Big Picture NOT Tunnel Vision

On his Facebook page Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi said this: “100 days later Mmusi Maimane the DA (Democratic Alliance) leader says his focus is NOT blacks but South Africa. So the prioritization of black people is NOT DA policy. I just feel sorry for ALL the blacks in the DA who may have rightfully or perhaps naively thought racism in the DA has come to an end. It has NOT. Mmusi FAILS to understand the Equal Treatment of Unequal People is Unequal.”

While Manyi stirs vigorous and often sound debate on his Facebook page, it seems this time he has joined the increasingly growing group of opinion leaders in our society that judge statements from a distance or quote comments by other leaders out of context in support of their own views of the world. And what’s sad is that many lazy thinkers express their unwavering support for such tunnel vision views, without really thinking it through.

We live in a country where whom the message comes from carries more weight than the substance of the message. In other words, just because President Jacob Zuma says something the opposition feels they must criticize. Or, just because Mmusi Maimane says something the opposition must criticize. Yet – and closer to home – just because I as a white South African male share these views many will feel they must criticize me. This is extremely immature leadership and definitely not how Nelson Mandela led. And it most certainly is not in the spirit of the NDP, country vision and even the ANC Freedom Charter.

I am not politically affiliated but look at this from a leadership point of view. A leader must always serve the bigger picture. For Maimane to therefore state that he focuses on South Africa rather than on blacks (if indeed this is what he said), could be effective and visionary leadership rather than a statement that must be panel beaten into a racial conversation.

The fact that Maimane (or whomever) focuses on South Africa as a whole does not exclude a passion for economic transformation, or eradicating racism for good, or even a healthy and authentic implementation of our B-BBEE strategy. No doubt any leader that genuinely focuses on the big picture of South Africa and even the globe will with equal passion push transformation – whatever it takes to turn South Africa into the nation it is capable of becoming. However, because of a focus on South Africa the leader will have a “True North” direction to keep him authentic, as opposed to tunnel vision of one important obstacle in our country that will without doubt lead to shortsighted decisions.

When I sat with President Zuma in 2011 I got the distinct impression that his focus was not on “blacks” but on South Africa. Much has happened since then, but I am willing to bet Manyi that President Zuma still believes this is his focus – whether most agree or not is another debate. Sitting with former President Kgalema Motlanthe on more than one occasion the same impressions came to me – he has a focus on South Africa and his vision is not a tunnel one with emphasis on one element of the country.

We have learnt some difficult lessons in our history that would be foolish to forget and repeat. We have learnt that building a future that excludes or alienates certain groups based on race is shortsighted and obviously unsustainable. When this happens the excluded parties tend to withdraw, become negative, resist passively and eventually even aggressively. Let us learn from history!

Any leader in South Africa that builds his/her vision on a focus around “blacks” or “whites” rather than “South Africa” is immediately falling trap to the same historical mistakes, sending a message of exclusion and alienation. All of us must comply with the spirit and letter of transformation through delivery of B-BBEE expectations, and more. But this compliance must be built around a solution that serves South Africa and that does not neglect or alienate participants that have experience, expertise and much needed resources, but in fact takes them along on this journey.

Mmusi Maimane – continue focusing on South Africa because it is the right thing to do.

President Zuma – South Africa longs for leadership where we trust undoubtedly in the motives and intentions of our top leader, President and CEO. We need a President that shows through consistent words and actions that South Africa as a country, and all who live in it, is top priority.

We need leadership that embraces personally and nationally the vision as described in the National Development Plan. This vision is not for blacks only and it is not for whites only. It is for all of us! Let us serve South Africa and not just one tunnel vision component of it.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

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