assertion, Mufuka boldly proposes the view that one of the first principles of African leadership is that it is organised along the family line. The leader assumes the role of father figure. For a member of that family to voice criticism of the leadership of that family, openly or to outsiders, is viewed by the leader as very similar to extreme disloyalty. Extreme disloyalty is a crime with very well defined punishments. The Shona leader is seen in the context of a father figure. Therefore, no-one in the political family can raise his voice in anger or in criticism of the leader's actions. A further complication is that even though the Shona often distinguished between the dislike of the wrongful actions and the dislike of the person, in actual fact, the difference was non-existent. The exchange of critical ideas was never formalised because a persistent critic could be identified with the anti-corporate body.
Mufuka also notes that the genius of the English was to create a body within the body politic known for its loyal opposition. This is obviously a contradiction in terms. The ad hominem approach to criticism is not peculiar to the Shona-Karanga. The Romans gave it that name. However, Mufuka posits that it seems to be very acutely felt in that society because that the various concepts discussed earlier are not clearly separated in this society. Mufuka cites a twentieth century example of an African society in which Albertinah Luthuli, the daughter of the Nobel peace prize winner, the late chief Luthuli, publicly criticised chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in September 1982. Her criticism was based on the assertion that while chief Buthelezi co-operated with the South African racist regime, her late father would not have done so. A simple enough argument.
Using the ad hominem approach, chief Buthelezi replied saying that it was 'painful' to have to answer to a little girl. 'I knew her as a child in her father's house, and I have great respect for everything chief Luthuli did.' Chief Buthelezi implied that she was guilty of extreme disloyalty when he detailed his good works towards her. 'I could afford to see (her) when I was in London. I could afford to correspond with her. Moreover, I could afford to put other things aside and to accede to her request to appeal on her behalf to Pretoria to allow her to return to South Africa. 'In addition there was such 'a warmth' of feeling between chief Buthelezi and chief Luthuli's family which had been now disturbed by the little girl's criticism.
Mufuka observes that while chief Buthelezi did not address himself to the charge levelled against him, he however, proved or tried to prove that the 'little girl should not litter the surroundings of a tree which once gave (her) shade'. In other words, Luthuli's daughter was not qualified to voice criticism against a man who was held warmly by her father and mother and who had done so much for her family. The implication is that in Zulu society, as well as in medieval Shona society, a subject who once received favours (or his parents) from the leader could not voice open criticism of that leader without being accused of extreme disloyalty.
According to Mufuka, the rules of succession seem to aggravate the situation. The Shona at Great Zimbabwe followed a system of Delphic succession. Briefly, the king was not succeeded by his eldest son but by a son from a collateral family. If there were five collateral families, all of them were allowed to press their case. Let us begin at the death of the Mwene-mutapa. The Mwene-mutapa was supposed to be without blemish, deformity or infirmity. If he developed any of these qualities, he would live under seclusion until such time as his demise was artificially brought about. There is therefore within this doctrine a belief that the leader must be strong.
As he grows older, his infirmities are hushed up and he lives in perpetual fear of rivals to the leadership. Being the son of the king or a possible contender to the leadership is not the surest way to a long life. Mufuka says it seems that the threat posed by these young upstarts applies to most African kingdoms that he and others have studied – in addition to that at Great Zimbabwe. For instance, Mzilikazi, king of the Ndebele, suffered defeat at the hands of the Boers around 1836. His eldest son proved his leadership qualities by uniting those portions of the tribe that had been scattered. When eventually the son, Nkulumana met his father, the warriors looked up to him as the obvious successor and second in command. Mzilikazi ordered his execution. Those indunas who wanted to crown Nkulumana, were killed at Ntabazinduna. Nkulumana's half-brother Buhlelo, who showed some leadership qualities, appears to have met an untimely demise with some help from Mzilikazi.
Mufuka notes that Lobengula, who finally succeeded to the leadership, saved his skin by feigning stupidity. He also took the effective precaution of living in far away San (Bushman) country. Mufuka agrees with J.D. White's observation that being a son of the king had the disadvantage of an almost certain premature death. Lobengula himself was chosen by Mncubata, a leading wise man, under the impression that he was safe. He proceeded to liquidate his brothers and sisters who showed any sign of leadership. One hundred and ten siblings met with premature deaths. Mabele fled to Lesotho, another fled to Botswana, and Hlangabeza who was not sufficiently light of foot paid the supreme price and so did the sisters Batayi and Ngengence.
The health of a chief is not discussed and this appears to have been a universal custom at Great Zimbabwe and elsewhere. It is a well-known historical fact that Dingiswayo of the Nguni (1796) had the bad manners to discuss the ill-health of his father with a brother. The old man heard about it. With the little strength left in his body he managed to lodge a spear in Dingiswayo's shoulder. Dingiswayo fled, but his brother was not so lucky, and he paid the supreme price for his indiscretion.
There are good reasons why the health of an old and senile king should not be discussed. To discuss his succession implied a willingness to hasten his demise by unnatural means, a crime punishable by death. Since the senile king would, after his death, join the ancestors, who actually work together with the living to protect the land, one would not like to provoke the ancestral spirits into hostility. Among the many things which could not be discussed openly in African society, this was one of them. Unfortunately, the campaign for a successor does begin at the death of the king, even though there is a year before the succession was actually decided. This surreptitious discussion, which if discovered becomes treasonable, actually heightens the tension and fears which surround the death of a great leader in any case. Because of the Delphic succession method, the succession was bound to be disputed, even in the best of circumstances.
For fear of civil commotion the death of the king was not announced until after two months. During that time the Mwene-mutapa was laid on a brier under which was placed a slow-burning fire. The fat which oozed into a receptacle was kept for use in the anointment of the future Mwene-mutapa. The Portuguese traveller Joao da Silva seems to have found a similar practice in vogue as late as 1836 in the eastern districts of Zambezia. According to da Silva, the very soul and limb of the king was associated with the existence of the tribe, the rain, the drought, etc. At the king's death, many of those closely associated with him, his wives and certain servants, thought the world had come to an end and committed suicide. Perhaps it was as well, for Mufuka observes that a new Mwene-mutapa would question the loyalty of those people and would put them to death anyway.
As Mufuka points out those closely associated with the old establishment find that the end of their world has come when their leader dies. A prolonged illness allows close associates to distance themselves from the ailing leader. The distance they can place between themselves and the past will determine if they will be allowed to live and serve the new leader. In the event of a sudden death of a leader, one possibility is for the associates of the past regime to denounce their former leader. According to A.C.P. Gamito even distant princes and associates of the leader are as vulnerable as the pretenders to the throne. The commonest method of survival was to disappear on a journey to a distant relative. However, care was taken not to leave a forwarding address.
Mufuka says the Mwene-mutapa was evidently endowed with divine powers. His anointment with the fat of his predecessor would endow him with these special powers. He would also be put through an ordeal, which was too terrible and unspeakable to talk about. A Nyashanu tradition says that the new leader was asked to eat a mixture of human faeces. Portuguese travellers have suggested that the new leader might be put through the ordeal of having a sexual relationship with his own sister. These travellers reported on a case where a leader was put through the ordeal of ritual incest on a crocodile's back. According to them, the act was uncomfortable from all angles. Mwene-mutapa Mutota committed ritual incest with Nehanda, his half sister. Two different explanations have been given. The Nyashanu tradition says that such a ritual incest would enhance the separation of the king from ordinary people to the degree that he became sanctified. Another tradition says exactly the opposite. It suggests that the ritual was an attempt to test the moral strength of the king. An almost compulsory ordeal was the requirement that the prospective king sleep in the graveyard of his ancestors unarmed. At Dzimbahwe, he would actually see some skeletons in varying degrees of decay, an unpleasant experience indeed.
During the interregnum, a period lasting at least one year before the spirit of the dead king was returned from the grave, the contenders quietly campaigned for the vacant leadership. At Great Zimbabwe, three persons seem to have acted as regents. Tete - a royal sister of sorts, supported by two men. Tradition is very strong that one of the regents was a woman. These regents were influential in choosing the successor. They could consult with the spirit mediums very closely as well as with the wise men. The wise men were guided by two overriding principles: the peace and safety of the kingdom and their own need for safety.
While the Zimbabweans did not resort to the election of child-kings as was the Nguni tradition in South Africa, the process was such that any leader with known abilities was likely to have created enemies. Therefore, the deciding factor was often an unknown quantity. The emphasis on unanimity guaranteed the choice of a middle of the road leader. While the idea of a middle of the road leader is universal to all political parties, the African 'constitution' almost guarantees the election of such a leader by the absence of a ballot. In the European systems, a controversial leader can be elected if he gains half the votes plus one. Indeed, Winston Churchill, the British World War II leader, once boasted that in the House of Commons he had defeated the opposition by two votes. He boasted that 'a win is a win'. In the Zimbabwe 'constitution' the wise men and the spirit mediums would continue consultations until a general consensus was reached. Despite all this consultation, those who had shown qualities of leadership in the past regime were either murdered, or if they had any sense, they withdrew quietly under some feigned illness.
In Zulu, Ndebele and Nguni society, where succession followed closely the primogeniture theory, it was not uncommon for the wisdom keepers to choose a baby, thus allowing themselves time to indoctrinate the young king and maintain their influence over him for a long time. King Sobhuza Ngwenyama of Swaziland was elected at the tender age of seven. Alternatively, an unknown person was chosen. The principle seems to have been that the successor should not be seen as an heir apparent, so the people gained an alternative to the reigning king. In the case of the Zulus, once Dingane and Mlangana became heirs apparent, it became a matter of life and death between themselves and Shaka. The wisdom-keepers are reluctant to choose a man of tried ability because they could forfeit their own influence in public affairs. Some will forfeit their lives also. After the return of the spirit mediums, the wisdom-keepers met in sacred conclave to choose a new ruler. At Dzimbahwe, the collateral election assured that a mature man would be chosen. But, since the principle of consensus without a formal vote was required, the choice was always a compromise candidate. One case of primogeniture in the male line was when Mutota was succeeded by Matope. This unusual arrangement provoked all sorts of challengers and precipitated a crisis of succession.
Written records suggest that one of the male regents (tateguru - great grandfather) sits on a stool and instructs the new king at his feet. This, as well as the ordeal, are meant to impress on the claimant the double lesson of humility and bravery. But the succession must be watered with blood. The regents are put to death. The tete and the regent(s) are soon taken to the royal drums where they are put to death and their blood used to lave the drums. Mufuka maintains that the possibility exists that these are the drums of death referred to by the Anglican priest, G.E.P. Broderick. The drums are played in a slow but menacing rhythm. The murderers are disguised and dance in a circle. This is called the death dance, an unhappy one. The messengers of death enter the circle and begin to dance and sing, drawing nearer and nearer to the kneeling people. Suddenly one of the disguised figures jumps to one member of the kneeling circle and stabs him on the back. What the Reverend and Mrs. Broderick saw in 1914 and 1922 was an ancient ritual sacrifice dating back to the twelfth century A.D. The important historical fact is that, despite Christian missionary and European colonial opposition mentioned by the Broderick, the custom was in existence in 1922.
Mufuka concedes that his discussion of the growth of royal power at Great Zimbabwe did not fully clarify the point that the growth of autocratic government, though derived from genuine African roots did contradict the very essence from which it was derived. Mufuka points out that T. N. Huffman had suggested that the growth of trade and wealth allowed the king to create a civil service loyal to himself alone and financed by him. Mufuka notes that Huffman was correct but for the wrong reasons. What the coming-in and going-out of so many hundreds of people each day wishing to do business with the king did was to reduce the time available for the king to meet with his people and the council of wisdom-keepers. People wishing to see the king, who was only four hundred feet up the hill, sometimes took a week to cover this distance. There were no less than four stations at which minor officials demanded preliminary audiences with the visitors. The crux of the matter was that these officials had trained themselves to protect the king from bad news and to say only those things pleasing in his ears. The king in turn assumed a divine countenance out of all proportion tp the reality of human nature. A Nyashanu tradition says that the king would sometimes sit on the laps of his wives while conducting private audiences, an outrageous distraction of attention from grave matters of state. The Portuguese records say clearly that while the Mwene-mutapa sat on a three-legged stool, all the wisdom-keepers sat on their blankets on the floor.
Mufuka states that the wisdom-keepers competed in catching the king's ear and, human nature being what it is, troublemakers were excluded. Those who were truly wise in the ways of the world learnt to adopt the king's mouth, i.e. to speak pleasing words. In any case, and contrary to public opinion, the wisdom-keepers were not representatives in a parliamentary sense. They were nominated councillors and if they wanted to remain the king's nominee, one would have to toe the line. None of them could afford to toe an independent line that might be unpleasing to the king.
But the village councils were more democratic than the royal council. Every headman (samana) and chief (sadunhu) had a court (dare) similar to that of the king. Even the ordinary household head (samusha) held a regular court very similar to that of the chief. In those village courts, every man was truly equal and the chief was only the first among equals, primus inter pares. The chief announced that a court would be held on such and such a day but everybody was free to attend and to speak, including elderly women. The chief was therefore more in touch with the public opinion than was the king. It was therefore the chief's court that kept the torch of democracy burning.
Mufuka acknowledges the view of other authorities who pointed out to him that the developing of unpardonable protocol and a cumbersome civil service at Great Zimbabwe was by no means a peculiar development in the annals of man. The growth of the civil service, though unavoidable and indeed inevitable because of the volume of work the leaders have to go through, is by no means a blessing to society. It is indeed a curse and a burden which every society has to bear. Mufuka's review has shown the time lag between events and decisions. There is no doubt at all that the death of Great Zimbabwe culture can in part be laid at the feet of the chief of protocol and his officials.
Against the foregoing background review, Mufuka turns his attention to an aspect of the topic he terms 'the most outrageous developments' at Great Zimbabwe during the reign of Munembire Mudadi (1420-1430), the last monarch to actually live there. The specific area of Mufuka's focus revolves around the turbulent period of Munembire Mudadi. The activities of Mwene-mutapa Munembire Mudadi show very clearly the weaknesses of the African political 'constitution'. When Mudadi came to power, it was assumed that he would take a great wife who would serve the nation in that politically sensitive role as mother of the nation. The 'constitution' demanded that the king be married but the constitution did not have sufficient teeth to compel the king to toe the line. Mudadi declared that all the chimbwido (plain Janes) in the country were not pretty enough for him. He sent out a party of warriors to capture the water-mermaid reputed to be the keeper of the lake at the foot of the Dzimbahwe. This the elders and wisdom-keepers, saw as an insult to the ancestral spirits.
Tradition dates an ecological failure precipitated by ten consecutive droughts from this time. It was also Mudadi who employed four hundred boys to carry water up the Dzimbahwe, where he proceeded to take a public bath three times a day. That much bathing was a waste of public time and reduced further the time in which elders could consult with him. Mudadi did not care whether he was seen in the nude while having his ritual bath or not. Mudadi was not happy with a three-legged stool his ancestors used. He saw a big boulder at Gokomere and commanded that it be brought to him for a stool. Many of his people were killed in the attempt. Unsatisfied with these endeavours, he saw the moon low in the clouds over a hillside and sent his men to fetch it. Life was hard as it was, and his insistence on the ancient custom that every visitor to Great Zimbabwe bring five stones became an added burden to the people. The people of course complained but those wisdom-keepers brave enough to speak their minds were removed from the council. Besides, the 'constitution' says very clearly that only the king can call the 'dare' and announce the agenda of any meeting.
There were measures which the people can take against a tyrant. There was always a possibility among the Great Zimbabweans that an unpopular leader could meet with an untimely death through poisoning. The 'Great Wife', who was in charge of the king's household, would have to be consulted and prevailed upon. If they succeeded, the tateguru and the great wife would act as co-chairpersons of the regent council which would organise new elections. Mudadi obviously suspected such a possibility for he employed a dog to taste his food. Any signs of strychnine poisoning would spell sure death to all those involved in the preparation of his food.
A second alternative was for regional leaders to run away, having made sure that arrangements had been made for their families to join them. During the drought of circa 1420-1430 and the general ecological failure that accompanied this century, there were many opportunities for totemic groupings to be sent on missions. There were many missions sent out to look for new salt mines to replace the failing supply from Sofala. Those sent on these missions took the opportunity not to return. The famous VaTorwa (people unrelated to the king) who had found opportunity and protection under the umbrella of the Mwene-mutapa found their burdens increasing by the day. They too became the nucleus of an open rebellion.
The option of migration was not easy to carry out. At the height of its power, Great Zimbabwe and the Mwene-mutapa influence spread from Sofala to Guruuswa (Matabeleland). One would have to run a very long distance to escape the Mwene-mutapa's influence. Besides, the Mwene-mutapas anticipated this possibility. In the last century of their power, the rulers at Great Zimbabwe kept as hostages, sons of the regional chiefs. This was done under the guise of training them for high office but the purpose was very clear. The Mwene-mutapa also insisted on being consulted when the regional chiefs took wives. It was not unknown for him to send some of his sisters as wives to hostile chiefs. Such marriages served a dual purpose. The king was kept informed of the events at the regional court. Secondly, the king could, if need be, use his sister as an agent in administering a love portion, failing which a more lethal concoction would be quite permissible.
The Portuguese records show that this was widely practised. For instance, when a regional chief at Sofala was challenged as part of his preparations, he began to 'marry certain daughters to (sub-ordinate) kings to become stronger'. This marital arrangement worked in reverse order as well. The poisoning device was not fool-proof though. Once the Mwene-mutapa returned (from one of his wives) with a headache and asserted that (she) had cast spells upon him. In this case he had eaten food from more than one house and all twenty wives concerned met with an untimely demise.
Two contradictory motifs surround the concept of leadership at Great Zimbabwe. There was an intense desire to be free and happy among the Zimbabwean population. The sense of carefree and total liberty seems to have been achieved at the lower levels of society. The headman was the head of a totally democratic society. At that level the headman could not completely control the agenda nor could he choose the representatives. A citizen could stand up and demand that his case be heard, whether it was on the agenda or not. The idea of censorship was unheard of at this level. The 'dare' could discuss any matter whatever, be it sexual, murder, or religious. The sense of corporate responsibility assured the protection of the weaker brethren by their stronger relatives. This corporateness was, in a sense, a constitutional guarantee against victimisation by stronger men. While the rights of the group were well defined and protected, however, the concept of individual freedom seems to have remained unrealised.
Mufuka observes that the tolerance of abnormal behaviour, which is the essence of genius was limited. He, however, adds that the foregoing statement does not suggest that the Great Zimbabweans did not mother geniuses. Mwene-mutapa Rusvingo and the achievements and grandeur of the stone buildings are a witness to the genius of the Zimbabweans. Mufuka's suggestion is that the Zimbabweans expressed a great desire to be identified with their people and therefore wished to conform. If each has to depend on his brother, they should have similar interests. The limited skills and opportunities available at Great Zimbabwe further helped to cement this common equality and identity. The idea of individualism or the presence of a professional critic of society was anathema. This gave the Great Zimbabwean society its strength. There was no problem of an identity crisis. There was no such thing as a loyal opposition. But as the Portuguese observers saw at the time it was also a great weakness. It is a law of nature that the very things that are considered outrageous could very well be considered acceptable generations later. A society that is intolerant of deviation misses the time gap provided by men of genius who prepare the society to accept new ideas. Men of genius are pioneers and make otherwise unacceptable ideas palatable in the long run.
The higher society that dominated the political field at Great Zimbabwe was obviously undemocratic. It nevertheless achieved great things but was unprepared for orderly change of government. Its leadership sufficed during the early days of confederation when all things were equal and predictable. The gradual and increasing influence of the Moors in East Africa upset the apple-cart as it were. A method of changing the leadership was called for but was wanting. The Mwene-mutapa was elected for life. If the electors were wrong, there was no constitutional way of correcting the situation. This situation was aggravated by the rise of a sycophantic bureaucracy. Perhaps this later development, even more than the inability of certain kings, was a major cause in the decline of the civilisation.
Mufuka points out that, notwithstanding the limitations of the political system, perhaps the greatest achievement of the Great Zimbabweans was their social spirit. By social spirit is understood that behaviour prompted by a persistent concern for others. Earlier Mufuka had mentioned how the king provided for hangers-on from his field, the zunde. This point has also been commented on by other writers who concurred that this trait was carried to the twentieth century. Mufuka points out that greed in the matter of food was not allowed. Strictly speaking, the Great Zimbabweans did not allow a person to eat alone. It was anti-social. Every person had to eat and share the meal with his relations and friends living at the time in the village. This also included a share in gratitude to dead ancestors. Giving thanks before a meal was not introduced by Christian missionaries: the Great Zimbabweans practised that custom in the twelfth century A.D.. In any case the custom is most memorable in the way it was forced upon children. The child was forced to allow others to eat before him or to share his portion before he devoured the remainder.
Mufuka asserts that theft was unknown at Great Zimbabwe partly because society was intolerant of deviance and also because there was no need. The value system was devoid of material measurements as to the worth of the person. This attitude seems to have survived and can still be witnessed within contemporary Shona society. It is generally understood in Shona tradition or life that one can leave articles of clothing or valuables lying about in absolute safety. Begging is a form of deviance and therefore forbidden. Presumably a beggar has been thrown out of his own family, therefore there is reason to be wary of him.
Gewlfand and many other visitors to the Great Zimbabwe have stated that the beauty and splendour achieved at Great Zimbabwe is best expressed pictorially. In this regard, Gewlfand said 'I can only say that standing in silent and mysterious majesty at the foot of sheer granite cliff, the Dzimbahwe defy all those who in their arrogance thought that the Africans had no past worth remembering. They stand in silent witness of an era when a great Shona civilisation shined lux magnum tendere and their merchants bought Persian goods, the king's great wife ordered a Chinese writing set for its beauty rather than for its utility, and a hundred and one languages found expression at Great Zimbabwe.
Commenting on the foregoing point, Mufuka touches on the disagreement around the identity of the true creators of Great Zimbabwe. This matter has been disposed of in greater detail in the section dealing with the philosophies and history of the African people and their achievements. Adding his voice to the pronouncement of renowned historians, archaeologists and historiographers, Mufuka asserts that black people were, indeed, the creators of Great Zimbabwe. He points out that Portuguese documents say repeatedly that in the great kingdom of Mwene-mutapa are black men and from the waist down they wear painted cloth. Even those who argue that the Moors had something to do with Zimbabwe forget that these so-called 'moors' are black men, some olive, and that they use the tongue of the land from the waist down they cover themselves with cotton in the same manner as those people mentioned above.
Further, Mufuka adds that Pero Vas Soares saw in 1513 and wrote that the 'people of Sofala are all black men as far as the straits of Mecca. The inhabitants of Sofala are kaffirs. They go about dressed in painted cloth'. Mufuka closes his argument by stating that to doubt that the culture and civilisation at Great Zimbabwe was black in character is to fly in the face of indisputable contemporary evidence. It is an argument which he believes can now safely and permanently be closed. He, however, points out that this disputation is not unique to Africa. Despite all the evidence provided by the Spanish that they saw Incas living and building the great pyramids and monuments of Central America, some crankish scholars have nevertheless cast grave doubt on the ability of the American Indian to be the progenitor of such a splendid achievement.
We now turn to a summary of reviews of the first clutch of African leaders who took over from colonial rulers, from the middle of the twentieth century. The summaries are based on essays by Ali Mazrui, (15) the Kenyan writer, and Peter Abrahams (16), the South African novelist and essayist who has lived since 1951 on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. The two writers provide important observations about African leaders who replaced colonial administrators as the winds of change swept across the face of the African continent.
V. LEADERSHIP PARADOXES IN AFRICAN SOCIETY
1. Ambiguities within Traditional African Society
In their exhaustive analysis of the paradoxes inherent in the institution of the American presidency, Cronin and Genovese (17) conclude that leadership means many things to many people. For some it has a rich, positive meaning. For others it connotes manipulation, deception, or even oppression. To rephrase the words of Rossiter, a strong leader is a bad leader unless he acts in ways that are fair, dignified, and familiar, and pursues policies to which a 'persistent and undoubted' majority of the people has given support.
According to Cronin et al, neither leaders nor the general public should be relieved of their respective responsibilities for trying to fashion a more effective and fair -minded leadership system simply because leadership is an office full of clashing expectations. All leaders face countervailing pressures that pull them in different directions. As Nelson Mandela said, "I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb". The public shall have to select leaders who understand these dilemmas and have a gift for the improvisation necessitated by their contrary de-mands. Too often the public has selected persons who have simply learned to manipulate these contending expectations for short-term electoral pur-poses.
Cronin et al emphasize the need for the alignment of presidential requirements and societal expectations have both relevance and application to the task of building workable relationships between organizations and their leaders in both developed and developing societies. To paraphrase, both society and its organizations shall have to probe the consequences of the clashing expectations and to learn how leaders and the public can better coexist with them. It is apparent that they often serve to con-fuse the public in its evaluation of leaders, and they create tremendous ambi-guity for leaders. When the public realises that the leadership is incapable of dealing with everything well and that democratic politics, in general, is not suited to provide quick answers to every social and economic malaise, then the public will be more understanding or more forgiving in the way it judges its leaders.
