From election show – to fashion parade?
There is a tradition in many places for showbiz personalities and fashionable people to enter politics. I was reminded of this recently. As we approached the elections we saw a dance show from our politicians: some of whom were apparently learning to dance, some who danced really well and some of whom sadly have passed their dancing prime. Everyone tried their best to show off the popular dance ‘Y-tjukutja-waichukucha’, which the president and his vice president displayed to the nation on the last African National Congress rally at the First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg. At the other end of this show were those who never demonstrated their dancing skills. (In truth, the dancing skills displayed by some suggests they stick to their day job: politics).
Maybe there isn’t really a need to inspire voters by demonstrating one’s dancing prowess. All our politicians had their electoral promises backed up with party programmes and manifestoes. The popular promises included houses, water, proper sanitation and jobs. The promises were made with enthusiasm, no doubt also with sincerity, even with a vision of how promises might become houses, water, sanitation and work. Fortunately for them, many voters believed the promises, some even imagining they would be soon realised.
There is long tradition in parliaments, particularly at their opening, for parliamentarians to dress formally. This is entirely reasonable, given the importance of the occasion and the dignity of office that being elected representatives of the nation entails. Indeed a dress code is more the norm that the exception on these occasions. The dress code, a refreshing combination of the best in Western and African style, at the opening of our national parliament (and in the election campaign preceding it) became an important thing for many of the parties as always; but our newcomers the Economic Freedom Front, stylishly dressed as workers, took it to another level on their arrival in parliament.
But is parliament, leading and governing the country, just about snappy dressing and knowing the latest dance? Surely it is about delivering on election promises, addressing problems in the country and leading society to a better future? What we need are not dancers and fashionistas, but hard-working realistic leaders. In their book 10 Virtues of Outstanding Leaders, Al Gini and Ronald Green note that leadership is about exercising power responsibly, based on a relationship (of truth) between leaders and followers that seeks a common vision to accomplish real change. Such leadership is value-based and ethically-driven – or it is worthless.
Given the questionable track-record and at time doubtful values of some new and old parliamentarians, one must pause to reflect: Is politics really just a song and dance? Is governance just about image? Is parliament simply a fashion show for the old and new elites?
When Jesus ascended, He left his disciples with a model of leadership as service – not song and dance. He formed them with values and ethics that helped create the Church – and, though often fallible, the Church has tried to keep this up.
Will South Africans have to wait until Jesus returns before we see genuine values-based and ethically – driven leadership?