An appraisal of the executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa: 1652-2018. Part 1: Leadership characteristics in perspective

Gabriel P Louw


Research Associate, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Humanities, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa

Corresponding Author:

Prof. Dr. GP Louw


Keywords: appraisal, characteristic, constitution, executive governance, guarantee, hypocrisy, integrity, leadership, liberator, mindset, organization, regime.

Ensovoort, volume 38(2018), number 6:1

  1. Background

1.1 Introduction

The concept leader is prominent in the South African literature when reflecting on the country’s past and present executive political leaders. In this context the term executive political leaders refers specifically to governors at the Cape Refreshment Station, of the Cape Colony and the other colonies, prime ministers of the Union of South Africa and presidents of the Republic of South Africa.

Leaders are usually identified by descriptive adjectives like great, famous, traditional, strong, interactive, powerfully, true and mature. The user’s primary aim with these adjectives is to reflect and describe the quality of the person and the reign of these leaders South Africa. Some descriptions, overviews and opinions on the executive political leaders are contain classifications such as good, poor, under-par and failed leaders, depending mostly on the political and racial orientation of writers. This descriptions, overviews and opinions are also applicable on regimes.1-4

A critical analysis of South African literature reflects that these descriptions are not only very subjective, but also vague. It fails to define and to describe in depth who and what an executive political leader is and the characteristics and behaviour unique to each individual leader. This failure to offer complete descriptions is also reflected in considerations of the various regimes of South Africa, from the rule of the Dutch and British, to the South African Party (SAP) and the National Party (NP) in the period of the Union and the NP and the African National Congress (ANC) in the management of the Republic.3,5-9

This article, Part 1: Leadership characteristics in perspective, is the first in a series of five articles in this project (Project One) to evaluate and describe the performance profiles of the executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa (previously the Cape Colony) for the period 1652 to 1795.

The articles that make up the rest of this series are:

  • Part 2: The entities in government and society that executive political leaders use to aid their political behaviour;
  • Part 3: Factors that influence the development of executive political leaders;
  • Part 4: A basic checklist for the appraisal of executive political leaders and regimes;
  • Part 5: Performance profiles of executive political leaders and regimes for the period 1652 to 1795.

This project will be followed by a second project (Project Two) with another series of five articles on the performance profiles of executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa, covering the remaining period of 1796 to 2018. In this case the focus will be on the performance profiles of executive political leaders and regimes in five timeframes: 1796 to 1872 (Part 6), 1873 to 1909 (Part 7), 1910 to 1948 (Part 8), 1949 to 1994 (Part 9) and 1995 to 2018 (Part 10).

The aim of this article is to put the characteristics of executive political leaders of South Africa in perspective.

  1. Method

The research was done by means of a literature review. This method has the aim of building a viewpoint from the available evidence as the research develops. This approach is used in modern historical research where there is a lack of an established body of research, like on the topic of the quality of the current political leadership of South Africa. The sources used include articles from 2017 to 2018, books for the period 1944 to 2018 and newspapers for the period 2017 to 2018. These sources were consulted to put the characteristics of executive political leaders into perspective.10-12

The research findings are presented in narrative format.

  1. Results

3.1 Current general public opinions and views on the executive political leaders and regimes of South Africa

Political commentators give us various opinions and views on the South African executive political leaders, sometimes in a very one-sided manner from a subjective corner. This is especially true of commentators from among the Afrikaners, who feel like derelicts in the post-1994 political environment and see such writing as an opportunity to litigate. Historians try to base their views and opinions on historical facts, but in many cases the history of Apartheid contaminates the work of historians with feelings of guilt that subtract from their objectivity.

Some comments are cited below to provide a bit of perspective on South African executive political leaders and their regimes. These passages reflect how some South Africans in general, and Afrikaners specifically, see these leaders.

Elmer Bredenkamp recently wrote13:10:

Paul Kruger plunged the Boers into a war with the powerful British Empire with tragic consequences, and then fled overseas. Genl. Jan Smuts’s obsession with the British king plunged his people into further poverty. John Vorster and PW Botha started a war outside our borders in Angola, which held no danger for South Africa, and tried to solve the country’s internal problems with violence. FW de Klerk was the weakest of them all. He negotiated a good handshake for himself and plunged the Afrikaner into a no man’s land with inhumane racist legislation. Not one of these leaders had been elected democratically, but rather by a small group of self-serving, greedy souls of a political party [Own translation].

Above opinion to a certain extent seems to be subjective and right wing orientated. It criticizes Afrikaner leaders for seemingly failing in the long run to be effective, good political leaders who govern and steer South Africa and for cold-bloodedly betraying the Afrikaner cause. This view is a good representation of a so-called minority view on South African politics within the country’s heterogeneous population that is governed by a majority group13.

Other literature1,2,6-8,14,15 on South African executive political leaders and regimes, covering the period 1652 to 2018, also reflects certain deviant behaviours of the executive political leaders and their regimes, very much in line with the opinion of Bredenkamp.13

From critical literature it seems as if the Black successors of the White political leaders of South Africa after 1994 have not been doing much better than Kruger, Smuts, Vorster, Botha and De Klerk. The idea that the political leadership of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki showed infallible integrity and were free from self-conceit, self-enrichment and opportunism is a falsity. This is evident from the literature available on their respective rules. It is argued that the criminality that so undermines good executive political leadership was already awakened in 1994 by the incoming political leaders of the new regime, run by the elite of the African National Congress (ANC), long before the controversial Jacob Zuma arrived on the scene as the ultimate delinquent political leader.16,17

The South African academic and political analyst, Dr Piet Croucamp, writes18:8:

“The first cracks in the ‘morality of liberation’ were revealed under former pres. Nelson Mandela when ‘the face of all that could go wrong’, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, showed poor judgement that resulted in corruption” [Own translation].

The role of Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, in the Arm’s Deal Scandal and his selective “Alzheimer memory and ongoing amnesia” about his direct involvement in the matter is still a criminal controversy today, indicating his overall failure as an executive political leader with integrity. His immense overall shortcomings as a political leader directly led to his recall as the president of South Africa by his own party in September 2008.2,17-19,20

Croucamp18 describes the corrupt and substandard political leadership of the most recent president of South Africa, the “most honourable” Mr Zuma, who egoistically reign the country through the Zupta-gang and the ANC’s Luthuli house parliament, as follows18:8:

Many South Africans, probably most citizens of this country, regard pres. Jacob Zuma with some contempt, even hate. He is undermining, criminal and without conscience in his understanding of the democratic process. Without changing the Constitution, he changed, broke and manipulated the political rules of the game in the country until most South Africans lost their trust in the sustainability of the 1994 compromise [Own translation].