In the section that follows we take a brief look into leadership paradoxes, dilemmas and contradictions that confronted African leaders prior to their exposure to and subjugation by foreign colonial empires. The assessment is based largely on the observations of social anthropologists – notably Max Gluckman. (18) Gluckman's essay on the 'frailty of authority' concerns itself primarily with establishing and demonstrating the role of custom, rebellion and conflict – in promoting tighter social or organizational cohesion rather than destruction within traditional societies. The essay draws comparisons and parallels between traditional African leadership practices and those of developed western societies – in particular, the British.
The section that follows attempts to identify the extent to which traditional pre-colonial African societies coped with shifting and contradictory expectations they placed on their leaders. The analysis also draws lessons that have relevance and application to contemporary, post-colonial African society, organizations and relationships.
2. Organization Leadership in Traditional African Society
Throughout the history and evolution of leadership, leaders and followers and scholars and commentators have been intrigued by the contradictory or, more appropriately, the dualistic nature of the behaviours of people in positions of leadership. The paradoxical behaviours of leaders abound in the linguistic expressions, idioms and philosophical thoughts of pre-industrial, traditional and contemporary societies. This much has been well documented in the works of early explorers, social anthropologists, historians and historiographers, scholars of languages, literature and philosophies, and management consultants and commentators from Aristotle to many contemporary writers (see bibliography).*
In his analysis of custom and conflict in African society, Gluckman draws attention to the remarkable similarities that existed between African and western societies regarding their respective approaches to the issue of leaders and leadership behaviour. He maintains that the simple situation of conflict between the ideals of leadership and human frailty is a profitable starting point from which to examine the pitfalls which beset authority, and the devices instituted by custom to evade those pitfalls. For if authority is inherently frail, we may well expect its frailty to be accentuated in the complex situations which in real life beset all leaders who, however sagacious they be, cannot always assess exactly all the factors involved. Even less can they control them.
3. Leadership Approaches to Paradoxical Situations
Gluckman opens his essay on the 'frailty of authority" or leadership paradoxes by citing one of Shakespeare's characters who - fearing lest Macduff might be enticing him into the tyrant's hands – described himself as a most arrant villain, saying he did not possess the saving graces of an ideal king, thus:
the king- becoming graces
As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,
I have no relish of them.
Gluckman concludes that these are the virtues of a monarch few human beings can attain. Yet, to a lesser degree these virtues are required of all leaders. It follows, therefore, as positions of leadership carry high ideals, and as most men are only human, there develops frequently a conflict between the ideals of leadership and the weakness of the leader. This is the frailty of authority. It is likely that as a leader exhibits his weaknesses - natural human weaknesses though they may be - his subordinates may begin to question his authority, to turn against him, and ultimately seek someone else who, they fondly imagine, will attain the ideals they desire.
Gluckman states further that indigenous African states provide scholars with opportunities wherein they are able to observe authority acting in comparatively simple situations. In other words, African society presents the simplest setting for the study of conflict against authority which leads us to the following discussion.
4. Egalitarianism and Generosity in African Leadership
One of the most important features of pre-industrial African society was characterized by the absence of a fundamental cleavage of economic interest between rulers and subjects. Individual acts of tyranny may have been numerous, but there was rarely any systematic exploitation by the tyrant of the labour of his subjects. Evidence gleaned from the anthologies of European explorers and missionaries confirm the extent to which African leaders such as Shaka (Zulu)* and Msidi (Nyamwezi) mastered the art of juggling between leadership paradoxes.
Writing about the position and role of domestic slaves under African rule, David Livingstone (18) observed that a fugitive was always sold but the man retained the same rank he held in his own tribe. The children of captives even had the same privileges as the children of their captors. In essence, a slave enjoyed, from the beginning, the privileges and name of a child, and looked on his master and mistress in every respect as his new parents. He was nearly his master's equal but he could, with impunity, leave his master and go wherever he liked within the boundary of the kingdom. Although a bondman or servant, his position did not convey the true idea of a state of slavery for, by care and diligence, he could become a master himself, and even more rich and powerful than the one who led him captive. African leaders required neither the punctuality, quickness, thoroughness, nor the amount of exertion that European slave masters demanded from their slaves.
Commenting further on the egalitarian character of African leadership, Gluckman cites the words of a missionary who wrote that the people 'don't study that aspect of Msidi's life which pictures him as thundering out the death warrant…and even tasting from his executioner's hand the warm life-blood of his dying victim; but they recall how he would show himself to be kindness and liberality itself, and how he would wear, day in and day out, a miserable two yards of dirty calico and yet would give away, to the last yard, the bales on bales of cloth brought into the country by the many caravans from east and west coasts.
Many foreign writers who were in southern and central Africa at this period have underlined the limitations of the economic system and their effect on political relations. Although Shaka built up a great kingdom and amassed vast herds of cattle, he could not use these to raise his own standard of living. He ate the same boiled beef as his followers, and having many cattle he gave most of them to his subjects to eat as boiled beef. He too, like his subjects, lived in a pole-and-grass hut. Limited trade relations inhibited the introduction of luxuries; and relatively inefficient tools prevented those who had control over the labourers from putting them to great productive use. Not even the first introduction of firearms and European trade-goods broke up this egalitarianism. (18)
5. Simple Organizational Structure within a Complex Society
The success of pre-colonial African leadership stemmed, mainly, from the fact that it was built around a simple organizational structure. This fact is best demonstrated by the legendary war machine that Shaka assembled from Nguni tribes that had, previously, been scattered across southern Africa's eastern coastal region. African empires were built around simple organizational structures that flourished until they were disrupted by colonial conquest and rule. Yet these simplified structures culminated, invariably, in the formation of complex networks of relationships that, in turn, created tensions and conflicts within parts of the community or society. The central organizational structure of pre-colonial African societies, as described by various authors including Gluckman (18), H. Junod (19), E. Krige (20), H. Kuper (21) and Evans-Pritchard (22), was not over-burdened by layer upon layer of stifling bureaucracy. Yet, a measure of bureaucracy tempered the day-to-day lives of kings, rulers and peasants.*
Europeans misrepresented Africa as a continent populated by a few and isolated bands of backward people but many modern social anthropologists, Africanist historians and historiographers have refuted this viewpoint. Ajayi has consistently argued the fact that the geography of the continent was such that it facilitated mobility, contact and exchange. Consequently, cultural frontiers developed more as points of contact between neighbours than as lines of human divide. There thus developed a network of channels and institutions of communication, cutting across political frontiers. This is the historical basis for the unity claimed for African cultures. It is this historical basis and the resilience of pre-colonial African cultures that provide the cultural foundation of possible African unity.
For the majority of African peoples, basic economic life depended on the exploitation of land resources at the local level, and this was effectively managed by authorities within the lineage. Higher authorities provided largely security in return for tribute. Even in the most centralised of states, power remained comparatively diffuse. Most people pursued their economic, social and cultural lives with little interference from "government." Cutting across government were age-grade associations, marriage alliances, long-distance trading and other networks of communications. Sometimes it was not certain whether some particular groups were subject to kings and empires claiming rights over them. Some paid tribute to two rival sovereigns just to buy peace.
The effectiveness of the Zulu organizational structure can be likened to today's business model as described by Charles Handy (23). Handy maintains that the contemporary business model is based on a simplified but highly effective organizational structure that operates like rapid deployment of forces capable of going wherever they were needed - and to get there fast. To paraphrase Handy, (24) the pre-colonial African organizations were effective because they shared attributes and behavioural characteristics similar to those found in modern but highly effective business organizations: they were flexible, permeable, dynamic and transparent. This is, perhaps, one of the most important lessons to emerge, thus far, from the current review and analysis of African leadership during the pre- and post-colonial periods.
The next section highlights aspects of organizational structures that supported leadership approaches or styles, which prevailed in the pre-colonial period. The analysis is intended to identify issues and lessons that have relevance and application to contemporary African society in general, and African leadership in particular. It is based largely on the work of social anthropologists, historians and historiographers including Gluckman, Krige, Kuper, Freund, Reader, Connah, and Ajayi.
6. Paradoxes and an Imperial Leadership Model
Like many other African states and states in other lands, the Zulu kingdom was divided into counties. These counties were regions with defined boundaries. Some of them were composed of formerly independent tribes which had been brought under the authority of the Zulu king; others were made up of fragments of these independent tribes collected and placed under cousins or sons or favourites of the king. In turn, the counties were divided into districts, and the districts sometimes into sub-districts. The smallest independent local group was the village, containing something towards a score of men related to one another by descent from a line of male ancestors, and living with their wives and dependants.
Thus, this part of Zulu organization was commonplace within and beyond Africa i.e. a nation divided into a series of territorial areas of decreasing size. At the centre dwelt the king. He was the leader of the nation in war, was in command of troops for internal police work, and was supreme judge. He also legislated and took executive action. In addition, he was responsible for carrying out certain ceremonies and for employing magicians in order that the nation might have adequate rains, good crops, freedom from epidemics, and victory in war. For these purposes he also - and he alone - could approach his ancestral spirits who were believed to be partly responsible for the peace and the prosperity of the nation.
Finally, he had fields worked by his warriors, and vast herds tended by them; and he drew tribute of cattle and grain from his subjects. This tribute he then mostly redistributed among them. Since the Zulu nation occupied some 80,000 square miles and comprised some quarter of a million people he did not exercise these powers himself, but acted through officers; and this meant that considerable power lay in the hands of these officers. Important among them were his county chiefs, and below them their district heads, until at the bottom stood the headmen of villages who ruled over and were responsible for their people.
In both Europe and Africa, the family is recognised as the basic unit of society. In Europe over the last two centuries or more, the emphasis has been placed increasingly on the individual rather than the extended family or clan. In Africa on the other hand, the relevance within the African political system of the community of tradition of origin, worshipping at the same shrine, and sharing a common language and history, cannot be ignored. There is no dispute as to the basis of authority in such communities both being derived from the common ancestor or founding father. There were many such communities in this country down to the colonial period who owned their own land and claimed to be sovereign. They organised their defence and external relations on the basis of a network of alliances with neighbours, and managed their internal affairs through councils of elders in close communion with the ancestors, and age-grade associations, secret societies, craft organisations, etc., which allowed for mass participation and close consultation.
Early European anthropologists classified such communities as "stateless" because they failed to recognise the complex but small-scale institutions of government. Such communities may go through various transformations in the processes of urbanisation and state-building, but the principle of legitimacy in such communities, based on conformity with custom and continuity with the ancestors, has remained a powerful factor in our political life. Thus, while society in Africa may be said to have remained more community-oriented, society in Europe has become increasingly individualistic.
7. Paradoxes in the Delegation of Authority
The simplified and unified organizational structure on which pre-colonial African societies were based promoted the art of delegation. The process was governed by set rules and supported by interlocking supportive structures. As Gluckman commented, here was a simple administrative organization, in which there was delegation of authority from the centre to smaller and then yet smaller local units. Leaders and their followers appreciated the fact that delegation was essential in any administrative system. Even tyrants ruled through officers who drew their power from the fact that they led the subordinate groups, and represented these to the king who embodied the state. Chiefs, and even headmen, could mobilise armed warriors, so they had fighting power behind them. Herein resided the first of many conflicts that operated inside the apparently simple administrative apparatus.
The constitutional position was clear: subordinates were officers of the king and were bound to carry out the king's orders. In practice they also stood for those they ruled against the king himself, and because of this they came into conflict with the king. Certainly they could act to constrain the ways in which the king exercised his power. Thus the village headman was responsible not only to his king, through intermediate officers, for the actions of his villagers, but he also had to represent the interests of his villagers to the higher authorities. Similarly, the county chief represented his followers to the king, and was responsible for his followers to the king.
From his observation of the north-eastern tribes of South Africa and coastal Mozambique, Junod (19) presents an interesting description of how these indigenous people approached the distribution of power or delegation of authority. Each village thus possesses its superior, its master. He is called umunumzane or numzane, a curious expression which is also employed in Zulu; it means owner of a kraal, gentleman, and is often used in saluting grown up men. The village is the primitive social organism. The clan, which is the gathering of all the villages, reproduces all the features of the village life on a large scale. So the numzane corresponds to the hosi or kgoshi, chief of the tribe. Both certainly possess great authority which cannot become tyrannical. They must govern for the benefit of their subordinates.
Junod further observes that the headman is the master but also the father of his subordinates, and their provider. The range of his authority and responsibilities requires him to watch over the village, to serve or act as a true justice of the peace; he possesses authority over his younger brothers and his children, he has the right to impose statute labour, and presides over all the discussions. The headman is more or less responsible for all the claims lodged against his subordinates. Should a chief be absolutely unable to govern his village, the family council can depose him and put another man in his place. As regards the law of succession to the headmanship, the second brother takes the place of the elder, and so on.
Gluckman comments that although there was no fundamental cleavage of the Zulu nation into classes differentiated by economic interests, the nature of social interests changed with each step upward in the hierarchy. For example, in this type of nation, the king and the wealthy could not use the produce of the land to raise their own standards of living, so they distributed land to subordinates. The right to land an attribute of citizenship. Each citizen had an interest in having enough land to support himself and his family, and to build up his own following. But since land varied in fertility and in other qualities, even when the leader was distributing land freely, he had to choose between men. Moreover, a plot of land was not just worked with tools for a living. A plot was worked within a system of social relationships, in which other men had claims to that piece of land or neighbouring land. There were general interests and individual interests in each plot.
The leader represented these more general interests in land, which were embodied in a code of law controlling land use. If the leader's followers quarrelled over how he distributed the land, or over their holdings or trespasses of stock, he had to judge between them. And in making judgements, whether in administration or in judicial forum, the leader represented the code of law which was liable to restrain various individuals from freely satisfying their desires. The law existed to ensure that all individuals should prosper without trespassing on the claims of others, and this wider interest in security, focused on the leader, might offend individual interest.
8. Paradoxes in Leadership Behaviour
The ideals of office required that the leader should be impartial and judge or act without bias, that he be wise in applying the general rules of law justly to the particular circumstances of dispute. Above all, he had to have the courage to take a decision and face the possible dislike, or even anger, of those who lost by his decision. If he failed to act by the ideals of his office, he lost in general repute. But even where he conformed with these ideals he might antagonize some followers. It is important to note that the ideals of office are often contradictory – a king must be just but merciful, generous yet not prodigal, brave but not overbearing. His actions were then doubly exposed since he could be criticized for opposed vices. (18)
Gluckman cites first-hand incidents in which, over a period of time, he observed hostility build up against village headmen and other leaders among the followers they had to restrain and rebuke, even though in particular cases most of their followers approved their judgements. But this hostility was always there, present in the conflict between sectional interests and group interests represented by the leader. Men competed for land and goods. Counties competed for land and power inside the nation. In controlling this competition even a fair leader had to restrain someone. Hence, Zulu and Barotse explicitly say that when a leader rules he provokes hatred. They go further, and say he provokes hatred when he appears to be doing nothing. Every man, quite naturally, thinks his affairs are all-important. He wants them attended to at once, he cannot see why he should wait. The Barotse have a maxim to sum up the egotism of followers: 'Every man thinks that the king has only one subject'. (18)
There are conflicts between the interests of different individuals within a group, and between the interests of smaller groups within a larger society. There is also conflict between society with its law and the individuals and groups which compose society. These conflicts focus on the leaders who have to enforce the law. Out of the settlement of disputes, or other actions of leaders, there arises hostility against authority which is stated in terms of the conflict between the ideals of an office and the human frailty of the incumbent who at any moment occupies that office. Those who are dissatisfied blame neither themselves nor the situation of competing interests. They say the leader is unsatisfactory. (18)
9. Divine Kingship and Leadership Frailty
According to Gluckman authority may be frail, because human frailty leads the incumbent to fall short of the ideals. He fails to be an officer and a gentleman, to play a captain's innings, to be a king. But judgements that he has failed may also arise among his followers because he does not appear to take the action that suits them, even when in fact he does live up to the ideal. Clearly these inevitable ideas of shortcomings on the part of leaders will weaken loyalty to them, and even lead to an attempt to overthrow or displace them – or to rebellion. In many African tribes, this rebellion is more likely to arise because they have the "Divine Kingship". They believe that there is a mystical connection between the physical and moral well being of the monarch and the prosperity and success of the tribe. If there is a drought or an epidemic among men or cattle, crop failure or locust swarms, the monarch is held responsible for failing to exhibit the virtues appropriate to his office.
The effect of belief in divine kingship is that certain natural misfortunes which overtake any society are blamed on the physical or moral or ritual unworthiness of the king. This is not purely an African belief as Europeans hold similar beliefs. In South Africa, Afrikaner propaganda blamed the long drought of 1924 on the moral unworthiness of Smuts. His successor's – Hertzog - first action as new political leader was to order a national day of prayer for rain. Societies live in complex environments, and leaders are constantly confronted with situations in which they cannot know all the factors involved and have to act on judgement. Moreover, leaders are not normally in full control of any complex situation. Therefore they are always liable to appear to be incompetent, and to provoke rebellion. (18)
Under the divine kingship, a leader became liable to attack for failures beyond his control, and for weakness, or tyrannical actions and bad judgements or laws. He was attacked if there were natural disasters or misfortunes. Aspirant leaders who coveted his throne were always ready to raise rebellion against him. Their excuses for doing so premised on the belief that his personal unworthiness might precipitate future national disasters. (18)
10. Checks, Balances and Accountability in African Leadership
Traditional African leadership created various devices to check attacks on higher authorities. One such obvious device is that in practice, in a large organization, the leader acts through his officers, and it may be possible for him to see that these officers take the blame for shortcomings. That is, they get the unpopularity for misfortunes and bad decisions, while the leader get the praise for good things. The Barotse (of Zimbabwe) maintained that the duty of the leader is to accept responsibility when things go wrong, and to let the king be praised when things go right. Further, they insist that their king should not himself take any action, but should always act through his councillors. This enables subjects to sue the councillors if they feel that they are wronged; and the councillors may not plead that they acted on the king's orders. To do so is to commit an offence, 'spoiling the king's name'. Of course, kings frequently did themselves take action, but this provoked severe criticism and in one case a rebellion. (18)
11. The Leader's Life of Love and Hatred
The Barotse use another device, quite consciously, to handle conflict situations. They state explicitly that it is the lot of leaders to be hated because they are the law itself. They say that everyone loves a prince until he is selected to be king: this is why they select him. But as soon as be becomes king everyone hates him – though they also love him. They apply the same maxim to the smallest authority, down to the village headman, and the father of a family. On being elected king, the new leader commented thus: 'you have brought me here to the capital, from the province where I was happy. You have killed me'. Hatred, then, is won by leadership. But this hatred is diverted partly on to the deputy whom the king appoints to rule for him – the chief councillor. Yet the chief councillor is supposed to represent the people against the king. (18)
All officers, up to the king himself, are hence the allies and the enemies of the people they represent, and over whom they rule. The device of delegation of power and deflection of loyalty and hatred controls the working of rebellions, and constrains their direction to maintain the state as a system. For it means that when conflicts do develop into open strife, recalcitrant subjects do not set about destroying the old system itself, but try to raise lower incumbents into higher positions of power; or to alter the personnel entirely. They do not attempt to alter the structure of offices. They attack the leader they consider tyrannical or weak or an usurper by turning to their representatives who are his subordinate officers. In open rebellion, they also turn their opposition into another system of allegiances and loyalties: that of attachment to other princes of the royal family. (18)
12. Rebellion as Legitimate Tool for Leadership Succession
According to Gluckman, the ritual sanctity of the kingship, and its connection with the king's ancestors who presided over national prosperity, meant that if a bad king was to be replaced, he had to be replaced by another member of the royal family. Thus the rebellion attacked the ruling king, but not the kingship itself or the claims of the royal family to it. Princes could lead or indeed provoke rebellions without endangering the kingship or their own title to it. Where the rebellion was against a tyrannical king, the rebels were fighting to defend the kingship, and the values of its office, against the tyrant king himself. Rebels were not seeking to establish a different kind of political society, say, a republic, or even to install a different family on the throne. They were seeking to re-establish the kingship in all its ideals, by making a true prince, with the king-becoming graces, into the king. Princes and county chiefs struggling for situations of power around the throne might provoke these rebellions. In African law, as in medieval English laws, these leaders alone were guilty of treason, and their followers were not. For the followers were under a duty to fight for their chiefs and princes, even against the king.
Taking the analysis a step further, Gluckman maintains that not all rebellions were waged against kings because they were tyrants. Some princes were ambitious for power, or were pushed by their own officers, seeking for the power that comes from being around the throne. They would wage war on the king on the grounds that he was not the rightful king. Or, if the kingship were divine, they would seek the opportunity of a national disaster to attack the kingship on the grounds that the king was ritually unworthy. All sections struggle for kingship, and this unifies them. They seek to place their own prince on the throne; they do not try to become independent from the kingship. A whole series of customs – the ritual of kingship, the distribution of the royal family and so forth – produces social order out of the conflicts set up by the same customs. Princes are entitled to be kings: they struggle for kingship: rebellions reassert the values of kingship and restore its power. The kingship is ritualised; national disaster shows the king to be ritually unworthy; the ritual sacredness of kingship prevents anyone but another prince from taking the throne. (18)
13. The Value of Rebellion in African Leadership
Gluckman concludes that social life breeds conflict, and societies by their customary arrangements accentuate conflicts. The conflicts compensate one another to produce social cohesion. Further, the resolution of conflicts is not always by force of arms. The African rebellion principle does seem to pull together rules of succession, the law of treason, and other customs, and to explain to some extent the results of civil wars.
Similar situations regarding the village headman have been observed in Central Africa, according to Gluckman. Here is the man who moves among the subjects and who is involved in their day to day difficulties and struggles; yet who has to represent the state against them – he sees to it that they pay their taxes and perform state labour, he reports them if they break the law and so forth. Thus the village headman in most tribes is the centre of a constant struggle, both in terms of backbiting and intrigue, and of a war in the mystical world. For he is believed to attain his position and maintain it by using witchcraft against his rivals; and he himself constantly suspects that he is the target of the envious witchcraft of his rivals, and those whom he has rebuked. (18)
These beliefs indicate the strong conflicts which operate around the headman's position. This is because he is the man at the bottom of the state hierarchy, who must directly represent the state to of his subordinates, and yet who is moving among them and its immediately subject to the pressure of their interests. He takes the greatest strain of the conflict between the dual pulls of political representation. The African chief in relation to the colonial governments occupied a similar position. He became an officer of the colonial government and was required to represent its interests and values to the African people; and yet he was also expected to stand on his people's behalf for the values and interests which they esteemed. The chief thus took on his shoulders the conflict between the authority of the colonial government, and the aspirations of his own people – as seems to have happened with the Kabaka of Buganda. (18)
14. Between Rock and Hard Place for Junior Leadership
The position of the lowermost man in an hierarchical system can be traced in situation after situation. There are the foreman and the charge-hand, who have on behalf of management to supervise the workers who are their fellows. They are management, but not quite enough to be called 'Mister" or, in contemporary parlance, the "Chief". (18)
For similar reasons, there is today considerable debate about the position of the foreman, as there is about the shop steward. The shop steward, the lowest ranking official in the trade union hierarchy, frequently appears as an agitating troublemaker. For he is the man at the bottom of the system who is responsible to his superiors while at the same time works and lives with those who are organised and administered. He feels the constant pressure of their interests, and these may force him into conflict with higher trade union officials and with management. Hence the shop steward bears the brunt of much of the conflict between the interests of workers and the wider interests of the firm. He is required to absorb the full weight of the resentment against management as such. The frailty of conflicting authority is also strong in him. (18)
But in certain types of society, when subordinates turn against a leader, they may only turn against him personally, without necessarily revolting against the authority of the office he occupies. They aim to turn him out of that office and to install another in it. This is rebellion, not revolution. A revolution aims to alter the nature of political offices and of the social structure in which they function, and not merely to change the incumbents in persisting offices. Aristotle also distinguished between rebellions and revolutions, and pointed out that rebellions do not attack political authority itself. (18)
In conclusion, Gluckman has shown that, far from destroying the established social order, leadership rebellions work so that they even support this order. They resolve the conflicts which the frailty of authority creates. They also resolve certain other conflicts which arise in other parts of the political system. For rebellious tendencies against authority are restrained by the structure of the political system itself. They are controlled by custom which gives men allegiances to various leaders, so that when they attack one leader, they do it by supporting another leader of the same kind, in the name of the ideals of leadership. That is, as with the feud, the divisions between leaders seeking for power, and between followers seeking for leaders, in terms of interests and customary allegiances which exist in one range of social relations, lead to conflict and even open strife; but over a wider span of space and time these divisions may result in social cohesion.
