The reality of bad leadership is upon us as a global community. I invite you to wrestle with this predicament as the world is witnessing more mass protests aimed at elected leaders.
When I look at world leaders today, I am reminded about the short-comings of our systems, be it socialist or capitalist driven. These systems are only as good as the people who put them together. So when a leader is compromised in their leadership, our role is not only to oppose but to raise godly standards to them.
God created us to operate best in community. Wherever you find yourself, there are those who have the mantle of leadership bestowed on them. Some of these leaders have received these titles by hook and crook. Others have forcefully taken this role upon themselves. Some, on the other hand have been legitimately elected through the ballot box in line with acceptable democratic practices.
Last year, millions of people marched against leaders who had been democratically elected as presidents. As an observer, I found myself asking the question, “So who voted for them if they are so unpopular?”
It gets complicated for us Christians, as God commands us to respect those in leadership including loving our enemies. This does not mean turning a blind eye to visible or hidden acts of wrongdoing perpetrated by leaders. We are called to confront these with courage. To demand repentance on those breaking universally accepted leadership standards.
Although this article is directed mostly at the Christian community, I believe that the principles apply across the board.
Firstly, there is no excuse in this day and age for any leader to abuse their leadership in the way they carry out their duties.
This barbaric behaviour is inexcusable and needs to be addressed uncompromisingly so that the perpetrators of this crime are not left unpunished. Leaders who misuse their privileges to undermine those they lead need to be brought to book. They need to face the consequences of their actions.
Secondly, hate polarises nations. History is tainted with tragic acts of genocide committed either at the hands of the powerful or the majority.
Time does not allow me to list all the atrocities that have ripped nations apart as the dominant narrative turned to, ‘us’ and ‘them’. As citizens we should resist any attempts from the left or from the right that seek to tear the fabric of our communities. A leader who sows seeds of hatred is destructive as they foster a culture of fear and intolerance.
The reality is that, the behaviour of leaders has the potential to turn citizens against each or unify them for a common cause.
Thirdly, in our attempts to oppose a corrupt leader we should be mindful that our language does not undermine the presidency.
We cannot pour scorn on the presidency when a misguided leader abdicates their role. In the South African context, a lot of negative things have been said and written about former President Jacob Zuma. Some of the things border on the inhumane. Some of us forget that he did not force himself on us. In hindsight, he was probably not our preferred candidate. As citizens we need to find creative ways of protest that still upholds the office of the presidency.
We cannot afford to cheapen the presidency on the basis of hate.
Fourthly, although I celebrated marches against President Donald Trump, I was left with a deeper concern.
I am convinced that if the same reaction marches had taken place in Africa, the world would have turned its back on us and accused us of undermining democracy. Our own leaders could have unleashed their police on defenceless citizens just to protect their status. In some undemocratic countries, leaders would have charged all marchers with treason!
As the church, it is immoral for us to remain silent while our governments fail their own people.
I believe the sooner the world operates on new models of democracy crafted in their own communities the better our leaders would lead. No country has the sole mandate for defining democracy for everyone.
Lastly, all leaders who occupy the highest offices in their countries are there at God’s permission even though at times it is a struggle to see God’s hand in their leadership.
When they decide to compromise their leadership, they will be held accountable by God one day. They might appear to be in charge of their destinies but ultimately it is God who is in control. No one takes leadership without God allowing it.
The mere fact that God has allowed the appointment of a leader, does not necessarily mean that he has selected the candidate as the most appropriate individual for the role. My mind races back to the appointment of Saul as the first king of Israel, as the Israelites had insisted that they wanted to be like the other tribes around them.
The global village has made it much easier for us to evaluate the capacity and quality of good leaders at the click of a button or tweet. As a believer, my faith in God should influence what I write on a protest poster and how I go about protesting on any platform.
Our message should be that of speaking the truth but always in love.