Boon1:25, in the context of good versus bad executive political leaders and regimes, written about the deviant behaviour of Black executive political leaders from 1810 to 1840. He focuses on the murderous conquest and rule of some tribes over other Black tribes, specifically Shaka, king of the Mthetwa and Zulu tribes, during the early 1800s to the middle 1800s. The land and human rights of other established and independent Black tribes were ignored by aggressive executive political Black leaders (who Boon1 calls “great,” seemingly sanctioning their histories of outright murder as good to present them in the literature as the “fathers of the Black nations”). These were all Black leaders who brought excruciating hardship and blooshed to hundreds of thousands of Blacks in South Africa. Boon1 writes about the Zulu leader Shaka’s rigid, uncompromising and selfish behaviour (very much in line with the rigid, uncompromising and selfish behaviour of Afrikaner leaders Kruger, Smuts, Botha and De Klerk towards Blacks during Apartheid as portrayed by Bredenkamp13), as follows 1:26:

Soon Shaka had decimated his northern neighbours, the Ndwandwe, and his Zulu armies were the undisputed power in a region extending from the Tugels River in the South, to the Pongola in the north, and the Buffalo in the west. His expansionist policies had a further devastating effect on the region. In the south, all the way to the Umtata River, people gradually lost everything to the Zulus – their cattle, their ability to raise crops (which were constantly taken by foraging Zulu armies), their young women and, eventually their dignity. Henry Francis Fynn, who travelled through the area at that time, wrote of emaciated and desperate people, who were dirty, terrified and, in some instances, turning to cannibalism as their means of survival. Thus began a period of migration of people who fled from Shaka and tyranny, as he raided and terrorized the tribes bordering Zululand.

Ginsberg21 elaborates further on the actions and qualities of executive political leaders and their governments at the Cape during the 17th century. He first refers to the Dutch and then to the British governors who came after 1806 with their autocratic powers. Especially prominent was the British establishment’s enforcement of autocratic imperial rules at the Cape Colony in the 1800s. He writes as follows on the impact of these foreign rules and management on the mostly Dutch-orientated inhabitants21:98:

Remember the days of Simon van der Stel, the 17th-century governor of the Cape: when the Dutch settlers grew dissatisfied with him, he was recalled to Holland. Unfortunately, the 1830s saw trekboers (Boer farmers) resorting to every conceivable means of expressing their grievances, but with no power to affect government policies they ultimately took the radical step of entering the interior of an unknown continent [Great Trek].

Linking the above with the current situation, it seems as if the new South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is already starting to play to the masses. The investigative political journalist Barney Mthombothi writes in short22:21:

But could it be that Ramaphosa is also struggling with a transition of his own — from obsequious underling to the headstrong honcho plotting the political demise of his former boss? How can one be a servant one day and a master the next? Or play both roles interchangeably, which Ramaphosa seems to be doing.

The above descriptions, however emotionally coloured “they may be”, are penetrating the political mindsets of many South Africans and require an answer. This discourse shows the urgent need for an appraisal and an evaluation of the quality of the South African executive political leaders and their regimes from 1652 up to today. They should be evaluated in terms of a broad set of criteria of good versus bad executive political leadership and their unique characteristics.

3.2 The effect of South Africa’s hate speech legislation on criticism aimed at incompetent executive political leaders and their practices

In politics there are no holy cows: not Gandhi, Churchill, Verwoerd or Mandela can escape critical appraisals and evaluations. Criticism is the democratic right of the individual. In practice, the contrary has occurred many times. Leaders use false propaganda and cover-ups, like the ANC’s parliamentarians did with their misinformative media statement in November 2017 when Zuma was unmasked in public for his immense constitutional and other wrongdoings, especially his disregard for parliament. Munusamy writes9:26:

The African National Congress lauds President Jacob Zuma for his continuing and undeterred commitment to account to the people of South Africa by regularly appearing before parliament to answer questions on a number of the most pressing issues facing South Africa today.” This false reflection comes after Zuma repeatedly made a mockery of parliament and the ANC caucus with his absence from parliament. When attending, he acted the fool to divert attention away from his wrongdoings.9,17

The above illustrates that during any critical unmasking of prominent political leaders and regimes, there are always efforts to subdue such critism, either by law, abuse of the media and even physical attacks. It has become difficult to evaluate executive political leaders critically, notwithstanding the fact of their corruption, fraud and theft, especially when they are still alive and acting. South Africa’s foolish but effective gagging hate speech legislation sees to this. This obstacle to criticism makes for crooked and ineffective leaders who clearly fail to reach as much a level 1 as leaders when judged according to the Collins-Freiberg-Ginsberg classification.21-24

Many succeed in escaping the unmasking of their wrongdoings. The superficial sugar coating of the post-1994 South African executive political leaders as good persons and as good leaders, is well-reflected by their biographers. They only write of excellence, affected by an icon-saint syndrome where no one dares to challenge or to critize. The fact that the hate speech legislation became intertwined with the informal post-1994 policy of political correctness and some formal pieces of security legislation effectively gags historians and political commentators. This is all to clear from the present threat of criminal and civil legal actions against the political writer Jacques Pauw17 after the appearance of his book The President’s Keepers. The book reveals just too much about Jacob Zuma and the ANC as a political party. Historians and commentators are not welcome to evaluate, appraise and describe South Africa’s executive political leaders in depth and critically.

The country’s politico-historical sources have to be tapped for information. Critical appraisals and descriptions of every South African politician, regime and leader are crucial. No former or current political leaders should ever be protected from unmasking and revelation of the truth.1,-8,16,17,25-52

At the moment it seems the leaders who came into parliament with the change to the ANC regime are above reproach. What is more, it has become fashionable to subject the pre-1994 executive political leaders, both White and Black, to ruthless scrutiny. This scrutiny has turned into a one-sided political attack on races that stand on the margins under Black rule. Misleading public statements about the Whites’ status as settlers and colonialists abound (notwithstanding the fact that the Black ethnic groups of South Africa are settlers themselves…but no whisper about this). Strong and justified responses to the attacks by these executive political leaders of the ANC (including attacks on the characters of former leaders) are often silenced by the ANC with a call on hate speech legislation and prosecution. In the meantime they offer doubtful and untrustworthy arguments and excuses to escape attacks on their wrongdoings and incompetences.2,53-68

Research cannot and must not be blocked or captured as has been the case lately when the reprehensible actions of Jacob Zuma were highlighted in the media. The South African nation needs to know the truth. Every member of the ANC elite took part in this silencing of the media when they wanted to report on the failed executive political leadership. The new president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, was the vice-president and a senior ANC member under Zuma and a willing party to the constant cover-up and the silencing of critics of the ANC. It is time that these ANC leaders are called to book, notwithstanding their various tactics and lies to escape justice.15,17-19, 69-73

Publishing on failed executive political leaders and their regimes in South Africa is not only a right, but indeed a must. It does not matter if it is Jan van Riebeeck, the Afrikaner icons Malan and Verwoerd, the Xhosa icon Mandela or the Zulu Pimpernel Zuma (Here, simple tribal references like Xhosa, Zulu, etc., can result in legal action against critical writers). The democratic right to criticism forms the foundation of this research, covering the executive political leaders and regimes from 1652 to 2018.

Palkhivala74 is clear on the right to freedom of speech and to expression of opinions in terms of a country’s constitution. Citizens have the right to take on any executive political leader or regime that was in office previously or is in office at present. If a country proudly claims a foundation of democracy as South Africa has been doing since 1994, citizens have the right to focus on evaluations and criticism of political leaders and regimes’ contributions in general, be they positive or negative, or on every citizen’s political and civil rights and their well-being in a country (ironically the most suppressive communist states also claim to have these foundations). Palkhivala states74:296-297:

The right to dissent is at the heart of every democracy. This right becomes the duty of every knowledgeable and right-minded citizen, when government acts in a manner detrimental to civil liberties or otherwise against the public interests. The right to dissent is conferred by the Constitution: the duty to dissent is dictated by the realization that in a democracy citizens have to practice obedience to the unenforceable.