VI. COLONIAL SOCIETY AND AFRICAN LEADERSHIP PATTERNS
1. The Demise of Pre-Colonial African Leadership Approaches
Throughout his analyses and comment on the history and development of Africa and its institutions, Ajayi has dealt, in some detail, with problems that led to the demise of African empires (and leaderships) that were built around the model of a simpler organizational structure. These societies were no match for the more technologically superior European system of colonial rule. The degree of change that colonial rule brought to African institutions is the political factor that must be emphasized. The most fundamental aspect of the European impact was the loss of sovereignty which it entailed for practically every African people. Europeans exploited their technological superiority to establish their political dominance throughout the continent. In some places, this meant direct European rule and a conscious effort to order the day-to-day lives of the African peoples. In other areas, varying degrees of local autonomy continued. (14)
Ajayi says that the most significant exercise of this sovereignty was the extent to which the act of partition was effected. The territories into which Africa was divided marked entirely new departures in African history. In a sense, the new territories were successors to previous African empires, states and kingdoms, but with an important difference. The boundaries of previous empires expanded or receded at will. Nothing was permanent in the ebb and flow of history. But the European act of partition tried to stop this ebb and flow while channelling development imposed from outside into entirely unwanted directions. The new boundaries, once the Europeans themselves agreed on them, were intended to be permanent and no longer to expand and recede at the will of and according to the changing needs of African people. They were meant also to become lines of human divide, with utter disregard for the historical destinies of hitherto contiguous and sometimes even closely related communities. For a long time, these boundaries have been regarded as non-negotiable.
The salutary lesson that Africa has learned from the colonial episode is that once people lose their sovereignty and are exposed to another culture, they lose at least a little of their self-confidence and self-respect. They lose their right of self-steering, their freedom of choice as to what to change in their own culture or what to copy or reject from the other culture.
2. The Uhuru Generation of Damaged Leadership
In his review of post-colonial African leaders, Mazrui (15) asserts that these leaders leadership behaviours that were characterized by the desire to assume monarchical tendencies. Mazrui defines these tendencies as a combination of elements of political style including the quest for aristocratic effect, personalization of authority, sacred authority and the quest for a royal historical identity. The tendencies illustrate the extent to which leadership paradoxes and contradictions have existed during the post-colonial era to present-day African democratic states. Mazrui believes that with few exceptions, the rest of Nkrumah's generation of leaders* displayed suffered from the general phenomenon of monarchical tendencies – which tendencies they had manifested over the years.
According to Mazrui, Nkrumah mastered the art of projecting aristocratic effect. He was both a Lenin and a Czar. His secular radicalism had an important royalist theme from the start. Like other African leaders of his time, Nkrumah craved aristocratic effect. Frequently, this behaviour took the form of social ostentation i.e. a partiality for splendid attire, large expensive cars, for palatial accommodation and other forms of conspicuous consumption. Another factor which goes towards making a monarchical style of politics is the personalization of authority. On its own this factor could be just another type of personality cult. But when combined with the quest for aristocratic effect, or with other elements of style, it takes a. turn towards monarchism. Sometimes the personalization goes to the extent of inventing a special title for the leader - and occasionally the title is almost literally royal.
A third element in the monarchical political style is the sacred authority. This is sometimes linked to the process of personalising authority, but it need not be. The glorification of a leader could be on non-religious terms. On the other hand, what is being sanctified need not be a person but could be an office or institution. The institutional form of sacred authority is, however, rare in new states. Indeed, the personality of the leader might be glorified precisely because the office lacks the awe of its own legitimacy. The fourth factor in the politics of monarchism, especially in Africa, is the quest for a royal historical identity. This phenomenon arises out of a vague feeling that national dignity is incomplete without a splendid past. And the glory of the past is then conceived in terms of ancient kingly achievement.
3. Tribal Origins of African Political Styles
In the opinion of Mazrui, of the leadership styles under review, the one element of monarchism that is perhaps most clearly shared by traditional conceptions of authority is the element of consecration or sanctification. A traditional chief was not always an instance of personalised power. The situation varied from tribe to tribe and from ruler to ruler. In fact, as often as not it was the institution rather than the personality of the incumbent that commanded authority. But although the personalization of power in a traditional Africa was thus by no means universal, the consecration of authority virtually was. There was always a spiritual basis to legitimate rule in traditional Africa. The effect of this on modern African concepts of political legitimacy will emerge later in this analysis.
A related phenomenon is the place of eminence given to ancestors in most African systems of thought. Partly out of this traditional glorification of one's forebears, and partly as a result of western disparagement of Africa as "a continent with no history", African nationalists today sometimes militantly eulogize ancient African kingdoms. This, as we shall indicate more fully later, is what the African quest for a royal historical identity is all about. Finally, there has been in Africa since independence, and sometimes for longer than that, the tendency to contrive an aristocratic effect in one's style of life. What has led to the building of magnificent palaces in Dahomey (Benin), Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana and other places? Why have so many African leaders since independence betrayed a weakness for a plush effect and palatial living? (15)
Mazrui suggests that part of the explanation might lie in the general anthropological context of African political styles. Possession as a mark of status is not an entirely new development in African life. It is true that land was very rarely owned on an individual basis. Within the co-operative structure of kinship and common ownership, there was still room for individual effort and for individual rewards for such effort. And so, in addition to status based on age and custom, there was some social status accruing from material possessions. In certain societies, how many head of cattle a person owned was part of his social standing. There was also bridewealth as a factor in stratification.
These early manifestations of possessive individualism in traditional Africa received a revolutionary stimulus with the advent of the money economy. As Pius Okigbo observed that new statuses arose with the emergence of a new class, the rich had made their fortune in trade either by selling the raw produce of the land or by retailing imported articles manufactured abroad. The growth of this new class of rich, divorced from the land that was so important a link in the chain that bound society to the elders, has weakened the authority of the elders. The new generation that made its money in trade has challenged the traditional basis of obedience.
In Mazrui's view it was, in many cases, this new generation which was the vanguard of the cult of ostentation. To challenge the awesome authority of a chief sometimes required a display of alternative symbols of power. The chiefs were challenged both by those who had new educational attainments, and by those who had new material possessions. And both sets of challengers were inclined to be exhibitionist. Those who had made money had a weakness for conspicuous consumption. And those who had received some education indulged in 'the misuse or overuse of long words, in the use of pompous oratory, and in the ostentatious display of educational attainments'. (15)
These sociological tendencies have been the very basis of a new possessive individualism in Africa. The egalitarian aspects of African traditional life, and the extensive social obligations of the extended family, exist side by side with an ethic which measures the individual's success by the yardstick of his material acquisitions. (15)
But what are the implications of this phenomenon for development in Africa? How much of a social ill is a quest for aristocratic effect? When African leaders are merely acquisitive and self-seeking, certain consequences follow. But when what they acquire is conspicuously consumed, a different set of consequences might emerge. The point which needs to be grasped first is that an elite can be acquisitive or even corrupt without being ostentatious. It is arguable that a corrupt elite which is also ostentatious is ultimately preferable to a corrupt elite which is outwardly ascetic.
4. Imperial Origins of Political Styles
But in any case it is not merely traditional Africa that has contributed to monarchical styles of political life. The imperial experience must itself also be counted as a major causal factor. The first thing which needs to be noted is that there are certain forms of humiliation which, when ended, give rise to flamboyant self-assertion. There are certain forms of deprivation which, when relieved, give rise to excessive indulgence. After the end of the American Civil War liberated Negro slaves were, for a while, in possession of money and influence. The result was often flamboyant ostentation and a swaggering way of life. Excessive indulgence had succeeded excessive indigence. Because the Negro had been too deeply humiliated in bondage, he was now too easily inebriated with power. (15)
Something approaching a similar psychological phenomenon has been at work in Africa. In fact Nkrumah had a certain ascetic impulse in him. It is true that he spent considerable sums on the imperial structures he inherited. But his personal mode of living was not particularly indulgent. He seems to have been more extravagant on prestigious public projects than on personal forms of indulgence. He was almost certainly less self-seeking than a large number of other leaders in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Nevertheless, Nkrumah did have a flamboyance which was, to a certain extent, comparable to that of many American Negroes at the time of the Reconstruction following the Civil War. A keenly felt sense of racial humiliation now exploded into a self-assertion which was partly exhibitionist. The monarchical tendency was part of this. (15)
But the monarchical style of African politics has other subsidiary causes in the colonial experience. The myth of imperial splendour came to be so intimately connected with the myth of royalty that the link was conceptually inherited by the Africans themselves. The process of political socialisation in colonial schools kept on reaffirming that allegiance to the Empire was allegiance to the British monarch at the same time. This inculcation of awe towards the British royal family left some mark on even the most radical African nationalists. (15)
5. Identity and History
Mazrui asserts that the revelling in ancient glory is part of the crisis of identity in Africa. His contention is that African nationalism has tended to include within it a self-image of re-birth. Involved in the concept of rebirth is a paradoxical desire - the desire to be grey-haired and wrinkled as a nation; of wanting to have an antiquity. This is directly linked to the crisis of identity. Insofar as nations are concerned, there is often a direct correlation between identity and age. The desire to be old becomes part of the quest for identity. The paradox of Nkrumah's ambition for his country was to modernize and "ancientize" at the same time.
And so, on emerging into independence, the Gold Coast first decided to wear the ancient name of Ghana - and then embarked on an attempt to modernise the country as rapidly as possible. Mali, Malawi, and Zimbabwe provided other examples of the quest to create a sense of antiquity by adopting old names. (15)
6. Identity and Heroic Leadership
Mazrui observes that when the tasks of creating a national future and creating a national past are undertaken at the same time, there is always the danger that the present might be caught in between. The adoration of ancient monarchs might overspill and help to create modern equivalencies. Ancient kingdoms and modern presidents are then forced to share royal characteristics. Thus, although Nkrumah was president of a modest African republic, his equivalent of a quasi-monarchical title was the Osagyefo, or the redeemer. Yet this again is by no means a uniquely African phenomenon. Perhaps the need for heroic leadership of kingly dimensions is felt by most new nations.
7. Identity and Sacred Rulers
According to Mazrui, admiration of secular heroes can too easily assume a sacred dimension. This tendency is again particularly marked in the political situation of a new state. Only Nkrumah was adored in terms which were anywhere near those used in the admiration of George Washington. Nevertheless, almost everywhere in Africa there has been a tendency to spiritualise the head of state or government in these initial years following independence. It is this tendency towards sacred leadership which makes republicanism somewhat unsuited to the style of politics of new states. This is to assume that republicanism is usually a governmental system of secular orientation, but the assumption is more than merely defensible historically.
8. Abrahams' Concept of "Damaged Goods"
Abrahams (16) reflects on the profiles and performance of post-colonial leaders including Jomo Kenyatta, Leopold Senghor, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Milton Obote, Idi Amin, Tom Mboya, Oginga Odinga, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.* The movement from colonialism to independence threw up a generation of nationalist leaders with no rule book to guide them. To be a nationalist leader was, almost by definition, to be someone who had broken with the old traditions of subservience to white domination. To reach that point, however, also meant a rejection, to some degree or another, of the old traditional African ways, or else being able to control and manipulate them. Jomo Kenyatta was a master at using tribal traditional ways in the service of modern political needs.
With the exception of Kenyatta and Banda, the key shapers of African independence were all born within the first quarter of the century. They grew up and were themselves shaped by the European occupation of their lands and their minds. In the early days the occupation was as savage and brutal as were the times. Notions of civil liberties and human rights had not yet come into play. Europe, at that time, had no doubts about its right to occupy Africa, put down its peoples by force, and determine what was right and best for them. (16)
That first generation of twentieth-century African leaders had the hard task of coming to terms with the prevailing climate in which Europe claimed the right to empire. It also justified the occupation of peoples and their lands, and the indoctrinating of all to its view of the world, its history, its right to determine the nature of the relations between races, nations and colours. That world was so set in its ways, the power and authority of the Europeans so absolute that to question it was a form of madness. Racism, the judgement and determination of the nature and status of man by the shade of his colour, was institutionalised, made legal by laws and regulations. All this was the by-product of empire. (16)
In the name of empire the Germans had wiped out a whole people in what was then German Southwest Africa. In later years the Rev. Michael Scott told the world of the genocide committed by Germany against the Herero people, an 80,000-strong tribe which was reduced to fewer than 20,000 people and then expelled from its tribal homeland to facilitate mining of the vast mineral wealth under its land. German colonialism was no better in Tanganyika on the east coast of Africa, Julius Nyerere's homeland, which was to become Tanzania. There, too, there was massive slaughter of people. The rest, the British, the French, the Belgians, the Portuguese, were less murderous, but not much better in their dealings with the natives. The manner in which they dealt with the natives was more a matter of national traits and habits and behaviour patterns than differences of principle on how colonialism had to function. The Portuguese*, as a consequence of their own history, were least racist. The assimilationist French were as brutal on the unassimilated as the others. The British were most paternalistic; the Belgians cold-bloodedly concerned with self-enrichment. All had a vested interest in controlling hearts and minds. (16)
To grow up educated into such an environment is to grow up mentally crippled. You are effectively separated from your own roots without having any clear roots in the dominant occupying culture. You are the classic outsider. Not the man of two worlds or two cultures as portrayed by the historical romantics, but the man trapped between two worlds and comfortable in neither, accepted by neither. To break free of this situation you must either tear down the structures of domination and control or take them over and reshape them to your heart's desire. For Kenyatta and Banda, both men born in the nineteenth century, the answer was relatively straightforward. They entered the new century shaped and defined by their own traditional cultures. The European occupation had little impact on the shaping of their own personalities. They coped with this new reality of the white presence without any self-doubts about their place in the world. The whites, for the moment, had control of power. That did not change their world. It made it difficult, awkward. But they had knowledge, direct or received, of a time before the ascendancy of the whites. And what was once can always be again. (16)
Nothing frustrates the slave-master more than the slave who does not see himself as a slave, does not accept the fact of his enslaved state. Those are the ones who have to be killed. Banda, too, had this attitude which explains why he had no difficulty making an alliance with racist white South Africa. The early African rulers, after all, made such alliances with the whites when they first came to Africa. Implicit in this was the non-acceptance of the white man's view of his status and his place in the scheme of things. They had knowledge of how it once was, so they could see a time after the passing of the white man's days of power. It made for a self-confidence and self-assurance not known by the leaders born in the first quarter of the twentieth century. So when Kenyatta and Banda came to power, they used power in the old ways, as it was used before the coming of the whites. The big difference is that they inherited modern twentieth century states, structurally different from the African tribal states with their built-in checks and balances to the use of power. (16)
It was not so for those born in the first quarter of the twentieth century. They had very little knowledge of how it was before the white occupation. This was less so for the west coast than it was for the east coast of Africa, but it was so everywhere as a general rule. The occupiers and their missionaries had done a great job of obliterating and undermining the tribal past and what it had been. They were educated to a system of government in an empire of which they were made to believe that the sun would never set. They learned more about the history of Britain than about the history of their own countries. west Africans knew more about Britain than about East Africa; East Africans knew more about Britain than west Africa. In the French colonies they knew more about France than about their own west African neighbours. (16)
How to free themselves from such a state of conditioning presented the first great hurdle. In the end, the same tools which were used to 'occupy' their minds were the tools which 'liberated' their minds. Literacy, the greatest gift of the missionaries to Africa, and the Bible, the story of a people's struggle to be free, were the beginning. Once they could read and explore ideas from other people's struggles and cultures, the emancipation of the mind became possible. Scholars had access to the ideas of W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. They became familiar with the struggles of other people in other lands of the empire. People like India's Mahatma Gandhi became their heroes and exemplars. Slowly, their view of the world changed, and so the world itself began to change, and they became part of the process of making that world change. (16)
That whole generation of African leadership, which led the way to political independence, was, to some degree, damaged by its encounters with the European. It was personal for black Americans. It was both personal and national for black Africans. The Cold War and how African leaders were manipulated by the superpowers showed up the weaknesses of the damaged personality. It was not as easy for their enemies to set Indian s against each other. Even at the height of the Cold War, Indian communists did not launch a civil war against their fellow Indians. To be sure, the Chinese had such a civil war, but it was of a different character and quality and it preceded the Cold War. In the islands of Asia, except for the American-controlled Philippines, the struggle was against controlling minorities - ethnic Chinese, ethnic Indians - not against each other. It was in Africa and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Latin America that the dogs of war were successfully let loose within the house. This was our great failure of leadership during the Cold War years. (16)
In the 1960s, in that great rush to independence for a whole continent, there were brief glimpses of new possibilities. We saw black men dominating the proceedings in the General Assembly of the United Nations by the sheer weight of their numbers. It seemed the world was finally coming to an acceptance of Africa as an equal in the scheme of things. African embassies sprang up all over the world. Some of the smallest and poorest countries in the world staged some of the biggest, most lavish, diplomatic receptions in Washington, London and Paris. Resources were squandered on palaces for presidents and their hangers-on while national infrastructure deteriorated. A handful, such as Nkrumah and Nyerere, used state power to further the interests of their people and the Pan-African ideal. Poor Tanzania, under Nyerere's leadership, supported the largest centre for South African freedom fighters. Tanzania set up a powerful short-wave radio transmitter to carry the ANC message to South Africa. The catch was the very few short-wave receivers in black South African possession.
Wealthier Kenya, under Kenyatta, had given limited support early in its independence, but pressure from its donor friends ended in the quiet cancellation of that support. Ghana, under Nkrumah, remained the strong arm of Pan-Africanism, though the exiles it harboured were at ideological odds among themselves, and alienated the Ghanaians with whom they had to work. The aggressive arrogance of some of these foreign Pan-Africans in public places hurt Nkrumah's authority among many in his own party. (16)
Elsewhere the leaders treated independence as the opportunity to replace predatory white regimes with predatory black regimes, to replace white overlords with black overlords; in some cases the shift from white to black rule was used as the battleground for tribal ascendancy. (16)
VII. THE SOUTH AFRICAN LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
1. A Comparative Review of African, Indian and Jewish Approaches
We have, therefore, looked at two to three approaches which are familiar among scholars and researchers of Indian and Jewish societies. Given that until the last decade of the twentieth century, South Africa was regarded by itself and others to be a country more in tune with the western than African way of life and thought, we have decided to introduce methodological approaches and concepts that reflect more fully and accurately the stance to be adopted by scholars and researchers within post-apartheid South Africa. The African approach identifies and confirms aspects of the African mind which appear to have been lost to generations of South Africans who were, for many decades, effectively cut on motherland. With few exceptions, the vast majority of South African scholars, researchers and intelligentsia missed out on processes and developments which shaped post-colonial African thinking about approaches to philosophical thought and traditions.
In essence, the contemporary African approach holds that Africa has a past whose concepts and ideas about life have survived the combined onslaught of colonial and post-colonial domination and influence. The enduring African concepts are reflected in the way contemporary African people define, approach and relate to the world around them. Notwithstanding the fact that for centuries African people were force-fed foreign or western concepts and ideas under the guise of modernization, these foreign ideas and concepts failed to dislodge Africa's indigenous concepts and ideas. However, in their daily life, African people have memorised western ways of coping with western-ordered life, work and worship. The task facing researchers of African leadership is which of the enduring traditional African concepts and ideas can be salvaged for adoption or re-use in a situation where Africans continue to experience ongoing conflicts between foreign and indigenous concepts and ideas.
The African traditional concepts and methods are compared with those of the tradition-rich philosophical systems of India and Jewry. Both these peoples have travelled a similar road through histories dominated by tensions and conflicts with foreign concepts and ideas. Yet, both have successfully held on to their traditions and concepts. Both have used and continue to use home-grown methods to maintain some workable co-existence between indigenous systems of knowledge and those borrowed from foreign cultures. Their respective leaders and intelligentsia can and do function productively and effectively through combinations of indigenous and foreign concepts. Jewish thought leaders have been most active and most successful at influencing western thought and development. There is no area of contemporary society which has not benefited from the outstanding contributions of individual Jewish thinkers, scientists, artists and so forth.
The current research into the philosophical and traditional foundations of leadership is particularly interested in learning about and from the approaches and processes followed by Jewish and Indian thought leaders. We wish to know and understand the strategies and tactics adopted by Indian and Jewish leadership to manage or contain foreign influences which, at one time or other, threatened to extinguish the life of indigenous traditional knowledge systems.
2. Search for the Unknown or 'X-factor" in Ethnic Leadership Experience
One of the challenges that confronted the researchers, at the beginning of the study, was the need to identify among South Africa's multi-ethnic communities, the group or groups with a leadership model or system that comes closest to representing the ideal effectiveness 'x-factor'. The rationale, here, was that the task or process of building a unified and unifying African leadership model would be best served by the use of leadership principles, values and practices derived from one or more of the existing ethnic groups whose leadership performance record is well-known among the people of South Africa. The preliminary research on which this report is based has assisted in identifying important leadership principles, values, customs and philosophies from more than one race or ethnic group. The research process has also identified several paradoxes, ambiguities, and contradictions that appear to be central to relational dynamics that exist between and among South Africa's multi-ethnic democratic, open society.
While no single ethnic group possessed all the requisite leadership values, cultures and customs, the researchers have had to take note of the positive contributions and strengths found in the respective ethnic groups. Given the foregoing situation, the researchers decided on settling for a leadership model that, while it possesses both strengths and weaknesses, affords the opportunity to make full capital of the opportunities offered by the model. The choice of model was made with full regard for some of the high profile weaknesses and public relations problems that are, from time to time, associated with the group in its broader or international standing. An important criterion, here, was the extent to which members of the ethnic group have made exceptionally positive achievements and contributions within and without their immediate community. At the same time, we were looking for the group that has had little or no strong political conflicts between itself and other South African race, ethnic or cultural groups.
The selection process also sought to identify the group with similar albeit not identical similarities in the areas of history and development, cultural values and customs, historical position within the broader open society, and so forth. We were mindful that such a group would also have differences that may not be readily found in one or more of the ethnic groups that make up the 'rainbow' society. Further, we were mindful of the fact that whatever leadership model we adopted to guide our programme, such a group would continue to play the role of effective bridge between itself and other groups whose competing interests were likely to provoke inter-race or group tensions.
Once the assessment process got under way, it became apparent to the researchers that between them, all the groups that were short-listed for more thorough analysis appeared to have several points or characteristics in common. More specifically, one or more groups would had more of certain key characteristics than others. Yet, another group or groups may appear to have stronger affinity with certain other issues. Briefly stated, the issues or features which groups appeared to experience or share common sentiments included the following.
3. External Unity and Internal Disunity
Looked at from an outsider's point of view, a group or groups other than the one to which the outsiders belong tend to appear as being relatively more united, more cohesive, more disciplined, and more committed to common goals. In a sense, it appears this is a case of the proverbial grass being greener on the other side of the ethnic fence. People who were associated with larger groups or amalgamation of groups appear to experience these dichotomies. To illustrate, Africans strongly believed that their group – a historically loose affiliation of several Bantu-speaking groups – is less united, less cohesive and less purposeful than most other ethnic groups. The smaller non-African ethnic groups , viz., Jewish, Indian, and Afrikaner – in that order, were generally considered by African respondents to enjoy stronger, more harmonious and mutually supportive internal and interpersonal relations. While it was not entirely discounted, the African perspective was adjudged by the Jews, Indians, and Afrikaner to be somewhat over-simplified and, therefore, not entirely accurate.
From this perspective members of the three minority non-African ethnic groups concurred that African groups appear to be generally less united and, therefore, less cohesive and less disciplined. In other words, Jews, Indians and Afrikaners saw members of the African ethnic group as being less disciplined, less united and therefore less inclined, at the personal level, to assist other Africans. Afrikaner respondents dismissed outsiders' perception about the existence of a single, united and culturally coherent ethnic group. The respondents pointed out that perceptions about such common identity were a myth created and promoted by Afrikaner politicians for purposes of arrogating privileges and opportunities to themselves. For their part, Jews and Indians echoed some of the sentiments while pointing out that their respective groups were historically more closely knit than those of their host countries. Both Indians and Jews pointed to the issue of external threats and group survival as key factors that forced members to effect a façade of greater unity than there actually was on the ground.
4. Group Survival and Other Claims
In line with the foregoing sentiments and comments, members of the four ethnic groups – Africans Jews, Indians, and Afrikaners - were unanimous about the internal tensions, conflicts or splits which existed within and among smaller groups that made up the main ethnic group. Tensions and conflicts occur largely as a result of perceived inequities associated with differential claims for status or position, disproportionate share of opportunities that the members of the group are entitled to have access to. Thus, every group has individuals who believe they are more equal and more special than others. These are the elite or VIPs. Yet, processes used to satisfy these claims often arouse internal tensions and conflicts.
Each ethnic group considers itself more special and superior in some ways to rival groups. Among the African group, these claims arose from feelings of being the rightful and first residents or 'owners' of the African continent or parts of it. Africans or the black group also consider themselves more special than others because they claim to be the oldest and the 'cradle' of the human race. Thus, other non-African ethnic groups were generally assigned a secondary status i.e. secondary or non-permanent settlers.
While conceding that their claim to be Africa's permanent or rightful 'white' ethnic group was mired in controversy, members of the group insisted that they were of (South) Africa. Both Jews and Indians did not seem to make strong claims about their status save to say that their long association with and contributions to South Africa, of necessity, conferred to them the right to belong. In spite of their claims to be more special than any other non-African race or ethnic group living on the continent, Africans or the black group concurred that their self-image was undermined by inferiorities borne out of prolonged subjugation, under-development, under-achievement especially in areas including science, technology, economic growth and wealth ownership, education and literature, medicine and leadership. Jews, Indians and Afrikaners claimed to feel more secure about issues concerning achievements and development.
