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Monday, 3 June 2013

Leadership Matters

I recently read Left Behind: Rural Zambia in the Third Republic by Jeremy Gould. It is not the most straightforward of books. It is more a collection of essays writing at different periods of time than a coherent narrative. But I did find the following observation he makes very incisive :

Zambia can only be ruled effectively and equitably when the system of governance is adjusted to contemporary realities. At the core of this is the constitutionally enshrined relationship between the Executive and the people. As long as the system of governance is based on the premise that whoever sits in State House is the unquestionable source of political, legal and moral authority, Zambia will wallow in a mire of endemic political crisis.”

The current debate about the democratic reform of the Republican constitution provides an invaluable opportunity for the profound rethinking required. A good constitution, while do doubt necessary for resolving the deep-rooted crisis in the political system, is nonetheless not in itself sufficient. The main issue is not the formal model of governance, but the real life relations of governance that need to be re-established between State and Society. The Constitution can only lay the foundations for reciprocal and hence deeply democratic relations of governance. The decisive factor will always be the style of governance and the skill of the leadership in establishing an effective basis for trust and loyalty.
Gould wrote that in 2010. It is still true in 2013. That last sentence in particular has never been more important. There's an important reason why "style of governance" is vital. That is because no institutions exist in a vacuum. They are put in place and made to work by people. If the top leadership are not decisive in subjecting themselves to the institution, the rest of society wont value the institutions. In other words, style of leadership from the top matters because change is top down. What the top signals matters a great deal. In a way there's a sense in which Zambia's current predicament has always been a failure of leadership. 

Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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