Palkhivala74 reacts to the assumed “mandate of unlimited power” of executive political leaders (and their regimes) in charge of the populations who elected them by citing the legal opinion of Justice Frankfurter, who puts it clearly that in a democracy the highest office is not that of the Number One executive (president or prime minister), but that of being a citizen. It is something for which the citizen himself always and constantly must strive and fight for74:297:

Democracy is always a beckoning goal, not a safe harbour. For freedom is an unremitting endeavour, never a final achievement.”

Only with the constant public exposure of rotten executive political leaders and their regimes can democracy be upheld and renewed. Of cause executive political leaders of good standing can be kept upright in this way as well.16,17,25,75

3.3 Lack of literature reflecting the true nature of South African executive political leaders and their political regimes

South Africa lacks in-depth literature that offers descriptions of the quality of the performances of its executive political leadership, specifically with reference to leadership as practiced by its various executive political leaders and their regimes from 1652 to 2018. Only limited references to the behavioural and political practices of the executive political leaders and their regimes are available.

The multiple biographies, articles and books on South African executive political leaders, as well as various autobiographies by these leaders themselves, offer sparse information and descriptions on the precise nature of their leadership, their contributions, or any measure of their quality. Most of research on South African leadership offers many postulations, opinions, viewpoints and “facts”, data that are mostly subjectively influenced by parties, self-conceit and intentions to promote political agendas.It often leads to the personal glorification of substandard and corrupted political leaders and their governments. Literature is used to detract from the failures of these leaders. Even with failed political leadership, some of these political leaders have become icons, even with worldwide status, with very few criticisms lodged against them to point out criminality, psychological pathology and other deviant behaviours associated with them or their regimes. Never ever do researchers dare to ask questions such as: Did leaders so and so serve every citizen of South Africa equally every day before, during and after their reign with the same love and dedication, honesty, justice, objectivity, and benefit? Were they free from racial and cultural biases and did they have the guts to take on immoral socio-political systems and delinquent political leaders without regard for the consequences this may have for their political careers? Moreover, did the many forms of resistance that leaders claim to have shown, the anti’s, keep political leaders on the right tract and their souls pure? Was this resistance really part of these leaders’ personal and political lifestyles – anti-Apartheid, anti-poverty, anti-joblessness, anti-uneducation, anti-corruption, anti-nepotism, anti-racial hate, anti-stealing, anti-lying, anti-religious domination, anti-cultural domination, anti-tribalism, anti-self-enrichment, anti-self-empowerment? 1-4,6-7,16,17,25-37

Can the top South African politicians say with pride and sincerity that Mahatma Gandhi’s goodness is part of their psyche? Not one of the many autobiographies and biographies available offers a convincing answer to the simple “anti-questions” listed above. The many wrongs done by political leaders are kept silent in many of these beautiful accounts that praise them as politicians. The truth is baked into sweet pies of lies by politicians and their autobiographers.

Hard-core facts that can unmask world figures, icons and heroes are just left out. Not even the brilliant authorized biography of Nelson Mandela (undoubtedly one of the best biographies ever to be published on a South African statesman), notwithstanding its honesty and a strong under build of objectivity, really stripped the icon naked. When there is sensitivity about the past, there is always more than the eyes can see, especially when famous politicians are involved. The hypocrisy of the British on political leaders like Begin, Kenyatta, Makarios and Mandela is a reminder of the hard reality of the crooked mindsets of politicians that has spread into the heart of democracy and respectability (and most importantly, objective research).

Daphne Caruana Galizia76, the leading Maltese investigative journalist and fearless critic of corruption who was murdered by means a car bomb in October 2017, was absolutely correct when she on the day of her death said76:23: “There are crooks everywhere you look now.

The above lack of well-grounded critical evaluations on South African executive politicians in general means that this matter should ideally be addressed in a comprehensive study and not within the limited scope of a series of articles. Nevertheless, this series of articles serves to make a start to this endeavour.

3.4 Confusing and subjective descriptions of the good executive political leader

The various declarations, definitions, opinions and views on who and what an executive political leader is and should be, are very complicated, confusing, and indeed controversial. Who or what an executive political leader is for the one writer or government depends on whose side the leader is on: the same person may be a terrorist and a murderer in the eyes of one government, but a hero and a godsend to others. There are also frequent and extreme changes in the valuation of leaders. This is accompanied by radical changes in the values of writers and governments. They change their opinions and views of certain crooked leaders, erasing overnight their memory of the chequered past of the murderer or terrorist, awarding them the status of a saint. Powell77 illustrates excellently how a person can be a terrorist one moment, hunted by many governments, and then the next moment morph into a distinguished executive political leader of world calibre, most welcome in respectable countries. Powell77:1 writes:

The British government called Menachen Begin a terrorist and tried to kill him, they described Jomo Kenyatta as a terrorist and imprisoned him, and they labeled Archbishop Makarios a terrorist and exiled him to the Seychelles – and yet later welcomed all three to London as distinguished leaders of other countries.

Nelson Mandela himself publically admitted2:9: “I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies.”

The question is thus what specific leadership and personal characteristics make a person a good executive political leader. What leadership and personal characteristics fail the “official” test of goodness? The same can be asked about what kind of behaviour must be reflected to elevate a person’s poor leader status to one of good standing. Prominent in this regard is for example the extreme changes in the status and the descriptions of the political leaders Begin, Kenyatta and Makarios by the British in their reclassification of these leaders as good executive political leaders and the British establishment’s accommodating acceptance of these leaders as good persons.2,77

It must be noted that Begin was seen and honoured as a good leader and a good person by the Jews and his Irgun-group in Israel long before the British changed their opinion of him (in this context murder and terrorism are simply dismissed). The same applies to Kenyatta in Kenia with the Mau-Mau and Makarios with the Maltese Cypriots. The extreme differences in the good-versus-bad classification between various populations and nations confirms the complexity and conflicts that subjective, emotional and cognitive dispositions bring to the appraisals and classifications of political leaders as either good or bad. Of cause, many other factors are at play in the change of mindset decribed above. For instance, the direct and long-term economic, political and diplomatic interests of the UK play a role, since the new political winners in regional and world politics, like Begin, Kenyatta, and Makarios, can play an important long-term role. This can be used opportunistically by showing approval, nullifying and conveniently forgetting the cruel past.2,77

The sudden changes described above are not extraordinary. The British showed same re-evaluation and reclassification of a bad political leader as a good political leader in July 1996 with towards President Nelson Mandela of the Republic of South Africa. In this context Anthony Sampson2, Mandela’s authorized biographer, writes2:xxiii:

In the past, many of the politicians in the audience had regarded him as their enemy, who should never be permitted to lead his country. Many Conservative Members of Parliament had condemned him as a terrorist: the former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher, who is sitting near the front, had said nine years before that anyone who thought the African National Congress was ever going to form the government of South Africa was ‘living in cloud-cuckoo land’. Now cloud-cuckoo land arrived in Westminster Hall.