One of the African group's most serious deficits centres on its weak claim to religion and/or practices that could be termed patently African. In this regard, the sense was that Africans have tended to borrow religion and religious practices which, in turn, undermines internal group cohesion and discipline. Jews, Indians and Afrikaners appeared to be far more secure about their associations with their 'own' religion. The issue of religion also impacts on the African group's claims concerning cultural distinctiveness or integrity. Thus, religion, culture, and economic growth and lack of wealth, and a general sense of under-achievement combine to make a serious source of weakness among Africans or the black group in relation to the other three groups.
Against the foregoing, the African group considered itself to be the least assertive and culturally less superior or chauvinistic of the three ethnic groups to be evaluated in more detail. Thus, compared to their counterparts, Africans or the black group consider their group to suffer most from a sense of alienation in terms of attributes or factors such as religious and cultural integrity, compromised feelings of belonging or being the rightful owners of (South) Africa and so forth.
6. The Dynamics of the South African Leadership Experience
The first and most obvious challenge was to establish which, if any, among contemporary African ethnic, tribal or cultural groups possessed a leadership model with the requisite ingredients for high impact and effectiveness. The researchers scoured many public and private libraries for the relevant data on aspects that, directly or indirectly, touched on the subject of leadership as it was understood or experienced within historical and contemporary indigenous communities. The process of search and discovery included consultations, discussions and interviews with a wide range of white as well as local and continental Africans who either studied aspects of or operated in positions of leadership.
The single most important challenge to confront the research team in charge of getting the African Leadership Development Programme off the ground centred on the team's ability to handle a topic of such indefinable magnitude. Under the guise of thinly-veiled diplomacy, 'constructive' criticism and worse were volunteered primarily to urge the research team to limit its attention to the development of something akin to an American-type quick-fix laundry list of the 'do's and don'ts' of African leadership. These self-same concerned professionals did not hide their cynicism about the research team's lack of capacity to deliver – period. This last comment really worried the researchers especially as we started confronting the debilitating teething problems. One or two of the researchers jumped shop under the pretext of spreading the organization's energies and attention to other 'strategic business opportunities' to avoid risking the company's fragile resources.
The research team received considerable encouragement halfway through the steep learning curve. The initial consultative sessions and in-depth interviews were conducted with strategically placed black thought leaders operating in mid-level to senior leadership positions in parliamentary and extra-parliamentary structures and institutions; bureaucratic managers and a contingent of managers drawn from medium-large private sector enterprises. Initial inputs from the consultations with the aforementioned leaders and managers were placed before evaluative workshops conducted among black and white South Africans as well as professionals, academics and intellectuals from other African countries and beyond.
The reactions of these assessors and facilitators was most encouraging, to say the least. Some of them started asking difficult questions such as: why do you have to look outside your own country when you people seem to have what it takes? What more do you think you'll learn from foreign countries or institutions? The comment that really got the researchers sitting up and taking notice came from a seasoned retired European manager who said: "It really sounds very odd that the people from Nelson Mandela's democracy still want to go and borrow our old ideas about leaders…don't you people realize the world is looking to see what you've learned from this saint of a man? What you're saying to us in the west is that you're not learning anything from Mandela." In the weeks and months that followed, similar sentiments were received from local and foreign associates who professed to be highly impressed by the quality of some of our emerging economic and business leaders in and out of government.
There is no point in denying that the team was initially wrong-footed by the sharp reactions received from people they had looked up to for connections with highly placed leaders in matured political economies, kings and queens included. While they could not drop everything to start from scratch, the researchers decided to make adjustments that incorporated the foregoing highly motivating inputs and observations. The team decided to stick to the original flight plan, viz., find an existing leadership model to help guide the development of an African Leadership Model with requisite capacity to claim a lion's share of the twenty-first century. The addition was that this objective should begin the process of identifying areas as well as people who, from a South and southern African perspective, have demonstrated indisputable track record as highly effective and high impact operators.
What started out as a shaky project soon grew into a highly rewarding learning experience for both the researchers and the people who participated in all aspects of the research fieldwork. The most important findings of the very initial stages of the leadership research were that, as far as African leadership was concerned, there was abundant light at the end of the tunnel. As one of the researchers quipped: 'and it is not a train coming but Nelson Mandela shining the way for the whole of humanity."
It is on the Mandela note that this study takes off but before we take off, it is only proper that we show how much we have absorbed from the light that radiates from his indisputable leadership. Like the proverbial broken record, whenever he gets the opportunity, Madiba protests that rather than heap all praise and admiration on his ageing head, we should pass some of it to the many men and women who are part of his blend of leadership. A highly effective and truly unique leadership that draws its inspiration, wisdom, courage, humility and patience from the traditions of Africa and its strategic prowess and finesse from the best of the west. It is to these men and women we now turn.
As Nelson Mandela and his broad-church leadership team or battalion were preparing to engage the struggle to replace apartheid with a truly African democracy, the authoritative editors of such influential newspapers as the British Financial Times and the New York Times were predicting that this transformation was bound to get off to a bumpy but solid start. This bold statement has its basis in the fact that the bottom on which the entire South African political economy was based had held firm in spite of some serious challenges from within and without the apartheid regime and its cohorts. It had absorbed some nasty body blows from massacres and other serious outbreaks of serious political attacks.
Those who took the trouble to follow the unfolding story of the democratic transformation of then apartheid-infested South Africa would have appreciated that the centre was able to hold and has held even firmer because the entire process was firmly in the grasp of a team of men and women with complementary leadership skills. There were widely experienced white leaders, managers and professionals who committed themselves to lend a steady hand and counsel to the incoming leadership. There were also young black leaders and managers who had, for a decade or two, been anxious to sink their teeth into opportunities unleashed by the democratisation process. And still, there were armies of men and women who used the exuberance of their youth to help keep the transformation train chugging productively.
A decade later, the world has taken note of the illustrious record of achievement that the post-apartheid South African leadership has amassed almost single-handedly. The leaders of the political economy persisted with their resolve to follow the courage of their convictions. With Mandela at the helm, the political leadership sought to put all its efforts and wisdom to the tricky task of steadying the newly launched ship of democracy. With a lot of noise from the extreme outer reaches of the political spectrum, the Mandela leadership team entered into painful compromises that guaranteed, to this day, that the transformation of the political economy runs its course without bloodshed or serious economic fallout. With the proverbial wisdom of Solomon, the Mandela leadership pulled off one corner of the negotiated settlement after another until the entire democracy project stood on its own legs.
What gave the democratic transformation momentum was, among others, black men and women who – for decades – were not be given a snowball's chance in hell of making sure that the country's political economy reliably supplied requisite services without delay or interruption. Ten years into the democracy project, the country's insurgent black-driven leadership and management teams continue to break local, continental and international performance records within their respective areas of business. It is this leadership's skills that are spreading South Africa's initiatives across the face of the African continent – be it in the development or co-existence politics, business and trade, human capital development, sports and recreation, or medical and health care service. South Africa is fast becoming the source and role model for the transformation of African countries, which had an otherwise healthy head start in the Uhuru stakes.
If the foregoing record of achievements and contribution to the development of the entire African political economy comes as a surprise to those who take an interest in this country's affairs, the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the emerging brand of African leadership. Within their respective fields of endeavour, the leadership appears to have taken it on itself not to over-profile its achievements lest it provokes jealousies against itself and the country. South Africans have long learned that the leaders and citizens of other African countries are hypersensitive and deeply resentful towards leaders (or countries) who enter the 'economic' waters with the trumpeting and splashing of elephants. After their first stuttering moves, they have now mastered the crocodilian manners of entering and leaving the water without fanfare. This, indeed, is the source of our much-maligned 'silent diplomacy' approach, which continues to infuriate our African brothers, and sisters who watch helplessly as their leaders allow their political economies to go to pot.
South Africa's post-apartheid record of achievements and successes has come with a heavy price. Given the urgent need to build lasting bridges among communities previously forced to stay apart by the apartheid project, the new political leadership has never been in a position to address the competing needs, expectations and aspirations especially of previously disadvantaged communities. Thus, at every level of society, different culture or interest groups have a bone to pick with the leaders of different institutions within and without the public and private sectors. It is not surprising, therefore, that looked at from this vantage point, the black-driven political and corporeal leadership is sometimes received with mixed feelings.
Non-South Africans continue to be amazed by sections of our citizenry, which choose to sit down before the completion of the rendering of our national anthem. The anthem is one of those difficult political compromises that South Africans have to live with. While they will acknowledge the political incorrectness of their conduct, unyielding African nationalists give a variety of excuses why they do not stand for the entire duration of the anthem. For instance, some cite ignorance of the Afrikaans piece while others simply plonk themselves down and mumble choice obscenities in the direction of their white compatriots who remain standing.
The discomforts of the 'cut and paste' national anthem are minor compared with real bread and butter squabbles which trace their sources to political compromises dating back to Nelson Mandela's stewardship. The predominantly black-driven public sector (including State-Owned Enterprise or "SOE") leadership has had to learn to work with and through predominantly white personnel kept in their jobs courtesy of a political compromise commonly known as the 'sunset clause'. Initially, most of the incoming black leaders and/or managers viewed the protected white civil servants or employees - so-called 'sunset people' – with utter disdain and distrust. Familiarity has since smoothed out or erased these initial antipathies. The paradox of the post-apartheid political or organizational life is that, in due course, people who were forced to work together have since evolved highly productive working relationships. By definition, these are based on mutual trust, respect, hard work and competence. Concerns about total transparency, accountability or honesty will take time but will, in due course, be ironed out.
The development of strong working relationships between blacks and whites who, less than a decade ago, were dishing insults – and worse - to one another's dignity and self-esteem is at the heart of some of the most illustrious contributions, achievements and successes ever witnessed within the political economy over the past four to five decades. Many of these achievements and successes are the brain-children of black men and women who serve in strategic positions such as heads of departments, chief executives, and directors of various descriptions. In essence, the new black leaders and managers have tended to fit into their new positions as snugly as the proverbial hand-in-glove. The secret of their success lies mainly in their adherence to the primary principle of leadership and management: 'surround yourself with competent people who are as good as, if not better than, you.' Put differently, the black leaders and managers appear to have developed a keen nose for competence and talent.
The foregoing developed a uniquely post-apartheid leadership style which is contemptuously known, in black lower- and mid-level leadership/management circles, as a 'black doughnut with a hole on the outside'. From this expression, the research coined the concept: 'Black Doughnut Leadership Model' as an apt yet convenient handle to refer to the transformational leadership and management the team believes is widely spread throughout the political economy. Viewed purely from a performance viewpoint, the black-white leadership/management alliance appears to have several credits in its favour. Conversely, this viewpoint is not widely shared among the many black aspirant leaders/managers who claim to have been sidelined by its style of operation. A more detailed evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the Model is presented in the paragraphs that follow.
VIII. THE BLACK DOUGHNUT LEADERSHIP MODEL
1. Democratic Transformation – the anvil of Transformational Leadership
The post-apartheid black leadership class appears to be operating on organizational momentum, resources and work ethic which were inherited from generations of apartheid-sponsored leaders and managers. The research has uncovered concerns or criticism, from mid-level black managers who believe that in many instances, the high performance attributed to some black managers should be credited to armies of white advisors, consultants and support personnel who have formed a white human chain around the black leaders. The situation of a black man or woman surrounding him- or herself with white personnel was cynically referred to as a black doughnut* with a hole on the outside. Needless to say, this unfolding trend is creating serious credibility problems as well as embittered divisions between top black leaders/managers and the many black workers who look to them for guidance and inspiration
The leader surrounds him- or herself with an all-white ring of advisors, managers, consultants and personal assistants who make it their business to keep disgruntled groups of aspirant black leaders and managers at bay. For instance, many participants commented that one could no longer have free and unhindered access to the black chief executive who was once a school-time colleague, a 'township bra' or comrade in the struggle.
Besides its proven capacity to deliver satisfactory targets consistently, the Black Doughnut Leadership Model has been useful in the management of otherwise sensitive political aspirations. It has, for instance, kept the anti-affirmative action wolves at bay; ensured that top black leaders/managers are allowed to discharge their responsibilities in an environment that is free from hassles associated with black employees who suffer from various kinds of occupational or career dependency; ensured that scarce, highly competent, experienced, and deeply loyal white employees are retained within the organization; it allows 'transformed' white leaders/managers to provide much-needed mentorship and coaching to up-and-coming black staff; and finally, it has ensured a sustained measure of peace, stability and creative tension at least in the higher echelons of organizational life.
Given its illustrious achievements, the Black Doughnut Leadership Model and those who swear allegiance to it will continue to dismiss, as inconsequential political double-speak or hypocrisy, recurrent government protestations against the public sector's over-reliance on consultants. Both government and public sector consultants know full well that without the latter, delivery of primary services would come to a sudden halt. Therefore, the best government politicians can do is to enter a similar symbiotic modus vivendi that subsists between the dog and its fleas. The same advice should be passed on to the swelling ranks of disgruntled black public and private sector office-bearers and employees who switch employers, with the speed of sound, in search of leadership with truly African values and traditions. Someone should tell these young people to stay and make peace with their organizational 'fleas' until we are in a position to deliver African leadership doughnuts with holes in the right places.
Until such time, the Black Doughnut Leadership Model will help deliver the new democratic, open society from the clutches of a divisive and race-inspired leadership legacy. Like it or not, as with our 'mix-masala' (hybridised) national anthem (Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika-Die Stem), the Black Doughnut Leadership Model is destined to serve its full term. It is as much of a stop-gap measure as any transitional programme. As some South Africans are now saying, 'why fix it, if it is working'. After all, this model draws its support from its proven capacity to deliver highly acceptable results. Like highly effective and potent cancer-management drugs, the Black Doughnut Leadership Model comes with lethal side-effects that threaten to – and often do - extinguish the very life they are supposed to save and sustain.
The transitional leadership that is responsible for navigating the South African political economy through the treacherous journey to democracy suffers a single but thoroughly damaging flaw: acute political correctness deficiency. This is, in reality, part of the transactional price to be shared among sections of society who are presently savouring the first fruits of the bloodless transition. In more detail, the basis of the successes and deficiencies associated with South Africa's transitional leadership stem from the phenomena listed below.
2. Momentary Leadership Disconnect and Lapses
The earlier years of the Mandela leadership were characterized by frequent outbreaks of tensions and conflicts among different levels and categories of leadership. A closer look at the period would reveal, inter alia, that many of the men and women who accepted leadership positions soon found that they lacked similar depth of knowledge and appreciation of the leadership structures and internal disciplines of either the liberation movements or progressive anti-apartheid organizations that helped to 'shoo-off' apartheid from centre stage. Further, the leadership of the broad-church ruling elite had shared little by way of the leadership style and disciplines that the Mandela leadership collective had trapped in their grey heads.
If the problems associated with the lack of shared leadership knowledge, values, discipline and strategies was bad at the political level, its impact was worse among the many armies of black men and women who found themselves pushed into senior executive management positions overnight. It is no exaggeration to state that many of the white managers who had presided over their corporations during the apartheid years found themselves totally in the woods vis-à-vis the workings of the Mandela government and its leadership. True to their one-eye or short-term corporate management habits, many companies went for whatever prominent blacks were available to be 'appointed' into positions that were patently devoid of content, authority or power. These were the first post-apartheid tokens. It is they who have and continue to give South Africa's transformational leadership a bad name.
These men and women became the true pawns in the hands of an anachronistic management style that had been cowed by nightmares they had conjured around the erstwhile anti-apartheid or freedom themes as nationalisation, majority rule, 'one-white, one-bullet', and affirmative action. As dutiful pawns of the apartheid era themselves, the white management had not taken the trouble to familiarise themselves with the real agenda of the insurgent democratic leadership. Like many around the world, white South Africans had feared the worst of the Mandela leadership. To complete the thought, even when it later became crystal clear that black rule meant no harm to either the political economy or their ill-begotten wealth, many to this day continue to wonder aloud: 'what happens after Mandela goes (WHAM).* The last time we looked, the industry that sprang out of the WHAM syndrome was raking in hefty foreign investment rewards. Sad to say, post-apartheid South Africa is poorer because the 'wham' enterprise has been transacted through a rather costly drain of valuable human capital this country has had to fund dearly.
To conclude the idea, this crop of black managers was largely ill-equipped for the real jobs of leading and managing organizations let alone their own chequered careers. In a number of instances, those who pushed them into the positions of tokens rationalised that the presence of the newly co-opted black managers would do the organization a lot of good. For the rest of the white managers and personnel, it would not hurt them to start getting used to blacks in the boardroom. Further, this tokenism would signal to both black and white employees that things were beginning to change. It is fortunate the tokenism experiment was short-lived although its ghost will be haunting South African corporate boardrooms for many years to come.
The foregoing analysis does not ignore or underestimate the few exceptional cases of black men and women who were suitably qualified to replace whites and had, in any event, served as boardroom sleeping passengers. If truth be told, the corps of competent black leaders and managers has witnessed a dramatic increase among its ranks.
3. Taking off where the Brothers and Sisters Left off
As the South African political economy celebrates its first tenth anniversary of steady but productive democracy, the leadership of different structures and organizations has to clean up the credibility and reputational mess left behind by those of their predecessors who were misused by a white management that was woefully out of its depth in the democracy stakes. The unfortunate saga of the short-lived era of the token black leaders/managers is the extent of the damage it has done to the credibility of their highly competent successors. It is the latter who have to take up the cudgels against the large store of racism and prejudice which is currently being used to undermine their efforts and achievements.
Another sad angle to the problems created or exacerbated by the era of black tokenism stems from the fact that a good proportion of those who undermine or underestimate the sterling achievements of the new black leaders and managers today are fellow blacks. Besides tarring the new breed of competent leaders/managers with the brush of tokenism, legions of black aspirant managers remain unconvinced of the role or involvement of these black leaders/managers in leading or managing their institutions and organizations. To reiterate, the prevalent perception is that the elevated black leaders/managers leave their all-white advisors and consultants to do the real job while they attend to the public relations of their office.
Yet, some of the bad publicity surrounding the affected black leaders and managers emanates from the self-same white advisors and consultants who leak stories about the poor quality of leadership and management residing in the office of the "Chief". Indications from the interim study are that some of the white operational managers and staff, like employees everywhere, are wont to let off steam about the boss' habit of taking credit for the work of subordinates. This sentiment often runs counter to the general principles of leadership viz. 'surround yourself with good people or people more competent than yourself'' and 'get the job done through others'.
4. Beware: "White Crocodiles at the Door"
A large proportion of black managers, supervisory personnel and the general workforce are bitterly resentful of what they perceive as a deliberate ploy by newly elected, appointed or promoted black leaders/managers to cut themselves off the rest of the black people within the organization. The leaders/managers are alleged to surround themselves with so-called competent or experienced whites who, in turn, make it their business to enforce ward off black visitors to the black leader/manager's office. In the majority of instances the white managers or support personnel are directly blamed for depriving them of access – without prior appointment - to a leader they consider to have been a childhood 'brother' or 'sister'. However, the black leader is equally criticised for promoting or condoning what amounts to the perpetration of racial discrimination by any means including proxy or 'remote control'.
Looked at from the point of view of black members of the organization, the behaviour of both the senior black leaders/managers and their all-white advisors and support staff has the effect of freezing black subordinates within the lower ranks of the organization. In the current organizational environment, white men and women who have been in those positions for relatively long periods occupy by far the majority of mid-level positions. Worst of all, many of these white incumbents either do not possess requisite academic, professional or technical qualifications. Yet many of the aspirant blacks have armed themselves with superior academic credentials which they believe qualify them for positions currently held by the under-qualified whites.
In essence, the Black Doughnut Leadership Model appears to have become an injustice collector for many post-apartheid institutions and enterprises. The problems and shortcomings generally associated with it are more than figments of black imagination. By neglecting to address such problems and perceptions (and misperceptions) merely compound them to the detriment of the organization.
The black aspirant leaders and managers who find themselves marking time on the outer reaches of the 'hole' of the black doughnut are often victims of black leadership encouragement to become more assertive or to take the initiative. The black aspirant leaders/managers have been counting on senior black leaders/managers to smooth their passage into senior positions. In spite of frequent calls, by black leaders and top managers, to their black subordinates to secure executive mentors, sponsors or coaches, the top leaders/managers place themselves out of contention as possible mentors, coaches and so on. The aspirant leaders/managers are justified to complain that their executive 'brothers and sisters' lack commitment – in colloquial speech, they 'do not walk the talk'. Consequently, emergent black leaders/managers tend to be dismissed as 'frauds', 'tokens', 'coconuts" i.e. black on the outside but white on the inside, or worse.
Notwithstanding its deep-seated and pervasive lack of political correctness, the transformational leadership model appears to have yielded significant achievements within different sectors of the political economy. Therefore, from a performance and delivery point of view the approach or practice can be associated with the following strengths or advantages that follow.
5. Short-term Price for Long-term Survival, Growth and Prosperity
Succinctly, had South Africa opted for the obvious winner-takes-all solution, it is highly probable that the post-apartheid transition would have rewarded long-suffering victims of colonialism and apartheid with a once-off booby prize. The black majority would have got their freedom and their country back but, without Nelson Mandela's style of leadership, it is doubtful that they would have had long to enjoy their new-found freedom in peace. But instead they settled for the hard and not so obvious solutions. They rejected the retributive solutions that would, overnight, have seen the disadvantaged majority fighting over their inheritance to meet pent-up expectations.
The one thing South Africans appear to have conveniently swept out of their collective memory is that until recently, the first prize to be had after the fall of apartheid was the wholesale nationalisation of almost all sectors of the political economy. Prior to the post-apartheid installation of the Mandela leadership style, every black school child and every worker in our factories and farms could recite in detail and order of priority elements of the envisaged programme of indigenisation or Africanisation – as it was once known among earlier recipients of the bankrupt post-colonial Uhuru project. Once the levers of power were safely in their collective hands, the Mandela leadership collective turned things ever so gently away from the disaster-prone Africanisation strategy to the deliberately harder to navigate but calmer waters of compromise. It is only now becoming clearer that any other route besides the one of hard compromises would have led to instant grief and ruination.
6. Diligently working through the Legacies of Apartheid
Even before he formally took over from his erstwhile jailers, Nelson Mandela had thoroughly prepared the country for the difficult compromises that were yet to come. He seldom missed an opportunity to exhort the previously disadvantaged masses and their impatient leadership to trim down their lofty expectations as these would have been too costly for the new democracy to sustain. His long absence from the post-Soweto youth revolution blind-sighted him to the depth of black anger and expectations.
Mandela was soon to learn that just as he had ill-advisedly implored the warring factions of Zululand to throw their lethal 'traditional' weapons into the sea, the post-Soweto South Africans were not completely sold on compromises that threatened to give them less than half the prize long overdue them. Yet, as they came to terms with the firm, no-nonsense authority of the Madiba leadership, many South Africans realized that they had no option but to take their orders and get on with the job.
7. A Forced Marriage That Works
The current transitional leadership model appears to be a direct product of mutual collaboration and interdependent working relationship between erstwhile political enemies. This is, perhaps, one of the best things that post-apartheid South Africa could ever had hoped for. Given that these alliances are widely distributed and/or replicated throughout the public and the private sectors, they should of necessity help facilitate the process of inter-race reconciliation and the healing of inter-personal relations.
Granted these relationships may have had a rocky start but those who stuck it out must feel richly rewarded by the cathartic experience of having to confront and overcome layer upon layer of inter-race prejudices, hatred or mistrust. It is, therefore, in place to surmise that the alliances have served more than their intended purpose i.e. saving white employment and/or preventing reverse discrimination.
Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership/Management
The Black Doughnut Leadership Model as a highly effective transformational tool is built around the very principles and practices of good leadership and management i.e. getting the job done through other people; surrounding the leader or manager with highly competent and willing supporters. In essence, the model is predicated on the premise that hard working and competent people deserve the invitation to join the elite club of advisors, operators and support personnel who work around the leadership.
8. Not Truly a Stop-Gap Measure
The Black Doughnut Leadership Model has proved itself to be a highly effective tool for driving much-needed transformational initiatives, programmes and processes throughout different areas and levels of South African society. Despite what its detractors say about it, the approach is not an entirely short-lived or expedient tool seeing it has, thus far, outlived earlier predictions or the 'sunset clause' that set it in motion. In short, the leadership has proved that, with hard work, patience, and flexibility, black and white South Africans are capable of achievements beyond expectations.
9. Not Motivated by Tokenism or Racial Agenda
Contrary to the views of its detractors, the leadership/management approach under review does not appear to be directly linked to schemes designed to turn black leaders/managers into tokens. As already indicated, any black leader/manager or for that matter any leader/manager worth his or her salt knows full well that the survival and growth of his/her career depends on his/her ability to produce expected results. This statement does not imply that cases of tokenism do not exist where this approach is implemented. Indications from the interim research are that such deviant acts as tokenism, favouritism, and nepotism will and do occur regardless of whatever leadership/management is in place.
