‘Leaders should stem Africa’s bleeding’ – Stellenbosch Rector Prof Russel Botman
Africa needs a new generation of responsible leaders who will be willing to place the public good before self-interest, Stellenbosch University Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Russel Botman said at the “Africa Leads” conference last night (20 November 2012).
He was speaking at a gala reception at Spier for more than 60 “Young Ambassadors” of responsible leadership from across the globe. “Africa Leads” is an initiative of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), USB Executive Development (USB-ED), and the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria.
“Far too many of those in positions of leadership actually promote only their own interests. That is why we have such a problem with corruption – and its variants, nepotism and favouritism and clientelism,” Botman said.
“It is because too many ‘leaders’ are not living up to the trust placed in them. These ‘leaders’ are not fulfilling their responsibilities. The net result is the crisis of leadership that we are currently experiencing.”
Botman, who serves as a Vice-President of the Association of African Universities, said there were many positive developments in Africa, such as its good economic growth and the spread of democracy. However, the continent still lags on human development, will probably not meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and remains racked by armed conflict and political oppression.
This led him to ask, “Does all this bad news not compel us to modify the statement ‘Africa Leads’ to ‘Africa bleeds’?”
“Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying we should get stuck on the negative aspects. But what we should also not do is to pretend that all is well and that we are not facing any challenges. We ignore the plight of the impoverished and the downtrodden and the marginalised on our continent at our own peril.
“And if we say that we should acknowledge that there are indeed problems, it is my message that it is up to us to stem the bleeding. That is why this gathering is so important. I am excited at the prospect of a long-term structure for the development of Africa’s next generation of responsible leaders,” Botman said.
On the conference agenda was a proposal to establish an “Africa Leads Collaborator” – or “collaborative laboratory” – to “mobilise the energy of actors across the continent involved in developing responsible leadership.”
The initiative would operate under the guidance of the “Africa Council for Responsible Leadership”, one of the expected outcomes of the conference.
Botman said it would be “vital to ensure good coordination between the various efforts to promote responsible leadership in Africa,” mentioning three initiatives of SU related to its HOPE Project in this regard: the Partnership for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics (PANGeA), the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa (SIGLA) and the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development. — DESMOND THOMPSON