The above was written when Mandela was honoured in July 1996 as a visiting head of state in Westminster Hall, London, the ancient heart of the House of Parliament, in a ceremony that happens only once or twice in a lifetime. It must also be mentioned that this British mood swing with regard to Mandela already started in March 1995 with the British Queen awarding him the Order of Merit, the most coveted British honour, during her state visit to South Africa.2

Degrading British names used in the press, like St Mandela, quickly changed to Mister and President Mandela. Hypocrisy becomes a normal personal characteristic in the political mind when blurring self-enrichment and political empowerment seemingly overtakes sound thinking and argumentation on good versus bad leadership.2

Such hypocrisy is not unique to the English when it comes to classifying and reclassifying political leaders. In South Africa Nelson Mandela was, in terms of Black thinking, unjustly jailed for political reasons for a long time, receiving a prison number as name, stripped of all human dignity. The NP in turn labelled him with names such as a revolutionary, guerrilla leader, prisoner, violent terrorist and the Black Pimpernel under the executive political leaderships of his biggest political opponents, BJ Vorster, PW Botha and FW de Klerk, and their cronies Pik Botha, Kobie Coetsee and Louis le Grange. Then, suddenly, these arch-enemies officially changed and reclassified his status (and their mindsets also?). They came to call him a statesman and the President of South Africa, the chief executive political leader.2

There can also be a dramatic reclassification when a good executive political leader comes to be viewed as a bad executive political leader, as has been confirmed by the Robert Gabriel Mugabe case of Zimbabwe. This reclassification was again executed by the British, seemingly as part of their local comic: Britain rules the waves versus Britain waves the rules. Mugabe, a well-educated man holding seven degrees, including one from the University of London, initially became notorious for his political group’s atrocies against the Whites in Zimbabwe during the Smith-regime. These murderous inclinations were further extended to Whites after he took power in 1980. However, his murderous inclinations are best reflected by his Fifth Brigade’s massacre of an estimated 20 000 Zimbabweans in the 1980s, mostly from the Ndebele tribe. He ruled Zimbabwe from the 1980s as a despot, ignoring human rights and lives, including that of Zimbabweans. Notwithstanding this murderous record and thus outright failure as an executive leader in terms of world standards and surely also in the eyes of the World Court for Humanity, his indiscretions only increasingly from 1980 to 1994, the British Queen, her Excellence Elizabeth, knighted him in 1994 for his “role in the development of Zimbabwe-UK relations.”78:15 The reference “relations” already indicates British opportunistic intentions and not good leadership based purely on good personal standards and integrity on the side of the UK.78

The question here is clear: How did the British measured the initial goodness of Mugabe as an executive political leader to give him a knighthood in 1994 when his personal and political behaviour at that time had been out of line with the behavior of a good statesman for a long time already? It is only after continued murderous deeds against Whites and Blacks and many other multiple criminal wrongdoings (and an immense rise in hostility towards the British state), that the Queen stripped him of his knighthood in 2008. It took a full fourteen years after his hypocritical mark-up to good on the good-versus-bad classification (enough to meet to the requirements of knighthood), that he was downgraded on the scale to bad, where he indeed belonged from the beginning. The true meaning of hypocrisy and the blurring of sound thinking on the quality of leaders becomes evident from the fact that Mugabe was also shortlisted for the Nobel peace prize in 1981 after his election victory to become Zimbabwe’s first democratically elected president in 1980.78

When considering above negative reflection on Mugabe as a failed executive political leader (ousted as a dictator in Zimbabwe at last, but only in 2018), it is interesting to see that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the so-called leading countries south of the Congo River and South Africa’s neighbours of good standing, harbours more and more despots and other failed executive political leaders. This includes Mugabe, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Jacob Zuma (ousted in 2018), as well as the failing executive political leaders of Tanzania, Angola and Zambia. Notwithstanding the negative political actions of these leaders, as presidents they continue to represent independent nations as their heads. They enjoy good status as leaders internationally. Their oppression and the genocides of their own people are not strictly measured and tested on the good-versus-bad classification (or even discussed) anywhere in the Western world because it is not in the West’s interest.79

3.5 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s reflection on poor political leadership and regimes

The 1996 hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)2,45 revealed horrific stories as both perpetrators and victims of Apartheid described cold-blooded details of torture and assassinations. The two main culprits: the ANC and its executive political leaders with their own dark history of political crimes, many times against their own people; and the NP-regime’s atrocities against Blacks as well as White dissidents, argued by their executive political leaders to be committed without their “official permission” by the South African armed and security forces. Notwithstanding this laughable disclaimer, the then active political leaders of the NP, De Klerk, Pik Botha, PW Botha and Magnus Malan stood central to these cold-blooded torture and assassinations. Malan went scot-free after a botched court case, while De Klerk remained evasive and even denied involvement till the end, notwithstanding an “avalanche of evidence”, as Archbishop Tutu2:74 calls it.

Pik Botha’s acknowledgement of guilt with regard to the NP regime’s atrocities goes as far as admitting that all NP cabinet ministers “suspected these killings and torturing”, while PW Botha refused blindly to appear before the TRC to be questioned.2 However, there has been no sign of a proper appraisal and classification of the actions of the NP executive leaders as good or bad.2,45

Mandela’s own response to the prominent NP leaders’ failures as executive political leaders was that De Klerk “allowed the slaughter of innocent people because they are black”.2:474 He had no doubt that De Klerk had to be involved as the top executive political leader of the country. Still, notwithstanding the evidence, the TRC never officially condemned De Klerk and his cronies as failed executive political leaders.2,45

Mandela’s most condemning public statement on the matter of De Klerk as a failed executive political leader was undoubtedly his comment when he was asked whether De Klerk is a “political criminal.” He replied2:474: “Almost everybody in [the NP] government is a political criminal.” This pinpointed for the first time the NP’s failed executive leaderships – justified or not, true or false. Mandela classification extends to De Klerk’s intimate cronies. Mandela, now officially a statesman, one made by De Klerk himself, was forced to step in to denounce De Klerk when the TRC failed to officially admit the failures of the leadership of the Afrikaner regimes from 1910, especially the racist NP-regime from 1948 that also harboured De Klerk.2

Mandela opinion on the quality of South African political leadership cited above raises a very important question that can guide our thinking on and definition of executive political leadership: Is there any integrity left in a person when he or she becomes a successful politician? Formulated differently: Do politics contaminate the mindsets and harm the integrity of people with good and bad attributes so that they end up embracing only their bad attributes? Looking at Apartheid and the ANC’s terrorism in the Struggle years, integrity seems not to be a strong attribute among politicians, and many politicians seem to be besotted by crookery.1-8,16,17,21

On the part of the ANC2, besides their TRC confessions regarding their own bad executive political leadership during the Struggle years, Mandela himself condemned the bad executive political leaderships reflected by ANC politicians after 1994, when, the ANC became2:571: “…lenient towards corrupt Ministers, and too slow to condemn and root out bribery and abuses of power, particularly in the provincial governments, which Mandela admitted were the Achilles heel of democratic governance.” In February 1999 he publically took the leadership to task about failed executive political leadership inside the ANC (something the NP leaders under FW de Klerk failed to do, even today)2:571:

Among the new cadres in various levels of governance you find individuals who are corrupt – if not more – those they found in government. When a leader in a provincially legislature siphons off resources meant to fund service by legislators to the people: when employees of a government institution, set up to help empower those who were excluded by apartheid, defraud it for own enrichment, then we must admit that we are a sick society.