By way of iteration, the deep-seated air of negativity that seems to be associated with the Black Doughnut Leadership Model appears to be a carry-over from political, social and employment practices which were pervasive under apartheid. With the advent of a black-led democratic government, the majority of previously disadvantaged communities had expected the government to go the whole hog in the implementation of corrective or remedial programmes such as affirmative action, gender sensitivity, and so forth. To reiterate, the decision of the new black leadership to promote the implementation of employment practices, throughout the democratic political economy, that made it mandatory for certain categories of black and white employees, officials or civil servants to be retained in their employment positions for a fixed term, shows foresight.
10. The Hallmarks of South Africa's Transformational Leadership
To return to the topic of the effectiveness of the South African transformational leadership, the paragraphs that follow feature paraphrased summations and comments based on a chapter from Tom Lodge's book on leadership styles closely associated with Nelson Mandela and his successor, Thabo Mbeki. The Prologue titled Nelson Mandela: Political Saint in A New Democracy (25), opens with Lodge noting ambiguities and tensions which are yet to be explained about Nelson Mandela's leadership make-up, moods and motives. He pays particular attention to exposing a number of personality characteristics, personal style, political reputation, and achievements that lie behind the façade of the Mandela leadership. More importantly, Lodge has been quite effective in his handling of some of the lesser known or less understood idiosyncrasies, paradoxes, ambiguities and tensions.
Lodge also lays bare some of Nelson Mandela's flaws such as his famous stubborn streak. Other foibles of the leader are dealt with through paragraphs dedicated to explore the truth and the myths that lie behind public and private Mandela viz. the fallible human being in his different roles as a son and young man, athlete, husband, father, and freedom warrior. Many of Mandela's personality and behavioural traits have been incorporated into the section that deals with the leadership of Theodor Herzl - the Jewish father of Political Zionism.
One of the issues Lodge raises without providing comprehensive answers is whether or not leaders, themselves, are best equipped to quench the curiosity of those interested in knowing or understanding the leader's make-up i.e. from cradle to the present. As is apparent to Lodge and many biographers and leadership researchers, no matter how well-intentioned the objective may be, the subject of such analysis can at best give us colourful bits and pieces of inputs or observation that seldom shed much light on the topic. Worst of all, readers of biographies about leaders end up picking juicy morsels rather than the meat or marrow off the bones of the leadership.
One of the issues that came to the researchers' attention early in the study was the realisation that direct interviews with real or great leaders seldom produce the searing illumination many expect from such encounters. This raises the question whether or not the leaders themselves are truly knowledgeable or capable of providing a full and accurate account of factors, conditions or occurrences that they believe shaped their leadership style. The flawed angle of this approach is that whatever the leadership icon or scoundrel identifies as contributory factors, these we treat as gospel truth. These truths are, in turn, re-packaged and fed to aspirant leaders. What is often overlooked is the fact that nobody, including the iconic leader, is fully capable of giving accurate accounts of how they and/or their leadership were made.
The inherent flaw of the leadership review designed to get the truth from the horse's mouth, is that leadership is not always an undertaking whereby the aspirant leaders consciously make the decision to immerse themselves in the study of leadership. If this were so, the institution of traditional leadership including ancient royalties would not have failed so dismally to produce highly effective leaders. Instead many of these institutions subject heirs to the art of refinement that leave them woefully out of step with the charge of the rest of humanity. Today, whatever formal and non-formal training is undertaken by the world's traditional leadership institutions, these cannot be used to guide the development of the calibre of men and women from whom society expects highly effective leadership.
The foregoing is, in essence, a critique of shortcomings that are generally associated with leadership reviews and studies sourced almost exclusively on the utterances of iconic or emblematic leaders. Lodge's observations relating to the issue under discussion have been well substantiated by inputs from the interim research study. In this instance, our researchers were extremely disappointed by the discovery that the majority of people in leadership positions were generally inarticulate about the principal facets of the topic of leadership. Whenever they have to explain the make-up, dynamics or paradoxes associated with both the concept and its application, many tend to regurgitate what amounts to a kind of a 'dummies guide to leadership'. One of the saddest ironies of this development is that contemporary African leaders have lost almost all useful knowledge about the dynamics, trends and applications and strengths and weaknesses generally associated with the institutions of traditional African leadership. As Lodge points out, the generation of Nelson Mandela appears to be most capable of traversing between African traditions and concepts or ideas based on science and technology.
Yet, those who have been assisting Mandela account for his epochal leadership appear to be failing to stay his pace as he moves in and out of the two worlds. Given that these writers are not well-versed in the intricacies of African traditions, it is not surprising therefore that they will tend to write copiously about the western and contemporary side of Mandela's leadership while his traditional persona remains a subject of wonderment. In his characteristically humble manner, Mandela does from time to time give both the ghost-writers and the non-African audience some brief running comments about his momentary sojourn into the world of indigenous traditions. On this score, Lodge concludes that due to a need to act out his heroic role, Mandela consciously invented a public identity which allowed room for his own brand of theatrical indulgence including the assumption of disguises and false identities. Thus, asserts Lodge, clothing, costume and style are indispensable components in the different personas Mandela assumes. This was particularly obvious in his choice of wearing a leopard skin kaross during his first appearance in court after his arrest in 1962. (25) Illustrating a point about his resorting to traditional garb, Mandela says: 'I had chosen traditional Xhosa dress to emphasize the symbolism that I was a black African walking into a white man's court ... I felt myself to be the embodiment of African nationalism.' (25)
Mandela's adoption of such traditional diacritica - leopard skins, Xhosa clothes and so forth is said to have been motivated by a conscious desire to nourish myths which have evolved around his leadership. As Lodge puts it Mandela tells how in the first months of 1961, while he was hiding from the police and undertaking preparations for a national strike, his outlaw existence caught the imagination of the press. Journalists called him the 'Black Pimpernel' and he would foster the mythology by phoning individual newspaper reporters from telephone boxes to help relay stories that served to nurture myths which have persisted around Mandela's leadership to this day. Lodge's analysis reveals that certain factual incidents involving Mandela were re-worked by admirers to enhance the mystique of the leader as a man of the people. For instance, stories about him making dramatic appearances or making a speech barefoot were proven false. (25)
The mythology of Mandela's leadership has been maximised through the lengthy period and conditions associated with his incarceration. Locking Mandela away from his people, while conditions within and without the country increasingly turned against the apartheid regime, helped to transform Mandela and his persona into a leadership club with limited membership. It is a leadership club which thrives on reputations made up of the virtues of saints, kings, martyrs, and servants of the poor, the infirm and disadvantaged. As Lodge says, Mandela's incarceration and the official ban in South Africa on the publication of his words and portraits, and the authorities' refusal to allow photographs showing him in prison, encouraged public narratives that were shaped by the words and images available from the struggle epic, which stretched from the Defiance Campaign to the Rivonia Trial. While a few timeless and ageless texts and pictures kept circulating in a heraldic fashion, the imprisonment and isolation from public view kept the narrative and the accompanying images pristine, investing them with the glamour of martyrdom but also reinforcing the apocalyptic possibility of a second coming. Black literary writers painted a vision of an assertive, youthful Mandela striding his way out of prison, fist raised high in the straight-armed black power salute. (25)
The fact that Mandela's jailers failed to realize the positive effect that his lengthy imprisonment had on the majority of people within and without apartheid South Africa provides an instructive lesson to current and prospective dictators and gross violators of human rights to beware of caged lions that may break out of incarceration to bite them. It is apparent from Lodge's analysis that Mandela's apartheid jailers failed to read this grim writing early enough to take appropriate actions. Instead, as the South African political economy was ripe for a democratic transition, the apartheid government strategists acknowledged their awareness that Mandela's removal from the political stage freed him from the requirement to make hard, human decisions. They had also become aware that Mandela was not so much a political figure as a mythical one. Yet, some thought leaders who were closely associated with the apartheid government prior to Mandela's release clung to the view that had he been released earlier, he probably would not have survived long enough to play any role at all. Other futile predictions were that after his release, Mandela would have quickly exhausted his revered hero-saviour status to become 'a spent force like an arrow which has spent its passion'. (25)
Long after he has departed, Mandela's leadership and everything that goes with it will provide a rich vein for studies about his class of leadership. Such studies will not rely entirely on what he currently says or does not say about the circumstances that turned one destined for the less eventful life of a traditional chief or headman into one of humankind's rare leaders. The studies will, perhaps, more accurately and fully analyze all essential facets of and about the man and his actions, behaviour, conduct, and temperament. They will, more accurately, pinpoint the areas where his leadership had most impact. But most importantly, such analyses will seek to know and understand Mandela's leadership that dealt, so effectively, with the paradoxes, ambiguities, contradictions or dilemmas of his time. Generations to come will, by means of extrapolation and analysis, seek to apply Mandela's approaches to problems of their own times.
Given that human societies everywhere, and at different stages of their evolution, always look for ways to address themselves to the challenges of change, especially in complex stages in history, it is Mandela's capacity to read the nature of transformational problems and requisite solutions that will attract their attention. Accounts about how Mandela approached some of the most intractable transitional challenges and paradoxes of our times will only become available once existing embargoes have lapsed. Protocol rules and confidentiality and non-disclosure rules will, for now, keep such valuable data out of reach. With his legendary punishing schedule of activities and a tight security network, Mandela's leadership experiences, observations and comments remain accessible to those lucky and close enough to be blessed by his attention.
Working from books and reports spawned by a publishing industry that is fast developing out of the man and his mythology, scholars like Lodge have not been successful at breaking the Mandela leadership code. To reiterate, those seeking for quick-fix tips on the management of leadership paradoxes have very little to glean from the current crop of books and reports. The closest we are allowed to come to Mandela's handling of transformational problems within South Africa and elsewhere are oblique references to the man's preference for consensual democracy or co-operative government. Further, Lodge says to the admirable formal adherence of Mandela and his government to the tenets of liberal democracy - the ANC's respect for the independence of the Constitutional Court is an especially notable example of this - has quite a different discourse running alongside it.
To close this perfunctory review of aspects of the person behind the Mandela leadership style, we paraphrase Lodge's statement that until his departure from public office in June 1999, Mandela's stature among South Africans has remained undiminished, notwithstanding the wavering levels of public approval for his government and his political organisation. Public satisfaction with his performance as president stood at 80 per cent. This feeling was shared across racial boundaries. Even after his retirement, South Africans continued to invest their hopes for national reconstruction in Mandela's iconic status. A proposal to mint 'Mandela-rands' in place of Krugerrands was motivated by the belief that such a venture would harness the savings of African Americans in the cause of restoring the fortunes of the gold-mining industry. The legends and narratives associated with Mandela's life undergo constant mutation.
11. Attempting to Fathom Thabo Mbeki's Leadership Enigma
In keeping with the African custom of respect for the honour of incumbent leaders, we have refrained from focusing much attention on the leadership behaviours of such prominent leaders as President Mbeki and members of his governing team. However, for purposes of adding balance to the review of the Mandela leadership style, we have borrowed from Allister Sparks' latest book, (27) a chapter that provides a comparative assessment of the leadership styles and approaches of both Mandela and Mbeki.* In his critical review of the book, Patrick Laurence (30) takes Sparks to task for some serious omissions which the latter has allowed to occur in his attempt to shed some light on the enigma behind the Thabo Mbeki leadership. Laurence's critique underscores the African wisdom, namely, that one should, as a rule, withhold public comment on the behaviour and conduct of those still holding leadership power. The hazards of commenting on the conduct and behaviour of incumbent leaders have been well documented.
In spite of the 'serious omissions' highlighted by Laurence, Sparks has been relatively successful in giving us a fair glimpse of the complex persona that resides behind the Mbeki presidency. His comparative review of the leadership styles and stature of Mandela and Mbeki takes place against the WHAM (What Happens After Mandela) question. Commenting on the issue of the WHAM, Sparks contends that the question itself and the frequency with which it was asked echoed the old doomsday expectations, a feeling that somehow the new South Africa was too good to be true, that it had happened only because of one magic man and that with his retirement after only one five-year term the country would surely return to its predestined road to disaster.
Sparks maintains that the view was not shared to nearly the same extent at home as it was abroad. Sure Mandela would be a hard act to follow, but Thabo Mbeki had shown himself to be a highly competent deputy. Mandela had readily acknowledged that Mbeki had effectively been running the country while the older man withdrew to take on a more symbolic role above the cut-and-thrust of everyday politics. It was, moreover, going to be a most predictable and orderly succession in a continent given to violent transitions. Here surely was compelling evidence that South Africa was different. And so there was no sense of apprehension as the first democratic parliament met for the last time and to bid farewell to one of its Founding Fathers.
Against the backdrop of Mandela's retiring from active politics, Sparks notes that this was a time for graciousness as Mandela, the most universally beloved man in the history of his country and probably the most admired in the world right then, took his bows. He had paid generous tribute to his political opponents the day before, now it was their turn. The normally acerbic leader of an Opposition party, Tony Leon, was the most generous, saying Mandela was one of only two or three leaders of the century, including Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, who had 'a special grace', adding that 'we shall not see the likes of him again'. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Afrikaner Nationalist whose party had jailed Mandela for so long, declared that 'it was one of the great ironies that people who have suffered greatly have the capacity to forgive greatly.'
It was more than just the end of the first democratic Parliament and the departure of the great Mandela, it was also a generational change with power passing from the heroic Robben Islanders who had waged their struggle for half a century and were now handing over to a new and very different generation. Paying tribute to the comrades of his time, many of whom had died in the struggle, Mandela said 'I hope that decades from now, when history is written, the role of that generation will be appreciated and that I will not be found wanting against the measure of their fortitude and vision.' Few in his audience doubted it was a hope assured.
And so the baton was passed. Thabo Mbeki took over in the smoothest of transitions and with hopes running high. Mandela's role had been reconciliation, it was said, now Mbeki's would be delivery and he was the right man for the job. Sparks observes that the leadership change has been less than plain sailing. For instance, Mbeki has not fulfilled the high expectations many had of him. Assessment of Mbeki's performance as a leader tend to based on two aspects. Sparks points out that regarding his leadership stature, demeanour and performance, Mbeki is unfairly measured by Nelson Mandela's universally acknowledged and saint-like stature, performance or demeanour.
Sparks observes that Mbeki is bright. The one-time parliamentary opposition leader, Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, stated, Mbeki is one of the brightest people and easily the brightest politician.' Sparks described Mbeki as urbane, elegant, and highly literate with a use of language that can reach poetic heights. He also has charm and is deeply experienced, a consummate politician having been nurtured in the business since infancy and virtually brought up by the ANC. Yet curiously he keeps stumbling and then struggles to steady himself, often seeming stubborn and recalcitrant in the process. The result is that he has drawn a constant stream of harsh criticism, both at home and abroad, to the point where two years after he assumed office the influential Business Day newspaper posed the question: 'Is Thabo Mbeki fit to govern?''
Sparks notes that it is always difficult to follow in the footsteps of a towering figure like Mandela. A few have managed, such as Truman after Roosevelt, but not many. And it was made more difficult in Mbeki's case by the fact that, while Mandela did not have to fight his way to the top, he did. Mandela was that unprecedented and unassailable phenomenon, a living martyr who descended from above as it were, canonized even before he arrived on the scene. Even his lifelong friend Oliver Tambo, who had led the ANC during its three decades in exile, was incapacitated by a stroke shortly before Mandela's release and died soon afterwards. So unlike any other politician I can think of, Mandela never made any enemies on his way to the leadership of his party and to the presidency of his country. No enemies, only disciples.
Mbeki, by contrast, did indeed have to fight his way to the top, in the tough and often treacherous milieu of exile politics that was laden with intrigue. In the course of doing so he not only made enemies but also acquired a manipulative style of operating. 'Thabo sends you obscure messages,' a prominent ANC member once remarked to me metaphorically, 'and if you don't read them right you can find yourself dead in the morning - and there'll be no fingerprints.'
Mbeki has also been unlucky. Things beyond South Africa's control have gone wrong on his watch. As Deputy President he was responsible behind the scenes for much of the acclaim that Mandela was accorded, but by the time his turn came the honeymoon was over and a crisis of expectations was beginning to set in. He was the one who was expected to deliver, who laid himself on the line with the about-turn to the market-based GEAR policy, but the anticipated foreign direct investment stubbornly failed to materialize despite all the applause from the World Bank and the IMF for doing 'the right thing'. Mbeki was the one who had to face the cold winds of globalisation, and the wrath of his trade union and communist allies as unemployment continued to mount. On the political front there were power games and intrigues as comrades vied for position. Fate also intervened unkindly: the global recession, Robert Mugabe's sudden mania in neighbouring Zimbabwe, and worst of all the terrible, unmanageable HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Sparks draws attention to the fact that Mandela and Mbeki are almost opposites in style and personality. Mandela, tall and regal, is a man of action who dislikes paperwork and theoretical discussion, but who revels in the spotlight, moving easily and graciously through the crowds smiling and greeting people with that special grace Leon spoke of, or his biographer Anthony Sampson says, looking more like a monarch or an archbishop than a politician. Mbeki, small and scholarly, is a strategic thinker to the core; a backroom operator who is uncomfortable in crowds, and a workaholic who sets himself impossible standards of trying to become an expert on every subject his government has to deal with and ends up delegating little and keeping his aides and ministers on edge lest he second-guess them. Where Mandela's leadership style was transparent and collegiate, Mbeki's is less visible, more centralised and controlling.
Further, Sparks states that Mandela and Mbeki are different away from politics, too. Mandela loves children and is never happier than when immersed in his own large extended family, while Mbeki is uncomfortable with children and has none of his own. He did have a son, Kwanda, when he became involved in a teenage affair with a rural girl in the Transkei, but he hardly knew the boy. Kwanda was only two when Thabo went into exile, and when he was 17 he disappeared after leaving to try to meet up with his father in exile. He was never seen again.
As Sparks points out, in large measure the differences between the two stem from the different life experiences that moulded them in the course of the long, searing struggle against apartheid. There were three different sets of experience that produced three markedly different cultures within the ANC, which do not always mesh comfortably. There were the Robben Island prisoners, the exiles, and the township activists who formed the United Democratic Front (UDF) and mounted the great black uprising of the 1980s.
Mandela was the quintessential product of the long-term prison experience. I did not know him before he went to Robben Island in 1962, but those who did say he was austere and dedicated, militant and uncompromising. It was prison that moulded him into the personality the world so admires today. It not only gave him his remarkable resilience but it humanised him, taught him patience and gave him a much deeper insight into human nature. It also gave him time, to read and to reflect, and to study Afrikaans literature and poetry the better to understand his adversary and how best to deal with him.
But it was a harsh experience. One has only to visit the island, 7 km offshore from Cape Town, to get a sense of what it must have been like to be incarcerated there. The prison itself, grey and forbidding, is a place of rock and concrete and harsh lines. Yet out of this pitiless place with, its sadistic punishments came these wonderful men, steeled but also imbued with a humility and a depth of human understanding. They learned how to negotiate with the racist warders and how in the end to humanise them. The island has been called a university, for the educated ran clandestine lecture courses for the untutored as they crushed rock and laboured in the blinding heat of a lime quarry, but it was more than that. It was a place of meditation and introspection, where this generation of older leaders learned about human courage and frailty, about themselves and each other. Above all, it bred in them a strong sense of equality and comradeship despite ideological differences which were sometimes quite sharp.
The exile experience was quite different. Whereas the prisoners were thrown together in close proximity for years on end, the exiles lived a peripatetic and often-precarious existence scattered around the globe. It meant that being in the good books of an individual leader could decide whether you were located in relatively comfortable circumstances, such as a posting in Stockholm or London, or given an a uncomfortable and even dangerous assignment somewhere in the African bush. The dominant role of the military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), and the fact that most ANC leaders were expected to undergo military training, also gave the exile community more of a commandist culture than either the prisoners or the activists back home.
Turning to differences in Mandela and Mbeki's management approaches, Sparks notes that under the Mandela administration the prison culture was dominant, with its collegiate style and its emphasis on reconciliation. Mandela left his ministers to get on with their jobs, and except on a few issues in which he took a special interest he did not immerse himself in detail the way Mbeki does. He did not even chair Cabinet meetings, although he always attended them, preferring to let his deputies, at first De Klerk and Mbeki and later Mbeki alone, do so while he sat back and listened. As for political strategizing and the day-to-day management of the administration, he left that to Mbeki too. Mandela was a hands-off President, an inspirational figurehead like a charismatic chairman of the board rather than a company CEO.
Mbeki's administrative style, notes Sparks, has been influenced by the leader's experience of conditions in exile. Consequently, the Mandela collegiate style gave way to Mbeki's centralised control. As Sparks observes, Mbeki is totally hands-on, totally engaged, totally committed. He seeks to be in personal command of every issue his administration has to deal with, always a step ahead of every Minister, always the best informed and brightest person in the room whatever the subject. The paranoia of exile is there, too. Unlike Jack Kennedy, who handpicked his advisers for their intelligence and willingness to challenge and sharpen his thinking, Mbeki has chosen his closest aides and ministers for their proven loyalty. What is more disturbing has been Mbeki's habit of moving against anyone he senses may be a potential rival. He is a master of the silent strategic thrust, with the result that some of the ANC's most talented people have either been marginalized or have quietly slipped out of his way into the private sector.
Sparks also points out that the prison generation is no the only thing that has faded from power, but under Mbeki the UDF culture has been eclipsed. To a degree this was inevitable, since the UDF's style of 'people's democracy' was never a practical proposition for governing anything larger than a Greek city-state, but the extent of the difference has rankled. The new commandist style, with decisions taken by a small leadership group and handed down to the members who are expected to show disciplined obedience, is as far removed as one can imagine from the bottom-up collectivism of the UDF with all its meetings and mandates.
This has become a major source of tension within the ANC-led alliance. While there are indeed serious ideological differences between the Mbeki government and its alliance partners, who are unhappy about the U-turn from socialism to GEAR and about the growing unemployment they believe that has caused, the government's commandist style has also become a major source of grievance. Cosatu in particular is rooted in the old UDF, and it finds the new culture objectionable. Whereas it expects to be a participant in policy formulation, it complains that it is consulted but ignored; that the government hands down decisions and demands obedience. Public criticism has been declared unacceptable. Members of the ANC and its partner organizations may criticize within party structures, but not outside. This, say the critics, is destroying the ANC's long-established tradition of vigorous debate within its ranks and turning it into a commandist organization whose members and partner organizations must be submissive flunkeys.
Yet it must be said that there are sound practical reasons for Mbeki's tightening of control. The ANC has always been a movement rather than a party with a coherent ideological identity, an alliance of disparate political elements, with trade unionists and capitalists, liberals and communists, all rubbing up against one another and held together only by a common commitment to overthrowing apartheid. The rumbustious debates of this 'African parliament', as Mandela liked to call it, were all very well in a liberation movement, but a government needs to have a greater measure of policy coherence. Moreover, as the ANC gained power, and especially after Mbeki took over, power games and intrigues broke out in the provinces as comrades vied for positions and jobs. Tighter discipline from the centre became necessary, and Mbeki himself took over the appointment of provincial premiers and directors-general from the provincial branches.
There is an inescapable contradiction within this kind of necessity. As Van Zyl Slabbert points out, there are many conflicting choices in the tough situation Mbeki faces. There are tensions, for example, between liberty and equality, justice and mercy, tolerance and order, or between free speech and ending racism. All are good values, but they are not always compatible. The ANC leadership wants to consolidate the liberal democracy and they want to go for growth, and pursuing the one creates problems for the other. Similarly, to stop the conflicts of policy between different ministries that arose under Mandela's collegiate style, Mbeki has asserted more authority over the Cabinet to ensure a greater degree of policy co-ordination. Again authoritarian action to preserve democracy. Sparks notes that leaders such as Slabbert are not critical of these paradoxical choices. They merely regard them as shrewd, essential political management of a tough transition.
Sparks contends that it has become a cliché to describe Mbeki as an enigma. Sparks confesses to being puzzled by the contradictory features of the man that swing one in a dizzy pattern between admiration and exasperation. He also notes that, in exile Mbeki looked and behaved every inch an English gentleman who spoke in tones of understanding and moderation that dispelled all the alarming images of radical revolutionaries. He was, quite simply, wonderful. However, later, through the eighties, Mbeki lived in his modest suburban home or at a room in the Pamodzi Hotel (Zambia) where he was prone to arrive late at night and chew the fat with a small group of journalists over a bottle of whisky until sunrise. Here, Mbeki exhibited a formidable capacity to hold his drink as he saw Sparks and many of his journalist colleagues under the table many a night.
Continuing with his attempt to fathom the Mbeki leadership enigma, Sparks notes that many local and foreign observers or commentators were readily impresses by Mbeki's captivating charm and intellect. The British author, Anthony Sampson, described him as a brilliant diplomat, able to charm and disarm the most hostile Western businessmen. Patti Waldmeir wrote with great insight of Mbeki's elegance and charm. She also wrote: 'not the easy openness of character that is sometimes denoted by that term, but a personality tool wielded sharply to advantage. For Mbeki, charm is a form of self-discipline; it masks his feelings, and ensures that he never gives anything away. It was the perfect weapon for the battle to hand. Mbeki wielded it skilfully to win liberation for his people, and a formidable position of power for himself in the new South Africa.'