Mandela, as well as De Klerk (and of course all their intimate cronies, at all times playing the ball of hypocrisy with great eagerness), could learn a lot on clean executive politics and how to behave correctly when you are trusted and allowed into the position of an executive political leader of a country. They should in the early days of their political careers have read and studied intensively the old writings of some of the world’s politically wise men, such as those of the Indian trade unionist and politician, Sardar Patel. On the 10th of October 1949 in the Indian Constituent Assembly he said74:263-264:

Have you read history? Or, is it that you do not care for recent history after you have begun to make history? If you do that, then I tell you we have a dark future. Learn to stand upon your pledged word…Can you go behind these things? Have morals no place in the new Parliament? Is that how we are going to begin our new freedom? Do not take a lathi and say, Who is to give you a guarantee? We are a Supreme Parliament. Have you supremacy for this kind of thing? To go behind your word? If you do that, that supremacy will go down in a few days.

Patel74 here sets out a simple consideration of good and bad leadership that a person must think through before embarking on a political career. This consideration is seldom done, simply because politicians are seldom honest and pure in integrity. They hate the truth about their well-masked bad qualities as political leaders. PW Botha and FW de Klerk revealed this at the TRC and Mandela was forced to unmask their bad qualities on their behalve.2,74

What Mandela2 said in February 1999 and Patel74 in October 1949, although indirectly, is that political environments corrupt some people and the intricacies of politics do not hold respect for anyone or anything. For crook-minded politicians politics is heaven on earth, because Mandela and Patel’s pre-selection guidelines for executive political leaders are just seen as after-thoughts and not guidelines to be followed by executive leaders in their politic career choices or their groups’ in-house committees on the selection of good leaders. Any pre-appraisal or guidelines make the selection of good leaders and the rejection of bad leaders possible. This threatens the dubious leader’s future and is therefore disregarded.

  1. Discussion

The above intimate overview of the quality of South African executive political leaders and regimes from the1600s, but especially from the 1950s up to today, on the one hand confirms how bad personal characteristics and qualities have become part of the personalities and behaviour of political leaders. On the other hand it shows how such leaders carry their crooked personal characteristics and qualities into their executive leadership positions, contaminating not only their political regime, but the whole society.

Four prominent questions arise from the above discussion:

  • How can good political leaders be identified and described when there is no well-formulated definition of a good leader?
  • What criteria are there in place to select only good persons as executive political leaders?
  • Are there cultural differences between Blacks and Whites and between the various Black tribes regarding the characteristics each group feels are needed in a good executive political leader in South Africa and/or for the tribe as a leader?
  • Are these differences, if they exist, not similar to the pro-Begin Jews of Israel’s hypocritical view of good versus the anti-Begin     British’s hypocritical view of bad?

This project will try to deal with each of these questions as the research progresses.

4.1 The role of opportunism and self-interest in the good-versus-bad classification of leadership and regime

It is important to focus the attention on the immense political and personal subjectivities that can go with these four questions. It was already demonstrated how the English made a turn a round on the status of political leaders, basically for selfish and opportunistic reasons. There were also, as with the English, very clear selfish and opportunistic reasons for the NP’s turn-around on Nelson Mandela2. The NP elite knew very well in the late 1980s that the South African economy was in shatters and that maintaining Apartheid through war would bring immense loss in human live, especially for the Blacks, which the outside world would not allow to go unpunished.2,46

The common members of the Afrikaner–nationalist groups, abused for nearly five decades by their opportunistic and radical executive political leaders, also became tired of political turmoil and war. They started to reject and to denounce their role as racists and the oppressors of Black South Africans, making the collapse of Afrikaner supremacy and rule by the executive political leaders of the NP-AB-DRC-Alliance, unavoidable. The only person who could get the executive political leaders of the NP-AB-DRC-Alliance out of their growing political mess, was the Black Pimpernel Mandela, the most prominent, but unseen ANC leader. While it is true that he was acclaimed throughout the world as the great liberator, the new Moses or Mesiah, he was an unofficial South African political leader without a tangible power and lacking a convincing liberation army to overrun the NP.2,26,45-46

His leadership benefited from the fact that his prison ordeal transformed him not only into an excellent reflective and influential political leader with vision and finesse, but also into a classical Black hero. This overshadows his many other leadership shortcomings as Sampson eloquently shows in his biography2. In prison, he, the Black hero, became the only saviour and saver of the struggling Blacks in the country under the autocratic Apartheid regime. For the executive political leaders of the NP-AB-DRC-Alliance, he was indeed also the saviour of their personal, political and financial interests in the 1990s in a future South Africa: the ultimate person that must be incorporated into a kind of NP-ANC-alliance. The NP-elite had to adapt to majority rule, not out of goodwill towards the Blacks or Mandela, but to safeguard their own interests and to save their skins. They did this by changing their minds about Mandela.2,46,75

The examples of Begin, Kenyatta, Markarios and Mandela are in line with the findings of South African literature in that the classification of many of the South African executive political leaders who had failed the test as good leaders resulted solely from the personal views (framework of references) of certain journals, writers, regimes and politicians (which are been seen as subjective and false by the opposition supporting the failed leader). Supporters of such disgraced, criminal leaders (as Mandela was classified by the Afrikaner nationalist executive leaders for a long time), oppose any condemning views and opinions that attack the good status of their leaders. For the pro-Mandela supportive groups, their views and opinions on Mandela represent only the truth (which can also be subjective, as guided by their opposing framework of reference). These conflicting classifications found in South African literature with regard to good versus bad executive political leaders, are applicable to both White and Black political leaders, as well as on the various NP as well as ANC executive political leaders.2,77 (These possible kinds of outcomes will be appraised and evaluated in various articles, starting from Part 5 covering the period 1652 to 1795).

This trend in the literature basically nullifies these contradicting literatures. The consideration of South African political leaders depends on the specific time, political regime, race, voter empowerment and sentiment. The total disdain for DF Malan and HF Verwoerd on the side of Blacks in the post-1994 South Africa after they had been glorified as heroes by Afrikaner nationalists during Grand Apartheid, are excellent examples.2,77

The above outcome raises four more questions:

  • Is there really such a thing as a bad political leader or regime in politics?
  • Can an objective definition of a good executive political leader or regime ever be formulated?
  • Does the sheer complexity of a study that aims to compile and describe the good characteristics of a good executive political leader and  his good regime make such a project impossible?
  • More specifically, is it scientifically possible to offer a trustworthy appraisal and evaluation of the executive political leaders and regimes of a country in terms of a “good-versus-bad” classification?

The above questions are tested in articles starting from Part 5.

4.2 Confusing decisions on the moral standing of executive political leaders and regimes

Some political scientists, politicians and lawmakers (usually established in political power and not open to the competition of strong opponents in an unstable environment) propose that persons with criminal backgrounds (like terrorist and freedom-fighting activities), should not be allowed into political positions in any way. This changes an inclusive entrance to politics and possible executive political leadership to an exclusive, strict political entrance, totally cutting out ‘criminals’ from politics in the hopes of ensuring a better class of candidates for politics. The trend of political leaders committing criminal acts (notwithstanding their “clean” record before entering politics) once in public office, defies this requirement of “no criminal record.” Some of the “crime-clean” NP politicians when measured according to this criterion became criminally driven politicians once in office, as their Apartheid atrocities confirm, while many of the “terrorist” ANC politicians, involved in serious atrocities during the struggle and thus “criminals” from the beginning of the ANC regime in 1994, did not get involved in crime while in parliament. It must be emphasized that the lack of distinction between right and wrong by high level politicians and governmental executives in decision-making and behaviour is not limited to the NP and ANC leaders, but a worldwide phenomenon, whether these officials were elected or not.2,80-86

The confusing opinions of regimes and world leaders on whether a person or political leader is good or bad is not only illustrated by the examples of Begin, Kenyatta, Markarios and Mandela, but also by American president George Bush’s lack to distinguish between good and bad realities, and ultimately between good and bad politics.87 In this case the decision-making bordered on dangerous hallucinations and delusions. Bush was blinded by quasi-political-religious infections. It is reported that Bush proclaimed87:108: “God told him to strike at al Qaida,” which he then did, and then “again that God instructed him to strike at Saddam,” which he again did. It is also reported that he said he87:108: “received the command of the Lord of Hosts, the War God, to fight the problems of the Middle East.” Besides the fact that financial, political and military opportunism can drive the leaders of regimes to appraise and to evaluate a foreign executive political leader subjectively and faultily, is it clear that the subjective (faulty) religious foundations of empowered political leaders can also blur their views on any other executive political leader (driving them to act against them in cold blood, as happened with Saddam Hussein). Such religious evaluations can be untrustworthy and can activate dangerous politics. This is confirmed by various other researches.77,87 Powell77 warns in this context that religiously inspired persons are less susceptible to rational thinking. He quotes a former Israeli minister, Dan Meridor, as saying77: 346: “When you get God into discussions, God never compromises.”

When the top executive political leaders, like those of the USA, classify the executive political leaders of countries in conflict with the USA in terms of an exclusive religious evaluation, the classification undoubtedly becomes superficial, false and dangerous. Remember above saying: “God never compromises [for others’ politics and rights]”. Indeed, the devil can be “present and very active” within the mindset of the eager and judgemental executive political leader himself.77,87

It seems as if politics make the corrupt more corrupt and the virtuous less virtuous. Although this statement can be seen as a sweeping statement, there seems to be some truth in it when looking critically at the histories of South African executive politicians and regimes from 1652 to 2018. What is very clear is that these negative outcomes bedevil the formulation of an acceptable definition of good executive political leaders. It also gives some insight into why there has so far not been a comprehensive evaluation or appraisal in South Africa on the political leaders for the period 1652 to 2018. It seems just too complex and too impenetrable to undertake.2,80-86

4.3 The effect of democracy on our idea of good executive political leaders and regimes

Regarding the issue of good political leadership, it is clear from South African and international literature, that political leaders who fail to deliver on their promises or leaders who deviate from democratic politics in their management of countries, attract much attention (but voters fail to force them to rectify their failures). Political leaders and regimes try to make real improvements, often succeeding in bettering the lives of their voters, seldom receive praise.86

Barber86 emphasizes that the process of delivery – and thus the practice of good leadership at all time – is important to politics since a politician’s future is threatened if he fails repeatedly to deliver on promises. Matthew d’ Ancona argues that86:xiii:

…successful political leadership is becoming increasingly challenging as leaders face ‘higher expectations of government, raised standards of accountability and media scrutiny more intense and unrelenting than at any time in history’.

Political leaders of both talent and genuine goodwill, of which there are many more around the world than public commentary would have you believe, find themselves struggling to deliver their promises.

Clearly good executive political leaders have to adhere to ever-rising standards. Good leaders still fail to fulfil their tasks in the public’s eyes as good executive political leaders (whatever fails means in this context).

4.4 Accountability, responsibility and ethics as unique characteristics of good executive political leaders and regimes

Some researchers have tried to take the good-versus-bad classification further, at least in some way, by identifying certain characteristics unique to good leaders. Many researchers 2,17,80-87 highlight the failure by executive political leaders to act accountably and responsibly and with regard to ethics principles. These failures are mostly direct outcomes of crooked doings or the result of shortcomings in the abilities and skills of political leaders.2,17,80-87

Chomsky writes87:14:

Chomsky knows full well the limits of leaders and their advisors, the arrogance, posturing, and malign intentions he finds in their words. It does not matter whether these leaders are elected or appointed, or hold their office through blood or advantage of wealth or even as the result of some level of educational attainment useful to a ruling elite. He is aware that oligarchs do not rule as trustees for others, but for themselves. They have in mind the destruction of democracy if it ever proves to be more than a rhetorical fig leaf, when it means the redistribution of economics and political power along the ideological lines of Adam Smith and Tom Paine, or when it means the renunciation of imperialism. There is a direct line between the antidemocratic elites and the establishment of secret organizations such as the CIA, which know and do things that a democracy would not begin to understand or countenance – until democracy is deadened through propaganda.

Regarding the reference of Chomsky87 to the negative impact of secret organizations on politics and the upkeep of democracies worldwide, the politics of South Africa was and is not free from secret organizations and their hidden bedevilling activities on the country’s political functioning. The wrongdoings of the secret Afrikaner Broederbond (AB), a crooked and intimate associate of the NP during Apartheid, is well known. ANC is comparable with a faction of its elites (specifically the exiles and the veterans who maintain their liberation dogmas, doctrine and ideology) belonging to the secret MK organization, still going strong today as a destructive liberation organization in the South African politics. It is not very different from the AB, which promoted undemocratic political acts during the heydays of Apartheid. And, of course, there is also the ghost of the PAC’s PQCQ.16,17,25,26,75,82

Chomsky87 states that the politics of many countries were in the past and are at present still driven by “old Wild West politics”, justice and business, its cowboys and crooks, its crooked town councils and crooked sheriffs, all working together to run and to oversee the whole crooked business. Corruption, theft, mismanagement, injustice and killing as correct values, customs and traditions, have successfully replaced the concepts decency and of law and order in the intimate executive political leadership’s functioning. There is not a single rule of integrity in this kind of politics – most politicians are driven by their own interests, with the interests of the voters only a vague idea and memory. In this political environment it does not matter who the sheriff is, as long as he has a silver star pinned to his chest. Who pinned it on for him, is also of little importance.16,17,87,88

South Africa’s own politics did not escape this Wild West, its crooked town councils and its crooked sheriffs with their silver badges. Our political history tells us this story over and over – of crooked regimes, crooked governors, crooked prime ministers and crooked presidents — and still we vote into power these crooked sheriffs and crooked town councils. In this context the question becomes prominent: Can South Africa’s various governments, governors, prime ministers and presidents with the many allegations brought against them be seen in general as good executive political leaders and good regimes of governance? This is one of the questions that this research project of nine articles will try to answer.16,17,88

In South Africa, poor executive political leaders and poor regimes of governance have a long history, going back to the honourable Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. It gained momentum from 1948 with the Apartheid regime of the NP. The post-1994 period shows a further rise in the lack of accountabilility and responsibility by the executive political leaders, a phenomenon that Chomsky87 warns us is plentiful worldwide and which Mandela2 also pinpointed in the ANC leadership since 1994. The following warning is clear85:20:

Accountability is a cornerstone of our constitution, which is replete with mechanisms to ensure that public officials, both elected and employed in the public service and in state entities deliver on what they are paid to do. The ease with which public officials pass through the wringer, to emerge apparently unscratched at the other end, is unsettling.