Sparks adds that Mbeki became the key player in some of the most important strategic moves that led to the negotiated settlement. It was he who was instrumental in persuading the ANC, first, to abandon its armed struggle, then to agree to the dropping of international sanctions against South Africa. Both were highly emotional issues that encountered fierce resistance within the liberation movement, but Mbeki won his colleagues over with his cool, reasoned arguments that they were weapons of the past that would have to go and that it was therefore better for the ANC to manage their removal and win the moral high ground in doing so. Together with Mandela, Mbeki also played a key role in engaging with Afrikaner right-wingers who were bent on sabotaging the democratic election and persuading them instead to fight for their ideal of a separate Afrikaner volkstaat, or homeland, by constitutional means. And when chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, too, seemed to pose a real secessionist threat in the Zulu-dominated province of KwaZulu-Natal, it was again Mbeki who intervened to draw Buthelezi and his party in to participate in the election and become a partner in the Government of National Unity (GNU).
Sparks' observation is that Mbeki with the statement that Mbeki's has been a formidable record of achievements. Consequently, Mbeki must go down in history as one of the key players in bringing about South Africa's miracle of transition. He wrote and delivered speeches of sublime eloquence to express its highest ideals, as when he explained the inclusiveness of his concept of Africanness in a speech on behalf of the ANC at the adoption of the new South African Constitution on in May 1996.
Beginning with the declaration that 'I am an African,' he went on to say that 'I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape - they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and independence and they who, as a people, perished in the result. Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again…Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that - I am an African!'
Commenting on Mbeki's speech, Sparks says this is as profound and poetic an exposition of the principle of non-racialism, of Nelson Mandela's Covenant and his vision of a rainbow nation, as one could ever hear. Small wonder, therefore, that there was little anxiety within South Africa when Mbeki took over from Mandela. Mbeki made an impressive start, winning a larger majority in the 1999 election than even Mandela mustered five years before. But then the wheels came off. The millennium year turned out to be Mbeki's annus horribilis. His first stumble came in April with the leaking of an extraordinary letter to Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and other foreign leaders, Justifying his inclusion of a number of maverick scientists on a special panel of experts he formed to advise him on AIDS, which had swelled into a massive epidemic in South Africa on a scale that threatened the whole future of the country. These scientists were challenging the orthodox medical conclusion that the HIV retrovirus causes AIDS, claiming the virus did not exist, or that if it did it was harmless, that AIDS was not contagious but was caused by poverty and the very drugs used to treat it, and that the orthodox view was part of a conspiracy by the big pharmaceutical companies to rip off Africa's poor. Mbeki's inclusion of the dissidents in his panel raised a flurry of criticism, because their theories had long since been discredited in the scientific community.
Sparks observes that the Clinton administration was so astonished at this equating of criticism of the dissidents with apartheid tyranny that it ran a check to see whether the letter was a hoax. It then tried to keep it under wraps to avoid embarrassing Mbeki, but the letter was leaked and there was an avalanche of adverse publicity in the US and elsewhere. The doubts about WHAM were back. And so it remained throughout the millennium year. A close scrutiny of all Mbeki's speeches on the subject shows he has never denied that HIV causes AIDS, but his statements frequently reflect the attitudes and assumptions of the dissidents so that he has become identified with them. And if he never openly declared himself to be a dissident, he did not deny it either, and the dissidents themselves certainly claimed him as their champion. Their websites carry pictures of him and one runs a petition of support for him. The result was confusion and paralysis in the administration, where nobody seemed to know what government policy was or what the President was thinking. The whole administration seemed to be in a state of denial, including people who were literally dying of the disease themselves.
According to Sparks, Mbeki's second stumble also came in the millennium year, and again his efforts at recovery were hesitant and only partially effective. In February 2000, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe suffered a blow to his oversized ego when the citizens of his country voted at a referendum to reject a new constitution Mugabe had drafted to increase his already formidable executive powers. It was an event that was to transform the man and the fortunes of his country and confront Mbeki with yet another debilitating problem. When he first came to power in 1980, Mugabe pronounced a policy of racial reconciliation that won worldwide acclaim, just as Mandela's did a decade later.
He struck a deal with the country's white commercial farmers who, though comprising only 1% of the population, owned the bulk of the commercial farmland and generated 38% of the gross domestic product. Zimbabwe prospered for a decade and a half, then began running into economic difficulties which critics blamed on cronyism and rampant corruption. Mugabe issued a decree ordering the remaining white farmers to cease working their land on pain of imprisonment and as the agricultural economy collapsed and the Zimbabwe dollar with it, the country faced the prospect of mass starvation.
Commenting on the unfolding Zimbabwean debacle, Sparks says that as international outrage mounted at this wilful destruction of a once-promising country, Mbeki and some other leaders of the 14-nation regional alliance called the Southern African Development Community (SADC) flew to the Victoria Falls in April to meet with Mugabe. The sickening scene of Mbeki on CNN news broadcasts - with his British education and sophisticated understanding of the western world, the super-diplomat and skilled persuader - allowing this impression of smiling support for Mugabe's outrageous actions to be broadcast globally. Sparks states that the imagery has stuck. And again Mbeki has been slow, to redress the impression of support that it projected to the world. The next day he appeared together with Mugabe at the Zimbabwe Trade Fair, and as guest speaker paid fulsome tribute to Mugabe as a southern African liberator. When it came to the issue that was making headlines around the world, he could hardly have been more tentative. Land dispossession, he said, had been one of the most iniquitous results of the colonization of Zimbabwe. It had to be redressed, but redistribution should ensure that the land was used productively. It should also be done in a co-operative and non-confrontational manner.
That was all. Not a word of censure for the violence, the seizures, the violations of the rule of law, and the wholesale disregard for legal property rights. Sparks also states that the Mbeki administration called it 'quiet diplomacy', and perhaps there was a case for trying initially to moderate Mugabe in this low-key way, but it soon became clear that the Zimbabwean had the bit between his teeth and was treating the younger Mbeki with contempt. He resented the new South Africa anyway, and Mandela particularly, feeling they had stolen his thunder as the most important leader of the most important country in the southern African region.
Mbeki's impotence in the face of the increasingly outrageous behaviour of his northern neighbour has done great harm to South Africa. Zimbabwe was by far South Africa's biggest trading partner on the continent, so that the collapse of its economy had a serious knock-on effect. Moreover, the two countries are so closely interwoven historically and economically that foreign investors tended to assume it would be only a matter of time before the contagion spread to South Africa. In fact some read Mbeki's reticence as an indication that he was secretly supportive of Mugabe and would like to go the same way if he thought he could get away with it. While this was certainly not true, the fact is that Mugabe's propagandists in Zimbabwe emulated the AIDS dissidents and claimed Mbeki as their champion. There can be nothing more off-putting to a would-be investor than the suspicion that property rights may not be respected in the country he is assessing. And although Mbeki kept saying that land grabs could not happen in South Africa, he failed to put sufficient distance between himself and Mugabe to convince the sceptics.
The suspicions about where the Mbeki administration's real sentiments lay were deepened during the Zimbabwean presidential election in March 2002, when despite months of violent intimidation of opposition supporters and blatant vote-rigging at the polling stations, two South African observer missions, one from the ANC and the other from the government, declared the election legitimate, while other outside observer missions declared it stolen. This put Mbeki in a tight spot. Worst of all, perhaps, is that Mbeki's failure to act clearly and force-fully in the face of a moral crisis that threatened to polarise racial attitudes in South Africa amounted to a betrayal of the ANC's vision of a non-racial society and of Mandela's Covenant.
According to Sparks, the third major stumble for Mbeki and the most bizarre of all, revolved around the alleged conspiracy by three prominent ANC members against the Mbeki presidency. The conspiracy allegation was based on an affidavit by a discredited former ANC Youth League leader. Sparks maintains that, that anyone should have taken seriously the farcical tale from a discredited source seemed astonishing as it seemed clear that the naming of such senior and respected ANC figures could not have been done without Mbeki's approval. With no serious evidence of anything remotely like a coup, The Economist asked: 'Does this mean that Mr Mbeki is going off the rails?' No, it then responded to its own rhetorical incredulity. 'Mr Mbeki is not barmy, merely paranoid.' Mbeki conceded that while it may have been wrong to disclose names, he nevertheless continued to insist that there had been a conspiracy against himself.
Against the foregoing review of Mbeki's leadership behaviour, Sparks poses a few questions: 'So what ails Thabo Mbeki?' Why should this highly intelligent and able politician, so secure in his seat of power with a two-thirds majority in Parliament and no prospect of anyone challenging him when he runs for a second term in 2004, be prone to these spasms of eccentricity that do himself and his country so much harm? What explains the failure of Mbeki the President to be Mbeki the genial genius we all knew in the past; the paradox of the great communicator's failure to communicate, the great charmer's failure to charm?
The author says that there are no shorthand answers to the nuanced complexity of the man. He suspects it is all wrapped up in Mbeki's past, in his experiences as a child of the struggle who was brought up more by the movement than by his parents, who was educated for a role that he himself was never allowed to choose or define, whose whole life was controlled and directed and dedicated for him with little thought for his own wishes. He became in every respect an instrument of the movement, and the person who made him that was his own father. According to Sparks, Govan Mbeki was an icon in Thabo's life rather than a parent to his son. There was mutual admiration but there appeared to be little warmth in the relationship.
Sparks comments that Thabo Mbeki had personally disclosed to him that his relationship with his father had been distant. Mbeki is also said to have disclosed that this was by design seeing in the early fifties there was a general expectation that the ANC leadership was going to be arrested and imprisoned for a long time. Consequently, both Mbeki's parents decided the children should become accustomed to growing up without them. They farmed them out to relatives and friends. Mbeki explained to Sparks that his parents had 'deliberately wanted to break any close attachment because in their absence the Mbeki children would miss them and do wrong things. So the children had to learn to live with other people, on their own without their parents. These were parents, but they were also comrades, because that is what they sought to communicate to their children - that they would disappear into jail and the children must continue the struggle and not wait around and mope. That's how it was.'
Sparks adds that the relationship between father and son was further strained by a history of political conflict between Govan Mbeki and Nelson Mandela, who clashed frequently while they were together on Robben Island. Govan Mbeki had a reputation as a didactic and difficult man and by his own admission he and Mandela were 'both men of strong views which we express openly and unashamedly to each other'. Fellow prisoners described the relationship as 'very bad'. This meant that when Thabo Mbeki returned to South Africa realising that his political future lay in Mandela's hands, he distanced himself from his father and saw little of him. Nor did Thabo see his mother or sister for two years after he became Deputy President. Then he paid a flying half-hour visit to his parents' home in a military helicopter.
There was a history of personal injustice and bitterness in the family, too. Govan Mbeki's father had been part of a small landed elite, but a Land and Trust Act in 1936 declared the area 'white' and the family was dispossessed. It was this which drew Govan Mbeki into protest politics when he was at high school, and it still rankled more than sixty years later when he told me with bitter sarcasm that the prime minister responsible for this and other legislation stripping blacks of their limited voting rights and restricting their movements, James Barry Hertzog, founder of the National Party, was 'the real founder of the ANC'.
But it was the control over Thabo Mbeki's life that I think shaped the young man most profoundly. Almost from the beginning his future was mapped out for him. There was the decision that he should learn to live without his parents and grow up to be a strong comrade. When he was only nine his parents sent him to live with an uncle in the Eastern Cape town of Queenstown, where he attended primary school. Later he transferred to another primary school in the Transkei town of Butterworth. From there he went to Lovedale Institute, the most prestigious black high school in the country founded by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries. There he was placed in an 'academic' stream and required to immerse himself in Shakespeare and the Latin texts of Julius Caesar, Livy and Catullus. When he was 15 he joined the ANC Youth League, was elected to the executive, and in his final year at Lovedale was expelled from the school for his part in organizing a protest strike.
Sparks, further notes that Mbeki had other experiences, too, which perhaps left other imprints. For instance, Mbeki went to Moscow to study at the Lenin Institute of Social Sciences and finally underwent his long-delayed military training, in the course of which he was exposed to lectures by Soviet intelligence agents. This plunged him into a world of conspiracy theories, of perceived threats to the nation-state, and a belief in the supreme importance of information as the key to power. Some exiles who were close to Mbeki believe this experience infused itself deeply into him. They note that when he became Deputy President he ensured that all arms of the intelligence services reached Mandela through him, that he was the filter. As one put it 'the insecurity of his early life, and of life in exile, was on top of this underlying milieu.
In conclusion, Sparks says 'wrap all that up in a man of high intelligence and a wonderful strategic thinker, and perhaps you come close to the complexity of his personality. Some who have known him a long time think perhaps he is too intelligent to be a good leader, that he can become so absorbed in an issue and so sure that he is right that he fails to see the obvious that is clear to others. Nearly all observers, both inside and outside the movement, agree that he was a superb number two, both to Oliver Tambo whose special adviser he was for many years in exile, and to Nelson Mandela. But he is less impressive in the top job. As one insider puts it 'where Oliver Tambo had Thabo Mbeki to advise him, and Nelson Mandela had Thabo Mbeki to advise him, Thabo Mbeki's problem is that he has no Thabo Mbeki to advise him.'
Sparks' parting shots about Nelson Mandela in the post-Mandela is that while he has always prided himself on being a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC, it would clearly be improper for him to interfere in his successor's running of the country. That said, it is also clear there have been issues that have disturbed him and where he has felt impelled to speak discreetly to Mbeki. Mandela's intercession to plead for the government to make neviropine freely available to prevent pregnant women transmitting HIV infection to their babies is a case in point, and he has campaigned vigorously and publicly in AIDS awareness campaigns, showing that he at least has no doubts that HIV causes the disease.
Sparks states, further, that although Mandela was thoroughly supportive of his deputy and skilfully smoothed his way to the succession, he dropped a few oblique hints along the way which indicated that he had some niggling worries. He let it be known that he had personally favoured Cyril Ramaphosa to be his deputy and thus almost certainly his successor, but said this was because of his concern that Mbeki was from the same Xhosa tribe as himself which might arouse fears of ethnic domination, while Ramaphosa was from the small Venda tribe. More pointedly, at the ANC congress in December 1997 he made a speech that included a thinly veiled reference to some of the more widely held concerns about Mbeki in the ANC. The congress had just made Mbeki president of the ANC in preparation for his succession to the national presidency 18 months hence, and Mandela warned in the speech that there could be problems with a leader being elected unopposed, as Mbeki had been. More pointedly, Mandela cautioned that Mbeki 'may use that powerful position to settle scores with his detractors, to marginalise or get rid of them and surround himself with yes-men and women. Mandela hastened to add that he was sure Mbeki understood these problems.
Sparks also adds that Mandela will be careful, he will be proper, but he will not be silent if he feels his country really needs him. As he told his biographer, Anthony Sampson, as he stepped down 'as an ordinary ANC member I will have the privilege to be as critical as I can be.' So far he has been prudent, but he has served notice that if things should go wrong he will intervene. So will others. Thabo Mbeki has his faults and has made his stumbles, but he is an intelligent and pragmatic politician with the right ideals who I do not believe will try to defy Mandela's legacy. It may well be that when he is safely into his second term, as he surely will be, his inner insecurities will subside and the great potential that is undoubtedly within him will blossom.
To put some perspective on Sparks' review, we feature paraphrased comments from Patrick Laurence, which in Business Day, (30). Laurence observes that Sparks captures nuances of post-apartheid era, but significant omissions and errors diminish his work. Sparks' book is characterised, at best as an interim study of the events since the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the nation's first black president. The book is full of 'too many lacunae, too many digressions and too many errors, even if they are small, for it to be characterised as definitive.'
Laurence says that to be fair to Sparks, it must be conceded that few historians, even those of great rigour and insight, succeed in writing definitive studies of the more remote past which, in many ways, is easier to chronicle than the moving tableau of contemporary history. So it is not unkind to describe Sparks' book as an interim account of the first phase of black rule in SA. However, Laurence believes that 'perhaps the best chapters are those that focus on President Thabo Mbeki who, after nearly nine years in the public spotlight as successively deputy president, remains an enigma to many South Africans. Sparks seeks to comprehend and explain the contradiction between the smiling, charming and pipe-smoking Mbeki of the 1980s, when he was the ANC secretary for information, and the aloof president today, who thought he still smiles dutifully exudes no discernible warmth.
Laurence refers to a brilliant cameo of the meeting Sparks observed between Mbeki and his father, Govan, in Lusaka after 28 years of physical separation, Sparks reflects on the cool formality between son and father. Sparks explains it as the product of their commitment to the liberation cause, to their evaluation of it even above family ties, and to their deliberate subjection of familial links to the disciplinary demands of the struggle. Noting that there had been a history of political dispute between the elder Mbeki and Mandela, Sparks records that when Thabo Mbeki returned to SA he realised that the future lay with Mandela and consequently "distanced himself from his father and saw little of him". The thought implanted in the reviewer's perhaps even ruthless, politician for whom charm is a tool for advancement rather than an expression from the heart.
The lack of warmth between father and son may explain a personality trait in Mbeki that some observers interpret – almost certainly hyperbolically – as a sign of incipient paranoia. While their expertise in clinical diagnosis may be suspect, their observations of outward behaviour are not far off the mark. Mbeki does have a tendency to see enemies where none exist, to accuse high-ranking ANC notables of conspiring to usurp his political crown, and perhaps even to construe the HIV/AIDS plague as evidence of a conspiracy against Africa by the giant pharmaceutical companies and their cohorts. Laurence maintains that Sparks, while confronting the problem of explaining Mbeki to his readers, shies away from too gloomy a view of Mbeki.
Laurence says of Sparks' effort that, for an author who promises the reader close scrutiny of the inner dynamics of the new SA, these are serious omissions. They appear even more so in the context of recent investigative reporting by Business Day that heightens earlier suspicions that the final report of the joint investigation team was edited and sanitised at the behest of government. Sparks should have omitted several of the long digressions in his book – his traversing of familiar territory during the unlamented rule of the National Party, and his forays into the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Angola – and devoted the vacated pages to the arms deal and associated assault on the emerging tradition of parliamentary independence in a country where the separation of powers is enshrined in the constitution.
Further, Laurence makes that point that while it may seem excessively pedagogical to draw attention to relatively minor errors of fact, they detract from the value of the book by jarring the reader unnecessarily. For the record, here are but three factual errors that need to be corrected if and when there is a second edition. But whatever its shortcomings, Sparks has written a book that gives a useful insight into contemporary SA and merits a place in the libraries of those interested in the unfolding history of SA.
IX. ELEMENTS OF THE AFRICAN LEADERSHIP MODEL
Having considered the points covered in the foregoing review, the research team decided that aspects of the African Leadership Model were largely in a state of flux and, therefore, not sufficiently consolidated for the purpose of guiding the process or processes leading to the formulation of an African Leadership Model. Following are some of the arguments or pointers that the research team had to take into consideration.
1. Bridging the Conflict Gap between African and Foreign Influences
Given their long history of living under conditions of subjugation and subservience to colonial or settler groups, Africans have to a large extent lost touch with most aspects of the institutions of African leadership. Knowledge and understanding of its identity and characteristics, traditions and practices and history of achievements was by comparison with the settler or colonising groups considered to be weak and fuzzy. Whatever has remained of African leadership institutions, their guiding principles and traditions, these are believed to be in a sad state of disrepair. At best they have become anachronistic and somewhat out of kilter with the needs and challenges of contemporary times.
In spite of the foregoing conditions, African communities have had to borrow from and incorporate leadership ideas and practices from settler communities more particularly those of the European colonisers who decided to make Africa their home away from home. The non-African leadership traditions and practices continue, however, to experience tensions and conflict with aspects of indigenous cultural practices and ways of life which have proved mutually exclusive. One particular area of incompatibility centres on the overall approach to the occupation or art of leading. Africans seem to be rooted in processes that prefer to operate through a collective or group comprising members who possess the requisite or proven leadership competence.
Although not total equals, the respective members of the leadership collective are recognized on the grounds of the different or respective skills or specialisation that they bring into the leadership group. At the centre of the group there is, however, one who is considered or recognised as the leader because of his or her possession of specific or special attributes such as inherited status and position, known track record of achievement, foresight, superior capacity to take new and difficult initiatives and galvanise the collective into taking specific decisions or undertaking specific actions.
The cultural values and customs on which the collective leadership group draws its legitimacy, strengths and inspiration appear to recognize and support leadership through the collective. Thus, members of the collective are required to defer to other concentric circles of leadership collectives whose powers and authority grow weaker as one moves further away from the centre of the supreme leadership group. Against the foregoing, modern generations of foreign-trained African leaders have had a torrid time trying to work through one or the other leadership approach. With the progressive growth of western influence, in the face of the progressive decline of the African systems – foreign leadership influences appear to have gained an upper hand. Yet, in spite of the preponderance of these foreign cultural and leadership influences, aspects or remnants of African leadership principles and culture have refused to be totally eclipsed by the more superior, more urgent and current foreign influences.
Growing ethnic revival trends have forced African communities and their leadership to revisit indigenous leadership traditions and their institutions to establish which, if any, of their enduring ideals, customs and practices can be salvaged. There is, in a sense, an urgent need among contemporary African leaders to restore to themselves the much-diminished feelings of cultural integrity and leadership legitimacy. There is also a persistent or growing realization of a need to resolve the leadership clashes that occur as a matter of daily routine among African leaders wherever they may ply their trade.
The interim research has consistently raised the growing problem of younger black parents whose offspring have become totally alienated from members of the extended family or families. The alienation of younger generations of African children is primarily a result of the rapid cultural, economic, political and occupational or career mobility among legion of African women and men who, until recently, aspired to catch integrate with white values and life-styles.
However, once they caught up with the living habits of the white groups whose ways of life they had been aspiring to emulate, many of the highly mobile African families suddenly found themselves in a rather embarrassing predicament. While they could still converse and commune with the rest of their families or kind left behind in the townships or country areas, their children had no means of communing with or relating to their township or country relatives. Further, the young African 'foreigners' are regarded and treated by their peers as anything but black. These children are rather proud of the new-found status as 'white" Africans who live in erstwhile 'white' suburbs rather than townships; they speak better English and behave 'better' than both their parents or grand-parents. Grandparents and other black people still caught up in the tow of the catch-up game, continue to view the anglicized or over-westernised children as a mark of distinction and achievement.
The research findings suggest that there are, still, a good number of young black parents who are totally oblivious of the cultural conflict highlighted above. This group includes some of the country's most aspired-to elite – among them leaders and managers of the country's major institutions, and enterprises. This section of the contemporary African elite has deliberately taken the stand not to 'go back' to anachronistic ways of African tradition and custom. They profess to be keenly aware of the implications of their decision to move out, as it were, of the rather backward traditional ways of African society. These individuals are also acutely aware that their stance is short-term and motivated by a desire to capture a modern way of life. They argue, further, that if alienation from African tradition and custom is the price they have to pay for living comfortably while they realize, at the same time, their aspirations, then so be it.
In essence, these members of the elite see little or no conflict between their version of African tradition and custom and their highly westernized values. Lastly, they maintain that issues of values and life-styles have become so personalised that no one has the right to dictate what one should or should not do. However, they are amenable to consider whatever proposals or ideas the protagonists of African traditions and custom may wish to put to them.
2. Undocumented Oral Accounts and Claims
While many oral accounts of effective African leadership and legendary effective rulers, kings or chiefs abound among South Africa's multi-ethnic communities, these accounts suffer a common fatal flaw: they have not been documented and, therefore, are not available for scientific scrutiny. The Africanists' argument, that the leadership of the emergent open society and its institutions should be prevailed on to incorporate traditional leadership customs, values and rituals that appear better suited to and more relevant or compatible with our western-oriented leadership-management practices, appear destined to fall on deaf ears. Contemporary organizational leaders and managers have grown rather too comfortable with their adopted foreign values to give them up for values based on anecdotal accounts and notions.
While they increasingly hanker for better understanding and closer contact with their respective ethnic, tribal or cultural roots, many among the emergent generations of black leaders and managers are dead against the prospect of dragging 'uncouth' or anachronistic African traditions into their boardrooms or off-site management workshops or 'bosberaads'. As some of the managers commented during the consultative sessions, African-based concepts such as uBuntu (humanism) are 'okay as long as they are part of the team-building, entertainment or bonding exercises'. Although a popular concept, uBuntu has more appeal among whites than Africans. The latter dismiss attempts to re-introduce the value into contemporary workplace vocabulary or organisational life as a cheap ploy by guilty whites in search of political correctness.
3. Lack of Relevance and Diminishing Support
Both primary research and secondary source data indicate that traditional black societies possessed and ran their affairs according to highly ordered leadership models based on simplified organizational structures. Lamentably, remnants of these leadership principles and practices are found among African communities and settlements that live in relatively remote rural parts of the country. Even here, the leadership system appears to have been corrupted and relegated to the waste-paper bins of colonial and apartheid eras. Many of today's traditional leaders are engaged in a classical Sisyphean struggle to rally their reluctant 'people' back into an anachronistic life-style that is woefully ill-equipped to cope with the needs and challenges of a far more demanding and relatively developed or urban-oriented way of life.