4.5 The failure of the Constitution to enforce good executive leadership principles

The failure of the Constitution80-83,85 to set down measures for the strict implementation of its rules for good executive leadership is a direct result of the fact that the South African Constitution is only designed for a honest statesman as the executive political leader at the helm: a person immune to corruption, nepotism, fraud inside his own government and the public service and to onslaughts from outside by the private sector. The mass executive juridical and political power vested in the president leaves him free to abuse it if he lacks accountability, integrity, ethics and basic honesty, all of which are essential for a good executive political leader and the upkeep of a good regime of governance. Crooked invaders from the public service and the private sector can quickly create political and economical havoc and a constitutional crisis if the President is a failed executive political leader and a crook himself. Africa has become known for such bad executive political leaders. It was not without the deepest concern about the calibre of executive political leader in charge of South Africa that the EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi referred to Zuma as the “constitutional delinquent.” He endangered the Constitution, and this concern is still valid with application to Ramaphosa. There are many other constitutional delinquents in the ANC planning to become the executive political leaders of South Africa in the future.1,2,16,17,21,89

The current envisaged change to the Constitution to allow land-grabbing as part of the ANC’s policy of radical economical transformation (RET) and radical social transformation (RST), offer these constitutional delinquents of the ANC the opportunity to encircle and to close down Western democracy, accountability, responsibility, integrity, ethics and honesty, all essentials for a good executive political leader who oversees a regime of good governance. But, to be honest, this constitutional delinquency such as that in the ANC’s inner circle is not new in South African politics. It is exactly what DF Malan and his constitutional delinquents did in 1948 within Western democracy to the Constitution of the then Union of South Africa. The Grand Apartheid of the Afrikaner nationalists took constitutional delinquency to its utmost limits.89,90

Mthombothi83 writes about the above dangerous flaw in the South African Constitution, giving executive political leaders some scope to act with bad intentions and to promote their own interests83:21:

Some of the Chapter 9 institutions have proved useless in curbing the powers of the executive. We need to craft a system that makes power directly accountable to the people. Structures that are themselves removed or distant from the masses cannot be expected to ameliorate overweening power.

Ranjeni Munusamy9, a South African political-investigative journalist, writes about the concourse of a crooked President who is fully and solely in charge of the Constitution, with the failed Chapter 9 Institutions, also under his strong hand9:26:

…Zuma repeatedly made a mockery of parliament and the ANC caucus, most notably in the Nklanda saga.
Zuma has become accustomed to fobbing off serious allegations against him as if he is a private citizen and nobody is entitled to know his business.
He has also mastered how to cheat accountability mechanisms.
As a result, he has managed to escape culpability for bending the rule of law, violating the constitution, instructing state officials to give contracts to his friends, making cabinet appointments on instruction from his benefactors, receiving payments from business people and gangsters, and paralyzing the security agencies to prevent prosecution.
… the president also owes millions to the South African Revenue Service, which he has no intention of paying thanks to one of his keepers…

4.6 The contaminating effect of the public-private sector intertwining on the quality of executive political leaders and regimes

To understand the contaminated effects of bad accountability, bad responsibility and bad ethics active in the present South African leadership environment, it must be noted that the South Africa private sector and public sector had become totally intertwined over time. To divorce the South African private services from the public sector when it comes to political management and business systems is impossible: What is happening in the one can not be separated from the other’s practices of corruption, poor governance and accountability. Our immense state capture is an outcome of this public-private sector’s “bastard birth” in 1994. This entanglement, which is leading to poor outcomes on many terrains of society, also spread deep into the two sectors’ executive leaderships.69,91-94

It is clear that South Africa is in trouble, and indeed in very deep trouble, due to its lack of good executive leaders and good governance. Corrupted accountability, ethics, responsibility and governance seem to sprout from a well-placed cocoon of political and business crooks; active simultaneously in the private and public sectors, functioning as a well-intertwined web of deceit.69,91-94

It must be noted that there are still many executive political and business leaders of good standing. Magda Wierzycka, CEO of the Sygnia Group, is of the opinion that, proportionally, only a small group of bad executive business and bad executive political leaders have captured and contaminated South Africa. She put this group on 20 000 well-positioned corrupted transgressors against a population of 56 million South Africans outside this culture.95

4.7 The executive political leader as the central guiding figure in good governance

The concept leader (in this study more specifically the executive political leader, meaning the top executives of the country) is central to this study. As previously said, many references are found in the literature to the words leaders and leadership, but most definitions provide no guidance. For this study is it important to give a short overview on the important role of good leaders and good leadership in the political and business sectors, and why the researcher sees a politico-historical appraisal or evaluation of the contributions of South Africa’s executive political leaders as a necessity.

One of the best studies that shows the importance of good executive leaders and leadership in extraordinary successfully American enterprises, is that of Jim Collins,23 titled Good to Great. Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, which was published in 2001.

The Collins-study23 focused on 1 435 American companies, classified as “good” companies in 1985. Collins and his team observed these companies from 1996 to 2000 with reference to a schedule of 15 years of performance (1985-2000). When considering these fifteen years only, only eleven companies (0.7%) could be classified as great. The crucial question for Collins23 was: What did the eleven good-to-great companies share in common that distinguished them from the other 1 424 comparatively good companies. Certain findings emerged; one outstanding was the presence of extraordinary executive leaders in these eleven companies, who he named Level 5: Executive Leaders or good-to-great leaders. This kind of leader was absent from the other 1 424 companies, notwithstanding their status as good and their business successes.23

Some of the characteristics unique to this Level 5 leader are the following: they built enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will; they are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results; they make productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits; they contribute individual capabilities to the achievement of the group’s objectives and work effectively with others in a group setting; they organize people and resources towards the effective and efficient pursuit of pre-determined objectives; they catalyze commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision; and they stimulate higher performance standards.23

What is of direct importance to this research project is the fact that the intent with Collins’23 study was initially not on the quality (good or great) of leaders per se, but solely on the business profiles and functioning of the eleven good-to-great businesses itself that set them apart from among 1 435 companies. The prominence and importance of executive business leaders emerged only as it became clear that they were the main drivers to turn the eleven good enterprises to great enterprises in a period of 15 years and to uphold this good-to-great status. What Collins23 also identified, was that his findings were not limited to the private business sector, but applicable to every sector of the society, including the various segments of the public sector.