The traditional African leadership model or system finds itself battling for support, relevance and breathing space within an open society driven by an uncompromisingly powerful democracy. The latter seems not to have bought the argument that traditional African leadership is as patently democratic as our full-blooded democracy. While it remains locked in this futile struggle for survival, the African traditional leadership system cannot, for now, convince contemporary leaders and managers into allowing their organizations to test traditional leadership principles, values or rituals.
The point is also made that the recent past history (colonial and apartheid) of African traditional leadership has been brought into disrepute by men and women who abused the system by enriching themselves, their families and their acolytes. Both colonial and apartheid masters went out of their way to corrupt the traditional leadership system by replacing the rightful leaders with stooges and cronies who were too willing to subordinate themselves and their 'people' to foreign domination. Further, many of the foisted leaders were poorly educated and corruptible. Thus, their claims or those of their descendants cannot be taken seriously by contemporary black men and women who are seeking to re-connect with their almost lost roots. The corrupted traditional leadership system stands in the way of Africanists who wish to return to what is authentically indigenous.
4. The Enduring Values of the African Community
The interim research study has established that indigenous communities of the African continent share many similar philosophical traditions, customs and value systems that have endured the combined onslaught of colonialism and contemporary developmental theories and experiments. The enduring ideas are, however, scattered all over the communities in different formats and conditions. Some are in urgent need of repair and storage. Rigorous research will be required to evaluate the relevance and practicability of many of these ideas. It is very important that something of value is salvaged from this endeavour for the credibility and integrity of Africa's self-worth, self-identity, moral relevance, and cultural relevance depends on this material.
Much has been said during the preliminary research about the pride and near-exclusive sense of ownership that black South Africans have towards ideas and values such as humanism, communalism, altruism, and so forth. On close examination, Africa's claim of exclusive authorship and ownership of these universal values appears to be in conflict with the truth. If these ideas and values are universal to all human social systems, the claims that Africans are making must be read to mean that Africa has its own unique associations, approach or experiences with these ideas. It is these unique or special African connections, approaches and experiences we are after. Put differently, we seek to establish how African leadership institutions experience or put to practice such concepts as humanism or altruism. What emphasis do Africans place on such concepts and ideas? What factors or conditions in their situation(s) render these ideas or values more desirable or effective?
As mentioned previously, further and more thorough research is called on to help separate indigenous from foreign influences that continue to feed persistent tensions and conflicts throughout African communities. This is not to suggest that African leadership researchers and scholars embark on the otherwise futile task of trying to unscramble indigenous from foreign influences that have fused together to produce workable social systems. We are referring here to those foreign influences that have stuck in the cultural or moral craw of African people. Such influences have remained toxic and indigestible from the moment they were force-fed into the indigenous traditional customs, and morality and oral codes of ethics.
In the case of South Africa, there is an urgent need to kick-start a process that seeks to re-connect to other African communities, local African philosophical ideas and traditions that have survived the onslaught of apartheid. Even this process will have to be sensitive enough to ensure that positive and desirable foreign influences that have merged with indigenous African customs and ideas are not thrown overboard for the sake of political correctness.
5. Superficially Researched or Untested Leadership Claims
While many of the African leadership traditions and practices have appeal to contemporary generations of African leaders and managers, the fact that these issues have not been subjected to thorough research poses a serious legitimacy challenge. One of the findings to emerge from the current study is that Africans have undertaken no serious writing on the subject of leadership in Africa. Whatever leadership writing has gone before, this is largely in the realm of anthropological studies, which by definition and approach tend to concern themselves with 'primitive societies'.
Therefore, until thoroughly researched material is placed on the table of contemporary leadership, talk about the reintroduction or incorporation of relevant or superior African leadership values and traditions will go no further than ceremonial and after-dinner speech-making. Contemporary African leaders and managers have openly declared themselves amenable to persuasion 'as long you come with African ideas which have been tested properly'. Given that the adopted western or foreign leadership and management principles and practices have become second nature to contemporary African leaders and managers, the ball is therefore in the court of Africanist leadership researchers to present material that will not backfire on leaders who are bent on keeping their high performance track records.
6. Collective versus Individual Leadership
Conventional wisdom among black leadership circles is that African society functions better or more effectively through approaches that place the accent on collective rather than individualistic leadership style. Some in the white sections of our society have even suggested that the universally revered leadership of Nelson Mandela provides conclusive proof that Africans can make the jump from collective to individualistic leadership. Other evidence is to be found in the gradual increase in the ranks of highly capable and individualistic black managers in public and private sector structures or enterprises. These assertions seldom take into account the heavy toll that this conversion is wreaking on black aspirant leaders and managers. Ample evidence of this is presented each week through headline stories in our mass circulation newspapers.
Research findings suggest that the issue has become confused as more and more young black leaders are being trained to operate through the techniques that place a single man or woman at the helm of the organization. The experiment to produce individualistic leaders out of black men and women is said to be making some headway but at a high price to the African self-image, culture and internal group cohesion. It is also alleged to have created serious disorders and complexities at the level of the individual.
At the same time, those responsible for force-feeding foreign leadership models to black prospective leaders and managers are also accused of doing so at the expense of indigenous leadership principles and practices. They are taught that leadership through collectives are ineffectual and less suited to modern organizational challenges that are tailor-made for the individualistic leadership style. Indeed, many young black managers appear to have bought into the individualistic model largely because of the rewards it bestows on the person who beats his rivals for the top position. However, once they settle into their iconic or 'Lone Ranger' roles, black managers and leaders soon discover that they have to reconcile the newly acquired habits with the demands of a group-oriented society. This, then, provokes tensions which make it difficult for the individualistic leader or manager to adhere or comply with such enduring African values as yielding to the wishes and demands of the groups. The individualist leader wants to know why he must share his hard-earned gains with relatives who failed to follow his example. 'Who says I must give some or any of it away?'
Given the disparities and tensions that are emerging around collective versus individualistic leadership approaches and styles, the question has to be asked whether or not there is, indeed, such a thing as an African leadership approach. What form or shape is this African leadership approach in right now? What is it based on: what is its religion? Does it have any record of achievement? Under what conditions or circumstances does it work best or not at all? Do we know if there are elements to be salvaged for incorporation into what we are becoming accustomed to?
7. Leadership Dualities: Balancing Strong Egos with Alter-Egos
The interim study suggests that traditional African society has long recognized the recurrent phenomenon, namely, that the emergence of a single strong leader invariably encourages another to rise to the surface. Traditional African society understood that strong leadership requires that a balance be established and maintained between different leadership styles. In terms of this theory no single leader can lead or rule effectively, continuously and alone without the risk of making serious mistakes. It is important, therefore, that such strong leadership is sheathed in a counterfoil to effect balance, moderation, discipline and a diversity of ideas. This balance is easier to achieve or maintain within a collective style of leadership
Much as the pro-western individualistic leadership style has, for a relatively long time, been punted as the most appropriate approach to contemporary society, it has frequently failed or found it very difficult to reign in strong, powerful over-domineering leaders. Such individuals often consider themselves to be more powerful than the leadership institutions or organizational systems that put them in power in the first place. Conversely, the traditional African leadership approach does not permit a single individual to tower over his or her associates like a Colossus. Tom Lodge's study of the Nelson Mandela style of leadership is a very good example of contemporary African leadership that draws its strengths from the strong leadership of a leadership collective. But more specifically, the institution which supported his leadership ensured that this exceptionally strong leader needed to have his abundant strengths checked by the installation of a group of men and women on the opposite end of the governing alliance that Mandela built around the African National Congress leadership.
Given the paucity of documented or researched information on this issue, it is difficult to assess the impact that this leadership collective would have had on traditional African institutions. It is astonishing that little research has been conducted on this subject. There is, at this juncture not sufficient base data to conduct a more comprehensive analysis of the implications that this theory or phenomenon may have on contemporary and future African leadership development and practices. However, we envisage that subsequent leadership research studies will pay greater attention to the theory and the phenomenon.
8. Re-assessment and Reclassification
Once current controversies about tensions between collective and individualistic leadership approaches or styles have been resolved, there will be a need to put together a new code or model of African leadership. The process of sifting through mainly oral records on the matter will require researchers and leadership development specialists to separate flawed and anachronistic elements of both African and western leadership traditions. At the same time there will be a need to re-evaluate the relevance or desirability of practices whose original motivations are neither compatible with the demands of a democratic open society nor justifiable on grounds including contemporary African morality and ethical codes and long-term national or continental African priorities.
Further, the researchers will also have to re-assess the historical relevance and accuracy on which some of the leadership myths and legends are based. This is necessary given the fact that the prevailing history of Africa is built or influenced, in large measure, by inaccurate, stereotypical or prejudiced assumptions supplied from low credibility sources including romanticists, racial or cultural chauvinists and looters.
9. Abundant Capacity among Emergent Black Leaders/managers
The preliminary research has established, inter alia, that the new breed of African leaders that is taking over the running of our democracy and the institutions that drive and sustain it, have demonstrated the requisite capacity to learn and quickly adapt to serious leadership challenges that come across their radar on a day to day basis. While many become unwilling accomplices in the premature termination of their own leadership-managerial careers, many others are benefiting from the crass mistakes of their colleagues. They may not, at the time, realize that big mistakes bring about big learning and fatal mistakes reward offenders with fatal consequences.
Many are petrified by mass media corruption campaigns emanating from quarters generally suspected of being supportive of or sponsored by unpatriotic white elements, and enemies of the transformational and affirmative action programmes of our democratic government. Those who punt this line often tend to forget that whether or not these corruption and impropriety charges are founded, the real value of the so-called 'anti-black leadership' campaign lies in the learning opportunities it presents.
10. The Nether-side of African Leadership
The interim study has suggested future leadership research should not be confined to analyses of attributes or things that make leaders popular, famous or likeable. Modern western literature is replete with quick-fix laundry lists of the do's and don'ts of modern leadership and management. Some of these lists are incorporated in sections of the current report. Writers and commentators on the subject of leadership tend to pay little or no attention to the personality or behavioural weaknesses of those in leadership positions. Where such coverage occurs, the emphasis falls more on the errant man or woman instead of attempting to establish the source or sources of what is known to be a universal phenomenon. Yet, contemporary leadership within and without the field of politics has had to endure public humiliation following public disclosures about the leaders' errant behaviours. The public, in turn, tends to treat such weaknesses as rare or inconsequential.
Given that leadership is about the management of paradoxes and ambiguities, it is important that we obtain full knowledge and understanding of flaws and foibles that reside on the opposite end of the leadership effectiveness continuum. Such knowledge will go a long way in assisting black leadership to free itself from its underdog status and attendant conditions which continue to frustrate attempts to nurture a distinctively yet effective African leadership.
For all the reasons cited above, the researchers decided to look elsewhere for a more suitable and less toxic leadership model. Stopgap or not, the Black Doughnut Leadership Model appears to contain seeds of self-destruction.
APPENDIX I: PROSPECTS FOR AFRICAN CULTURE*
Comparative Study between African and Japanese Cultures
During the last half century, Africa has undergone great change. Recently, it occurred to me that within this time period major developments have taken place roughly every fifteen years, and knowledge one day is no longer valid the next. For example, Kwame Nkrumah, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Jomo Kenyatta and Julius K. Nyerere, once leading lights in Africa who guided their countries to nationhood, were rejected by the next generation. However, in the case of Senghor, a proponent of dialectics, he actually welcomes this because he sees denial as a sign of progress and the dynamics of history. Be that as it may, no matter how much Nkrumah's Pan-Africanism, Senghor's Négritude, and Nyerere's belief in Ujamaa be rejected, a certain portion of their thought would not have died, but transcends history and at times seems to come back to life like a Phoenix.
The relationship between black and white, African and European, negro and white culture, forms a basic axis for tracing these rapid changes in contemporary Africa in a broad sense that also encompasses culture. The same is true for looking at and studying the future. The reason lies in the grim reality of the slave trade and colonial rule carried out by white men. When these relationships are looked at from a cultural perspective, the spotlight falls on the Négritude movement, a cultural movement that flourished in Paris in the 1930s and centered around Léopold Senghor, a poet and former president of Senegal, Aimé Césaire, who came from the island of Martinique in the Caribbean, and Léon-Gontran Damas from Guyane. These poets who belonged to the Négritude School directly attacked the assimilation policy established by France for its colonies under the slogan, "rejection of assimilation." In their poetry they extolled the beauty of Négritude and the splendor of traditional African culture, and by awakening Africans to a sense of their own dignity clearly set up Négritude in opposition to the idea of white supremacy, which France had fashioned to rationalize its colonial rule.
The French attitude of those days, for example, was manifested even in André Gide, being considered the leading European intellectual of the day, whose disparagement of Africans can be seen in his Voyage au Congo (1927). Africans instinctively sense this type of disparagement lurking even behind the European social anthropology pioneered by Lévi Strauss and E. Pritchard. Hence this point should be taken fully into consideration when dealing with Africa from the point of view of cultural anthropology.
In this sense, although the contents of the Négritude movement themselves are criticized as being too abstract and conceptual, as a notification of the beginning of a showdown aimed at normalizing the relationship between negro and white cultures, this movement can be considered a key cultural movement in terms of seeking equality between the two cultures. The locus classicus of this movement was Césaire's poetry collection Cahier d'un retour au pays natal, which deals with the anger of the black people who had been sold as slaves in the Caribbean and the yearning that people who had lost their roots felt for the ancestral African continent.
The relationship between the two cultures can be divided into roughly fifteen-year time-periods counting backward from 1930. The notorious Berlin Conference took place in 1885; it marked the subjugation and colonization of Africa by whites, and thus is known as the "Partition Congress". The last black resistance to it, that of King Samoli of Guinea, ended about fifteen years later in 1898. The king met a violent end as a prisoner in 1900. But 1900 was also when the lawyer H. Sylvester Williams from the Caribbean opened the first Pan-African Congress in London, and thus marks the beginning of a different type of black resistance movement.
A little less than fifteen years later World War I broke out; blacks from America and Africa were sent to the front as soldiers, and blacks increased their power relatively speaking against whites in the form of the debt they imposed on whites. It eventually was linked to the Négritude movement in the 1930s, which aimed at revolutionizing the consciousness of negroes. The Négritude movement should be viewed as a movement to restore the rights of blacks, who sought to regain a normal, positive relationship vis-a-vis whites, in place of the negative relationship forcibly imposed by the Berlin Conference. The movement to restore the rights of Africans and resolve the negative relationship in turn can be broken up into fifteen-year intervals: the end of the Second World War in 1945, and independence in 1960, known as the Year of Africa.
For blacks, the period between 1945 and 1960 was a time of organization in preparation for independence, which could be seen as repayment for blacks' cooperation with whites in the Second World War, when several times more blacks served than in World War I. In order to train personnel to run the state after independence, fundamental reforms were carried out in the education system under the administration of the former colonial powers. Capable Africans steadily acquired a European type of education and management skills. For example, the highest educational institution was elevated from the level of a college to that of a university college, and then to a university. In the Francophone countries, Dakar University (in Senegal) and in the English-speaking world, Makerere University (Uganda) in the East and lbadan University (Nigeria) in the West became centers of learning that ambitious youths aspired to as a gateway to success. More outstanding students went to study at universities in Britain and France, where they absorbed the advanced culture of Europe and learn how to assist in the modernization of their own country. They were like Japanese writers of the Meiji period such as Mori Ogai, Natsume Soseki, and Nagai Kafu, who combined Japanese spirit with western learning.
Representative writers from this period include Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. The titles of Achebe's first two novels, Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, come from poems by W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot, who at the beginning of the twentieth century perceived that the cycle of modern European civilization had ended at the close of the nineteenth century, and that white civilization had entered a period of change. The reason that Achebe used their verses as title was because he had the same sort of insight about Africa - that it was entering precisely the same period of metamorphosis. Even so, although Achebe kept a fixed distance from white culture, it is impossible to deny that he felt heavy pressure from it at this time. As Gerald Moore, a pioneer in the study of African literature, has aptly pointed out, even Soyinka's A Dance of the Forests, a play from his early period, is heavily influenced by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It is common knowledge that he later developed his own dramaturge theory by blending traditional African and classical European theatre while admiring the absurdist dramaturge of Beckett and Pinter. In other words, this period was still one of total absorption in the all-powerful European culture. In the French-speaking world, on the other hand, the négritude advocated by Senghor was undergoing major substantive changes during this period. In short, there was a major shift toward Négritude that was open to the world, and away from a closed form of Négritude. The latter, which proudly rejected white culture and all white things, had locked itself up exclusively in what could be called a stronghold of Négritude, which Senghor himself described as "the Négritude ghetto."
The impetus behind Senghor's awakening to this "human type of négritude" was provided by the two years he spent as a prisoner beginning in 1940. During that time, he saw the narrow-minded racism of the Nazis before his very eyes, and his loathing for Nazism aroused self-hatred regarding the closed type of négritude, which took the same position on "purity of blood" as the Nazis. While a prisoner, he realized the truth about "racial mixtures" in the process of organizing and systematizing the knowledge of anthropology and folklore he had acquired thus far. As Senghor himself said, "The course of the Négritude movement at the end of the Second World War was established as a result of discovering that, without exception, all the great civilizations of the Mediterranean, beginning with Greece, are the product of biological and cultural mixture. Out of this arose Senghor's theory of mixed culture, which provided the framework for his thought thereafter. It is expressed in his poem "New York", where he asserts that the only way to revive the enervated European culture is to infuse its white blood with black blood.
At the same time, in order to display this open type of négritude to the world, Senghor participated in launching Présence Africain, the oldest quarterly cultural magazine in Africa which began in 1947. Thereafter, he led the world of African thought as its most powerful advocate. In a criticism of Sartre, Senghor said, " is not a dialectical upbeat but the downbeat." (It is not the antithesis but the thesis.) At the very least, by this point a reversal of white and black culture had already taken place in his mind. However, criticism of Négritude emerged around this time (i.e., in the 1950s), especially among English-speaking writers, including Sembéne Ousmane from his own country of Senegal. In particular, the South African writer, Es'kia Mphahlele, for example, said, "To Africans, negritude is perfectly natural; it is not even worthy of a slogan.... Whether it is used for artistic activities or as a concept for struggle, to us negritude is just so much intellectual talk, a cult." Wole Soyinka of Nigeria declared, "A tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces. A tiger does not stand in the forest and say: 'I am a tiger.' When you pass where the tiger has walked before, you see the skeleton of the duiker, you know that some tigritude has been emanated there."
Compared to their counterparts in Francophone countries who were subjected to the pressure of white culture in their youth as a result of the assimilation policy, these writers in English-speaking countries had grown up under indirect rule and therefore were able to preserve rather the traditional local culture, relatively speaking. For them, there was not much need to contrast Negritude so sharply against white culture. Moreover, by around 1960, the blacks themselves had matured and no longer felt the need to confront white men as tensely as in the 1930s. Mphahlele's remark also gives us a glimpse of the differences that existed in the Africans' environment. Nkrumah's criticism as a Pan-Africanist "Pan-negroism is an obstacle to the solidarity of the African nations." is also conspicuous as an attack on the reverse-racism aspect of négritude.
During the following fifteen-year period, namely, from 1960 to 1975, as African countries gained independence one after the other, they proclaimed Africanisation to be their most urgent need. Africanisation denotes the process after independence whereby Africans took over the posts of the white men who had monopolized the key positions in the government under colonial rule, and the period was marked by great advances in this direction. However, only the elite, a privileged class referred to as "white Africans," reaped the benefits of independence. These were the people who had studied under white teachers at the only one university in the country and had gone off to study further in Europe. They were steeped in European education and could not sever the deep bond linking them to the former European overlords. Independence not only did not benefit the common people; the "white Africans" flagrantly abused their privileged position through tyranny, chaos, and corruption, and the gap between the rich and the poor deepened while the despair of the populace increased daily, creating the foundation for a series of military coup-d'états.
The novel, The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born (1968), by Ayi Kwei Armah from Ghana and the short story, The Spider's Web, by Leonard Kibera from Kenya are two works that urge social reform depicting satirically the tyranny of these "white Africans" and the despair of the people. The system of rule by these "white Africans," who remained rigidly tied to white capital economically and culturally, was perceived of as neocolonialism. Since around 1975, a cultural movement sprung up across the African continent seeking to wipe out the negative structure of colonialism and neocolonialism, which had continued since 1885, and restore relations between white men and black to a normal, positive structure in the everyday world rather than in an abstract, conceptual realm, as in the case of Senghor.
Among the older generation, the central figures in promoting the cultural movement at this time of reckoning are Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Micere Mugo, who took upon themselves the task of relentless self-criticism like Frantz Fanon, who devoted his life to wiping out the traces of white culture in which he had been steeped deeply. They directed all their energy to eradicating the residue of white culture, which formed a sediment in their subconsciousness. They stood at the forefront of the opposition movement, and were banished from their homeland as a result of their antiestablishment activities.
A major role has also been played by younger authors who studied African culture under black professors at universities, which had been Africanized and remodeled. Even so, when it came to a final parting from this white culture, the appearance of two novels during this period that allegorized the humiliation caused by white culture in terms of prostitutes must be seen as very symbolic. The first one, Sacrifice, was written by Kole Omotoso from Nigeria in 1974. The basic theme of this novel is posed in terms of the question: "Can the future be perfect for a people whose past is imperfect (that is, slavery, colonialism) and present merely continuous (that is, neo-colonialism, mutual self-destruction)?"
The novel depicts the early life of the illegitimate child, Lana Siwaju, whose mother was a prostitute. In the end, the mother commits suicide, and the last scene in the novel depicts her offering herself as a living sacrifice on behalf of Africa's bright future. In other words, the violation of Africa's virginity and its degradation under colonial rule are superimposed on the fate of a prostitute, with the prostitute being depicted as a sacrifice that has to be devoted to the Africa's future and as a symbol of the ignominious past. Hence the path leading to the "pure" modernization of Africa involves first of all burying this ignominious past; only then will Africa's illustrious future open up. The other work, Petals of Blood (1977), is a historical novel that was written slowly over a period of five years, and thus is memorable for the author Ngugi himself. In it, the brothel run by Wanja, a prostitute-turned-madame, is depicted in terms of restitution, as having to be burned in the end to purify Kenya, which had been humiliated by neo-colonial tools of foreign capital.
Around this time, the slogan "African literature in African languages for Africans" began to be proclaimed in response to this kind of cultural trend that attempted to wipe away the ignominy and subjugation that white culture imposed. For example, Achebe and Ngugi took the position that Africans' real feelings could only be conveyed in their mother tongue. They began in earnest to include lgbo and Gikuyu words in their own poetry and novel, and Ngugi has recently carried this one step further by writing his novels and plays in Gikuyu first, and then simultaneously publishing an English-language version.
A similar kind of movement has taken place in the French-speaking world during the same period. In 1977, the cultural magazine Présence Africain, a bastion of the movement to promote negritude, passed the one-hundred-issue mark. To commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of its publisher, the Society of African Culture, a series of special issues were published between 1976 and 1977 on the "Negro-African Cultural Identity." They called for the founding of a new negro civilization and the renaissance of black civilization. In other words, behind this lay the basic recognition that the benefits of independence were monopolized by a small group of Africans, by "white Africans" who were in conspiracy with, white capital and could not be, separated from it. It was realized that only way to be saved from this cultural crisis was to be surrounded by the common people and reshape African cultural identity in order to overcome the new indirect economic exploitation, in other words, neocolonialism, which had replaced direct political exploitation by white men. The energy to promote this new cultural movement was to be tapped from the world of oral literature deriving from folktales, which the common people had preserved deep down from time immemorial, and of which Africa was said to be an endless treasure house.
Thus far, I have traced the arduous path by which the power relations between the white and black cultures changed dramatically every fifteen years or so since the partition of Africa in 1885, in the course of which Africans changed the negative structure to a positive one. I have also explained the "inevitable logic" of the cultural situation in Africa since 1975, approximately a century after the Berlin Conference: namely, the arrival of the decisive stage in the separation from white man's culture in Africa, and the growing movement to create "African culture for Africans". The crucial moment is now at hand to create a new African culture, but the most urgent task for Africans at this point is to create a unique African value system to serve as the nucleus of that culture. It happens to be a time when modern European civilization is showing unmistakable signs of decline, and the tremendous enthusiasm and will on the part of Africans to establish a new African value system as the cornerstone for the new civilization of the twenty-first century have the aura of a mission.
While being involved in African literature during the last twenty years and studying the course of Utopian English literature, I have come to think of European Modern civilization as beginning with the fifteenth century and closing this cycle of Modern civilization at the end of the nineteenth century. I consider the twentieth century (in the first half of which mankind experienced barbaric destruction in two world wars on a scale never known before) as a time of groping in search of the next new cycle of civilization. In that sense, I think that the time has arrived for Japanese to stop vainly pursuing the phantom of modern European culture, and reexamine our own traditional culture from a new perspective: namely, we should consider how traditional Japanese culture can contribute to the new civilization in the twenty-first century.
In 1979, Senghor established the Université des Mutants as a place to experiment with the creation of this new kind of world civilization. He chose as a location the Island of Goree, where Africans were once gathered together and shipped off as slaves to America and Caribbean Islands. The goal of a mixed culture, Senghor's ideal, undeniably permeates this statement, but even discounting that one can clearly see the direction, commonly shared by Africans, which African culture is now heading in.
From the Meiji period (1868-1912) on, Japan pursued modern European culture exclusively in order to promote Modernization of our country (and since 1945 American culture), to such an extent that we have lost sight of something extremely important. By heading traditional Japanese culture in the direction being sought by Africans now, I think that a new path will open up enabling us to rediscover what we have lost and revitalize traditional Japanese culture as we head into the twenty-first century. The interest I have developed in comparative research on African and Japanese culture in the last few years, in fact, stems from this fervent wish.
I would now like to discuss the ways in which African writers currently approach traditional African culture. I will then go on to examine the possibilities for studies comparing traditional African culture with its counterpart in Japan, and in the course of my discussion, I will try to offer as many concrete examples as possible.
Two patterns can be found in the approach to traditional culture taken by African writers who, hoping also to de-Europeanize African culture completely, aim to create a unique African value system and make it the nucleus for the new civilization in the twenty-first century. One pattern focuses on folk culture; the other involves heroic epics. A leading writer for the first pattern is Okot p'Bitek in Uganda. His first poetry collection, Song of Lawino extols traditional African culture and the beauty, splendor, and indestructibility of its manners and customs. It is told through the voice of a beautiful, young woman named Lawino, who steadfastly resists the white man's culture impinging dangerously on the Acoli tribe in northern Uganda.
In this collection of poetry, p'Bitek satirizes the elite men (the "white Africans") imbued with European culture who are overbearing and haughty in public but internally are insecure and uncertain. In his collection of essays, Africa's Cultural Revolution (1973), p'Bitek passionately appeals to Africans about the need for the regeneration of traditional African culture, which was facing a crisis of life or death, the victim of modern life where a sham culture resulting from over-Europeanisation was rampant. He calls for a cultural revolution. Incidentally, in the introduction to this work, Ngugi criticizes p'Bitek's limitations, saying, "While I agree with p'Bitek's call for a cultural revolution, I sometimes feel that he is in danger of emphasizing culture as if it could be divorced from its political and economic basis." In other words, a cultural revolution by itself is useless in overcoming neo-colonialism.
The year 1975 marks the beginning of the age when Ngugi and Micere Mugo are in the limelight (neither of whom can return to their homeland because of their activities as dissidents). Because the play they wrote together, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi (1976), has recently been performed in London, Ibadan, Harare (where it was translated and performed in the Shona language), Johannesburg and elsewhere around Africa and the play has become the most popular work in Africa today.
While leading the Mau Mau warriors in the war of independence in Kenya, Kimathi, the hero of the play, hides in the mountains of Aber-dare, where he conducts a daring guerilla war against the British army. He was a legendary figure similar to Robin Hood, who died on behalf of the liberation of the Kenyan people. The play depicts the trial where Kimathi, who has been taken prisoner, is tried. The judge, who has been bribed by the white people, and civilians ("white African") try every possible means to persuade him to convert, but Kimathi stands by his beliefs firmly, and the play ends with him being shot. Ngugi and female writer, Mugo, were fellow students at Makerere University in the 1960s. They had a plan to write this play in 1971, but were unable to realize their conception, and then when they became colleagues in the Department of Literature at Nairobi University in 1974, the task of writing the play finally proceeded quickly. The work has linked the two of them closely, and displays the strong influence from p'Bitek, who University at the time.
Deep embedded in Ngugi's consciousness is a basic awareness that even after independence Kenya continues to be dominated culturally and economically by foreign imperialists (particularly, of Britain and the United States, as well as Germany and Japan). He also senses that the present government run since 1966 by the KANU Party, which reached a peak under Kenyatta, has been completely taken over by tools of foreign capital. In order for Kenya to end this cultural subordination and attain complete independence, the most urgent task is to become deeply absorbed in the lives of the common people (the peasants and workers) and forge a truly popular culture based on the traditional culture that the people inherently possess in their native language. For this reason as well, it can be argued that there was a need to collect stories about Kimathi and build him up as the true embodiment of folk culture by showing him as a product of the people and the true hero in the liberation of the people of Kenya instead of Kenyatta.
Ngugi also helped to found the Kamiriithu Educational, Cultural and Community Centre in the Kamiriithu community in the belief that "A writer does not create on his own, but rather writes in concert with the people, while learning from them." He used this as the setting for a creative writing experiment jointly with the people; the play, I Will Marry When I Want, was the result of that effort. However, the performance of the play, which was sharply critical of the "comprador" culture, angered the government authorities, and for the entire year of 1978 Ngugi was held as a political prisoner in the Kamithi Prison. The novel he wrote in Gikuyu on toilet paper while in prison was later published under the title of Devil on the Cross (1980; English trans. 1982), and it further enhanced his popularity as a martyr.
Mugo has collected legends and stories about Kenyan women living in the countryside and is currently engrossed in writing a history of the women who served the cause of Kenyan independence-for example, the heroine Me Kitilili who walked all around the country from 1912 to 1914 organizing warriors to fight against the British.
Solomon Mutsuwairo's Mapondera: Soldier of Zimbabwe (1983) also falls in the same category. It tells the story of the life of Mapondera, a soldier from Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) who fought bravely against Cecil Rhodes' white rule. The story, which was published in 1983, was woven together from legends and records. As the history is still very fresh, both writers have aroused the ire of the current government and been banished from the country-an aspect that distinguishes this type. The Healers (1978) by A. K. Armah of Ghana, and the aims of Présence Africain mentioned above also fall in this category.
The second type might be called heroic epics. Whereas the first type draws on very recent history, these reconstruct from oral legends the lives of the great emperors, the embodiment of African values who ruled the African continent before the white "swallows" flew from Europe and governed black Africa as a colony. The works create an African value system based on the essence extracted from the lives of these sagacious emperors. One example is D. T. Niane's Sundiata-An Epic of Old Mali, a work about the sublime King Sundiata, who built the great Mali Empire in West Africa in the thirteenth century. Another one is Mazisi Kunene's epic, Emperor Shaka the Great, depicting the life of Shaka, an enlightened ruler and military genius, which has been translated into Japanese. Shaka was an epoch-making ruler who created a powerful Zulu kingdom by unifying the peripheral tribes in southern Africa in the first part of the nineteenth century. Shaka is still idolized all over Africa even now.
Also falling into category is a film, The Life of King Samoli, Sembéne Ousmane's masterpiece which will take another few years to complete. Sembéne represents an unusual combination in Africa as a writer-director. He began his career as a novelist and then suddenly began to make films, and his prodigious talent as the greatest intellect that modern African has produced has earned him the highest respect inside and outside of Africa. What was it that made Sembéne despair about print culture and turned him in the direction of movies? It can be said to stem from his frustration about the inability of a written culture based on the French language to convey accurately the essence of either oral African literature, the great legacy of a non-literate culture, or African value system, to Africans, whose literacy rate is still low. The development of whole matters seems natural, given Sembéne's position as someone who lives as one of the people, as someone standing always on the side of the people who earnestly hopes to improve their lives. Moreover, he hates and attacks the abuse of power and has continued to oppose those who spoil the traditional culture.
In this way, the problem of written vs. oral culture naturally comes to the fore when analysing the approach of African writers to traditional culture. In Japan, a recent decline in reading has been noticed among young people, and lately there has much talk about the crisis in the culture of the written letter, which has supported modern European culture during the last five centuries since Gutenburg. At this point, I would like to introduce a few examples of how Africans regard oral culture in relationship to the written letter.
First of all, Mazisi Kunene has declared, "Written culture is feudal; in other words, it supports a privileged elite and is too biased in favor of academism. In contrast, oral culture belongs to the masses and common people." This point is particularly applicable to Africa with its low rate of literacy, but that makes ears of those in competitive societies in the advanced industrial countries burn, which are biased in favor of written culture. During a visit to Japan in 1983, Niane made the following comments about this oral culture, which permeates every aspect of African social life, including in the field of law and medicine: "To talk about oral culture is to talk about the development of Africa." And, "Cultures that center on the written letter occupy only a very brief period in the long, long history of mankind." According to Niane, "Oral culture is based on the masses; thus orally transmitted epics over a long period of time have been passed down from generation to generation, enduring rigorous criticism in the process. Historically speaking, the degree of accuracy of the oral literature is greater than in the case of written records. Even today, a group of professional reciters (kataribe in Japanese) called griot exist in Senegal. They recount legends and stories as well as the history of the royal family and society. After undergoing special training to enhance their memories, they recite oral literature before the masses once or twice a year, when they are severely criticized by the people. Through this process, the oral literature recited by the griot is further polished in terms of accuracy." I vividly recall Niane's saying with a laugh, "When one grist dies, it is as great a loss as the burning of one library. "
Looking at the situation regarding traditional Japanese culture, until the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) was recorded around the beginning of the seventh century, Japan formed culture without written letter same as Africa, and consequently retained a rich, outstanding oral tradition. It continues until today, along with the introduction of ideograms from China, and the invention of the Japanese katakana and hiragana syllabaries, which are derived from the Chinese characters. To that extent, the Japanese, too, should be able to uncover and display the essence of oral culture of high quality. I cannot help feeling that this forms the starting point for conducting comparative cultural research on Japan and Africa. I would therefore now like to seek an opening by presenting several examples suggesting this possibility.
The first one concerns communal cosmology constructed on the view of the animistic world. The Nigerian writer, Amos Tutuola, wrote a tale called The Palm Wine Drinkard (1952), a contemporary reworking of an oral tale about spirits and gods living in the tropical rain forest which he had heard from elderly persons when he was a child. The following scene takes place at the beginning of the story:
But when my father noticed that I could not do any work more than to drink, he engaged an expert palm-wine tapster for me.... When he reached the farm, he climbed one of the tallest palm-trees in the farm to tap palm-wine but as he was tapping on, he fell down unexpectedly and died at the foot of the palm-tree as a result of injuries.... Both my friend and I dug a pit under the palm tree that he fell down as a grave and buried him there.
Later, the narrator says:
When I saw that there was no palm-wine for me again and nobody could tap it for me, then I thought within myself that old people were saying that the whole people who had died in this world, did not go to heaven directly, but they were living in one place somewhere in this world (we call this place 'Araki-no-miya' in Japan).... One fine morning I took all my native juju and also my father's juju with me and I left my father's hometown to find out whereabouts was my tapster who had died.
So the Palm Wine Drinkard sets out for the " deads' town," in other words, the land of the dead to find out his dead tapster. Along the way, deep in the forest (the land of trees) he encounters everywhere savage beasts, strange threatening creatures, spirits ominously conspiring with the forest, along with myriads of deities. Whenever he meets them, the Palm Wine Drinkard says, "I myself am a deity. I am a juju man. I can do anything in this world. I am the father of the gods." He can transform himself endlessly by means of jujutsu using juju, a kind of incantation, transcending dangerous places, and wandering through frightening forests. Arriving finally in the town of the dead, the Palm Wine Drinkard entreats the palm-wine tapster to go back with him. The latter refuses sadly, saying that "he could not follow me back to my town again, because a dead man could not live with alives."
As Gerald Moore remarks about this episode: "It forms an intriguing parallel with the ancient myth of the deities Izanagi and lzanami in the Kojiki in Japan, where they are separated by Yomo-tsu-Hirasaka Hill in the netherworld. " (We call it also Ne-no-Kuni, meaning the land of the root of the tree in Japan.) Indeed, on reading The Palm-Wine Drinkard, I could not help equating it with the Kojiki. In Japan, where even though my translation of the tale is ordinarily accepted as a fantasy, it strangely enough keeps on selling about three thousand copies a year, and continues to be read in particular by young people. I secretly think that the reason is because the innate communal realism that the Japanese possess inside themselves deeply like Africans, stimulates a latent sense of young people and awakens in them the innate primitive consciousness of the Japanese: namely, there we have a joint animistic attitude toward myths and cosmology shared with Africans.
Secondly, I would like to touch upon the subject of animism. African intellectuals who visit Japan show alike their keen interest in Shintoism. They seem to feel a powerful response to the indigenous Japanese view of religion, centering on the myriad gods and tutelary deities (ujigami or something like 'chi' in Achebe's novel) and the communal animism, which underlie Shintoism. I myself have been struck by the similarity to Japan of the shrines that are part of the primitive religion of the Yoruba tribe in the Oshobo area of Nigeria.
Animism is indigenous to Africa. Even Senghor, who was enrolled as the membership of I'Académie Francaise in 1984 and received a great deal of attention as an African who is almost a French, said: "Until 1913, I was raised as an animist under the protection of my uncle on my mother's side. Even now, thanks to my uncle, I have not lost the feelings of the peasants." He also said, "When I write poetry, animism lies at the undercurrent of my poems. But when I make a political decision, it is based on the European rationalism." Moreover, Senghor has remarked, "It is negro sentiments that form the roots of mixed culture, and a Western kind of rationalism is grafted onto it."
"What I have learned from France", he also says, "is not the substance of ideas but the method of producing them and a sense of how to structure them." Senghor's remarks reflect a fundamental awareness that although Africans excel in terms of their sensibilities they lag a step or two behind in terms of reasoning ability, and lack a methodological and structuring mind and the capacity to abstract. In other words, the theory of a mixture, Senghorian version of dialectics, derives from this situation in the sense of filling in the missing areas.
Professor Mohamadou K. Kane of Dakar University, who is also from Senegal, like Senghor, is very knowledgeable about Japanese Haiku, a classical Japanese literary form divided into seventeen syllables, can in fact be seen as an art that developed on the basis of animism. Kane has made the following observation about Senghor's poetry, a product of the outstanding African sensibility, and about animism in Africa: "Africa cannot be thought of separately from animism in the sense that spirits are always perceived in nature. Although there are Christian and Islamic countries in Africa, even there animism deeply permeates the lives of the people, and its influence remains very strong. (Sembéne's movie Ceddo is about the discord between animists and Islam).... For example, Senghor was born into a Christian family, and was strongly enough influenced by Christianity to think of becoming a minister. But for all that everyone of his poems clearly reveals the spirit of animism. He does not treat nature simply in biological terms, or consider it as something inert; it is full of vitality, and various symbols are scattered through it. In this way, Senghor depicts nature as something that is alive. " Kane also says that "poetry lies inside things." These remarks capture the essence of haiku and depict a man who truly understands the haiku-art.
For a long time, animism was unfairly suppressed as unscientific, barbaric and backward, by the modern European spirit waving aloft the banner of science. In appreciating the revival of animism, I must at this point say something about the different attitude toward nature held by Europeans, who live in an individualistic society and Africans, who live in a communal society: a subject linked to a fundamental problem concerning human existence, the relationship between man and nature.
Regarding the way Africans comprehend things in nature, Mazisi Kunene has remarked. "Things [in nature] exist in terms of the innate value of the qualities that they possess, and at the same time in terms of the value we humans assign to them-in other words, in terms of a dual value." To put it another way, when a poem says "the flower is beautiful," it in no way means that the flower itself is beautiful. The flower is beautiful because the flower innately possesses a quality that matches something that we humans in human society recognize as being beautiful (a double value). In other words, beauty is realized at the point where the force (NTU in Zulu cosmology) of the flower and human force echo and respond to each other. According to Zulu cosmology, everything in the universe is composed on the basis of NTU (that is, force). All of nature, from flowers and mountains to elephants and human beings, consist of things or phenomena generated by NTU. To that extent, the universe forms an animistic world where NTU are in rapport with each other, and all things live in this world on a completely equal footing, totally free of distinctions connected with superiority or inferiority. However, in Europe in early modern times, as Sir Francis Bacon's 'New Inductive Method' shown in his epoch making Utopian book, "The New Atlantis" (1627) clearly demonstrates, 'nature' as its concrete state is considered in abstract terms, and principles are deduced from it, leading to further developments in science and physics.
As historical changes in the sense of "exploitation" show, 'nature' at first was developed by means of scientific power to benefit mankind. Then, in the nineteenth century, excesses in scientific development were accompanied by not the development but the exploitation of nature. An individualistic society centering on human beings accelerated the way to subordinate nature to man. One can see this in terms of modern European art and literature. As the title of Wilhelm Worringer's Abstraktion und Einfghlunq, a typical treatise on aesthetics in modern Europe indicates, the highly self-conscious and individualistic European artists imposed their aesthetic sense subjectively on objects in nature. As a result, they reached a point where it was possible to spoil the innate beauty of nature by ignoring nature's "force" and one-sidedly infusing human sentiment into it. Heading with Kunene and Senghor, Africans concerned about the present state of civilization see the rupture between man and nature as being manifested now in a critical form such as the destruction of the environment and an impasse in European civilization. I fully agree. I think that this is precisely the very point where the significance of the revival of animism lies. I think that the contemporary significance of haiku also lies here, for haiku verses are predicated on an equal, reciprocal relationship between the nature intrinsically and man's sensibilities.
Thirdly, I would like to mention proverbs. Any Japanese educated before the Pacific War or the Second World War is all too well aware that proverbs have merged deeply into the rhythm of daily life in Japan (for example, "Strike while the iron's hot," "After a storm comes a calm," and "Look before you leap"). The proverbs have been providing the underpinning for Japanese behavior, and have become a guiding principle as wisdom about daily life. Also, as children we have had plenty of experience being scolded by old people who cited proverbs. There are also pastoral sayings that evoke a warm sense of one's native soil, such as yanagi no shita no dojo ("a loach beneath a willow tree"), which suggests I that good luck does not always repeat itself.
There are two theories about the etymology of the Japanese word kotowaza ("saying" or "proverb"). One is that it means "verbal skill" or "the technique of speaking." The other theory follows the school of thought espousing the idea of kotodama ("the mystical power of words"), as seen in the work of the eighteenth-century linguist and literary scholar, Motoori Norinaga. Yanagita Kunio, the founder of modern folklore studies in Japan, adhered only to the interpretation of the word as "verbal skill," and explained it in a broad sense in terms of the world of oral literature. (A detailed explanation can be found in his Kosho bungei to wa nanika [What is Oral Literature?], Kotowaza no Hanashi [On Proverbs], and Nazo to kotowaza [Riddles and Proverbs]). I myself think of Japanese proverbs as the essence of the Japanese people's wisdom about life. They represent the sum total of the cultural legacy which the Japanese deep down within our subconsciousness have received and accumulated from our ancestors, and have been transmitted orally since ancient times.
In Africa, proverbs are widely used, especially in the daily lives of the Fanti, Zulu, Mongo, Banbara, and lgbo people. On how Africans view proverbs, C. L. S. Nyembezi says: "The proverbs are a collection of the experiences of a people, experiences some of which have been learned the hard way. Those experiences are stored in this special manner, and from generation to generation they are passed on, ever fresh and ever true." ("Zulu Proverbs")
Emmanuel Obiechina focuses particularly on the social function of proverbs, when he writes:
The man who proverbialises is putting his individual speech in a traditional context, reinforcing his personal point of view by objectifying its validity, and indirectly paying tribute to himself as a possessor of traditional wisdom. So the use of proverbs, instead of individuating, both communalises and traditionalizes a speaker. The effort of the traditional user of proverbial language is not to express his distinctiveness from the rest of the people but indicate attachment to the community and its linguistic climate. ("Culture, Tradition and Society in the West African Novel")
In other words, through the act of using proverbs in everyday life, Africans lives in midst of traditional Africa culture and embody African values. Moreover, Chinua Achebe, who comes from the lgbo in Nigeria, in his representative works Things Fall Apart (1955) and Arrow of God (1964) draws heavily on lgbo proverbs 6~cribe the varied psychological attitudes of tribal members responding sensitively to major changes taking place as a result of the white man's invasion. For example, the uncertainty and fear of newly-coming change are expressed in the form of "What one does not know is much, much bigger than oneself." The position of those who feel that one should adapt to change is expressed thus: "A man must dance the dance prevalent in 'his time." In this way, Achebe tries to give proverbs substance while seeking the assimilation of the self with tradition. In short, proverbs play a major role in enhancing the concrete universality of Achebe's novels in terms of the development of the plot and the contents.
Thus far I introduced three aspects that have a common basis in Japanese and African culture to suggest an idea of how Japan can contribute to the formation of a new civilization in the twenty-first century through a comparative study of the two cultures. Finally, I would like to mention briefly several examples involving the study of comparative culture, which are already in the process of taking shape. As this is only a beginning, my remarks are only very preliminary.
I have already commented on haiku, and will refrain from talking at length about it here. I would just like to mention a couple of points. First of all, a haiku contest sponsored by the Japanese Embassy in Senegal was held in 1979 on behalf of the people of Senegal. The contest is now entering its tenth year, and the number of people who write haiku is growing rapidly.
Secondly, Professor Kane made the following remark about the benefits of haiku from the point of view of Africans:
Haiku has given young Senegalese who aspire to become poets an excellent opportunity to regain a link with nature, that is, bone-dry nature, damaged nature, and, at the same time, nature colored by --traditional animism that is full of life beyond material things. By writing that kind of African nature in haiku-for example, cracks in the earth from drought-the Senegalese people have been able to return to nature, to perceive nature, and return to themselves.
His remarks indicate the high value that Africans attach to haiku.
Next I would like to mention comparative research regarding the traditional theatre. Kofi Agovi, the head researcher at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ghana, was once despair about the present state of African culture and said, sensing a feeling of crisis: "Contemporary African culture has lost continuity with the traditional culture, and is completely poisoned by white culture." He says that he was saved by a trip to Japan. On seeing the traditional Japanese theatre forms, Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku, he says, "The confusion disappeared. " The reason is because he perceived that the 'sum total of the eternal, unchanging traditional culture' in Japan consisting of 'order, beauty, and harmony' is firmly crystallized in these theatre forms. Agovi published an excellent and extremely illuminating article on comparative culture in Japan, "Cultural Presences in Japanese Theatre: An African's Experience of Noh, Kabuki and Bunraku" (Bungaku; November 1983). In conjunction with animism, I would like to introduce here a passage dealing with "the close relationship between man and supernatural phenomena that appear in the form of deities and wandering spirits:"
Although this exists mainly in the Noh theatre, its elements overflow into Kabuki and Bunraku. The world of the living and the dead are brought together by auditory and visual spectacle. The ebullience of colour, costume, make-up, stylised movement, dreams, chants and invocations, the use of bells and samisen, instrumental music, helps to dissolve the demarcation between the two worlds, thereby creating a carefully balanced atmosphere of reality and illusion, where communication lines are freely assumed and messages, obligations, and promises are mutually exchanged or shared. It is certainly not by chance that verbal elements-chants, recitals, songs, dialogue and narrative-predominate over movement and action in this theatre. For the emphasis is on direct communication. It is as if in both Noh and Bunraku, Africa's verbal traditions of drama-the epic and the folktale-have been extracted and brought to life again on the Japanese stage. The Joruri narrator and his samisen instrumentalists, for example, are not very different from an ensemble of Griots performing Sundiata. Nor are they different from the folktale artist or the Ozidi Saga performer whose skill in oral delivery 'shapes the word' and builds a 'solid structure' of dramatic stories, often supported by a repertoire of songs, music and dance. In both traditions of dramatic art - Japanese and African - the medium of words is used to transform social and historical reality into fiction, and in the context of a willing suspension of disbelief, invest both human beings and non-humans alike with each other's attributes thereby facilitating easy communication between the two separate worlds.
These insights by Agovi teach Japanese anew about the need to reexamine their own traditional culture from a fresh angle, namely, the search for a new civilization in the twenty-first century.
And, finally, Professor C. Wanjala, of the University of Nairobi, has said that he was deeply impressed by the thought of the Ainu, who worship fire as the root of all things, and bears as sacred objects, which he had heard about in Hokkaido, the northern part of Japan. He was also struck by Shiga Naoya's novel, Anya Koro (A Dark Night's Passing). I look forward to his writing cultural studies comparing Japan and Africa with pleasure, in which the Japanese are bound to find very suggestive.
Kane, Niane, Agovi, and Wanjala, as well as Sembéne all came to Japan at the invitation of the Japan Foundation. Sembéne, who came to Japan in February 1984, explained the purpose of his visit to Japan this way: "I came to Japan because I wanted to ascertain with my own eyes the ability of traditional Japanese culture to survive. If traditional culture and an advanced technological civilization have truly succeeded in living together in present-day Japan, it will provide a splendid model for the future of Africa."
On the Japanese side, we must be fully prepared to meet and not betray their expectations. We must participate wholeheartedly in the creation of a bright new civilization belonging to the twenty-first century, and carry out our share of the responsibility.
Tradition and Change in Africa: The Essays of J. F. Ade. Ajayi edited by Toyin Falola (Africa World Press, 2000): pp. 23-29 - Africa in the Nineteenth Century Volumes I- VIII
The Monarchical Tendency in African Political Culture in Governing in Black Africa: Perspectives on New States, (Ed.) Marion E. Doro and Newell M. Stultz Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1970;
The Coyaba Chronicles: Reflections on the Black Experience in the 20th Century (David Philip, Cape Town 2000)
Day, July 1, 2003