Read about Collins’23 initially negative attitude about the role of executive leaders in the success of business enterprises and organizations as compared to his Rubicon-acceptance of good executive leadership based on sound empirical findings, as an absolute necessity in good management. It does not matter if it is in business or politics. His full text, describing his Rubicon, is quoted to give an in-depth understanding of the aims and intentions with this series of articles and the need for this study on executive political leaders. The title of the study: Leadership characteristics in perspective, says it all. Collins writes23:21-22:

We were not looking for Level 5 leadership or anything like it. In fact, I gave the research team explicit instructions to downplay the role of top executives so that we could avoid the simplistic “credit the leader” or “blame the leader” thinking common today.
To use an analogy, the “Leadership is the answer to everything” perspective is the modern equivalent of the “God is the answer to everything” perspective that held back our scientific understanding of the physical world in the Dark Ages. In the 1500s, people ascribed all events they didn’t understand to God. Why did the crops fail? God did it. Why did we have an earthquake? God did it. What holds the planets in place? God. But with the Enlightenment, we began the search for more scientific understanding – physics, chemistry, biology, and so forth. Not that we became atheists, but we gained deeper understanding about how the universe ticks.
Similarly, every time we attribute everything to “Leadership”, we’re no different from the people in the 1500s. We’re simply admitting our ignorance. Not that we should become leadership atheists (leadership does matter), but every time we throw our hands up in frustration – reverting back to “Well, the answer must be Leadership!”—we prevent ourselves from gaining deeper, more scientific understanding about what makes great companies tick.
So, early in the project, I kept insisting, “Ignore the executives”. But the research team kept pushing back, “No! There is something consistently unusual about them. We can’t ignore them”. And I’d respond, “But the comparison companies also had leaders, even some great leaders. So, what’s different?” Back and forth the debate raged.
Finally – as should always be the case – the data won.

The good-to-great executives were all cut from the same cloth. It didn’t matter whether the company was consumer or industrial, in crisis or steady state, offered services or products. It didn’t matter when the transition took place or how big the company. All the good-to-great companies had Level 5 leadership at the time of the transition. Furthermore, the absence of Level 5 leadership showed up as a consistent pattern in the comparison companies. Given that Level 5 leadership cuts against the grain of conventional wisdom, especially the belief that we need larger-than-life saviors with big personalities to transform companies, it is important to note that Level 5 is an empirical finding, not an ideological one.

The good executive leader is a fact, a reality, a must for a society that wants to be successful. He is the modern-day Messiah of a company, a institute, a regime, a country – he can get it through troubled times and steer it to Utopias, because he has integrity, accountability, responsibility, personal ethics, vision, sound thinking, balanced emotions, honesty and is against self-enrichment and self-promotion. For him the group and its interests come first. South Africa’s good executive political leader and regime must have the same qualities as those reflected by the Collins research23, if not at a higher level. They must be able to steer the country and its people towards success.

How do South Africa’s executive political leaders and regimes fit into this picture? This question is explored in article 5 (Part 5) of this project for the period 1652 to 1795 (The inention is to explore on a later date also the period 1796 to 2018 in Project Two).

  1. Conclusion

Anthony Ginsberg21 in his book South Africa’s Future emphasizes that South African voters must at all times judge the performance of their elected politicians and executive political leaders and hold them highly accountable if they fail their tasks and duties. Ginsberg writes21:20:

Members of our present and future governments should not be treated as untouchables, no matter how courageous their leaders may have been or how many years they may have struggled to achieve leadership positions. By voting them into power we have sufficiently rewarded them for their years of struggle and sacrifice. The longer we wait to demand results and answers to the harsh realities our country faces, the deeper the hole will become which we have dug ourselves into.
It is our role as the electorate to ask tough questions and to demand answers of the people we put in power. They are our servant, not the other way around.
We are the shareholders of government – the current management team is only temporary, and can be replaced by a new team with new ideas every five years if need be.

Boon1 and Ginsberg’s21 statements, together with five other studies, form the appraisal base of this series of five articles of project one. The project is focused on positioning the executive political leaders of South Africa and their regimes for the period 1652 to 1795 on a continuum of good and bad. The intention of this series is much broader and more in-depth than the intentions of Boon1 and Ginsberg,21 who put only the current South African executive political leaders in perspective. The primary aim of Project One (with the focus on the period 1652 to 1795) is to create a basis for a second project that will evaluate and describe the performances of South African executive leaders from 1795 to 2018, with President Cyril Ramaphosa being the focus end-point in a classification of good performances versus bad performances. The two projects explore how accountable, responsible and ethical executive political leaders were in the past or are at present. The intention is to offer a descriptive overview and conclusion on the contributions of executive political leaders and regimes to the well-being of every South African and South Africa’s politics overall. The outcome of this overview and the conclusions must be seen as an effort to know our past so that we can understand our present and can appraise our future. In line with the guidelines of Boon1 and Ginsberg,21 the overall appraisals of political wrongdoings and praise for executive political leaders and their regimes of governance where they did well, are organized according to six timeframes (Parts 5 to 10) in the period 1652 to 2018.

This first project (Project One: including Parts 1 to 5) offers an appraisal of the leaders and regimes of the period 1652 to 1795 (with the evaluation of the profiles of the leaders and regimes in Part 5).

What we need is a dramatic change in the thinking on South Africa’s political problems, especially those that have became entrenched in most South Africans. South Africa can take an important lesson from Jonathan Powell77, a well-known international mediator between governments and terrorist organizations, when he reflects:77:366-367:

…there is no such thing as an insoluble conflict, however bloody, difficult or ancient.
Believing that a solution is inevitable is nearly as dangerous as believing a conflict is insoluble. If people sit around waiting for a conflict to be ‘ripe’, or for the forces of history to solve it for them, then it won’t be resolved.
What we need are more political leaders prepared to take the necessary risks…

The solution to South Africa’s political problems is no more complex than the solutions to the problems Powell77 addressed. In as sense our executive political leaders are part of the insoluble conflicts themselves; they are the instigators and zealots of the ongoing racial, social, economical and political conflicts. The leadership must change before any other changes can occur. The question is who will bring about the change, their former partners in crime? Thankfully history shows that there are always insiders in a defective system who are willing to change and who would work to change their partners and their organization to steer them away from wrongdoing. It is a difficult task, but often very successfully. Powell’s77 positive opinion that even the most serious political problem can be solved, gives us hope that the problem of South Africa’s ineffective executive political leaders can also be solved. However, as Powell77 warns, we can not sit around waiting for it to solve itself. It is ancient, but not bloody at the moment.2,16,17,21,25,74,77 This study can make a positive contribution in this regard.

The South African politico-historical literature has thus far failed to ask the following basic questions about the country’s various executive political leaders:

  • Did the said executive political leader serve every South African citizen’s interests every day before, during and after their political reign with love and dedication, honesty, justice, objectivity, and free from racism and cultural bias?
  • Did the particular leader have the guts to take on the country’s socio-political system, not fearing the consequences this would have for their political careers?

A further question that arises from the above questions is:

  • Did the executive political leaders under discussion pertinently distance themselves from any racial, ethnic and cultural discrimination, domination and siding, and did they belong to groups that reflected any ethnic, racist and violent political behaviour, be it justified or unjustified?

In South Africa the same leader would be hailed a hero in some politico-historical sources and a villain in others. This has become a point of controversy. These conflicting and controversial views and opinions do not serve the South African history and its political culture well. These views do not help to steer the development, the establishment and the upkeep of a culture of good executive political leadership and good governance.

It is time that the above daring questions be answered, however simple they seem. We cannot shy away from it anymore: He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever (Chinese Proverb).

Hopefully, articles two to five (Parts 2 to 5) will shed some light on the above questions. The research will perhaps also help politico-historical researchers let go of their fear of looking like fools for asking the right questions.


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  4. Verwoerd WJ. Verwoerd: Só onthou ons hom. Pretoria: Protea Boekhuis; 2001.
  5. Fisher A, Albelbas M.(eds.) A question of Survival. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball: 1988.
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Not commissioned; Externally peer-reviewed.


The author declares that he has no competing interest.


The research was funded by the Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Humanities, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa.