Under African Skies

Some of you may know that I was born in Africa, and moved to live in Australia in my 20’s – which means I’ve lived more than half my life in Australia.

One of the blessings of having connections in both continents is the opportunity to travel back to Africa and celebrate the sights, smells, sounds and memories. Even as I write this blog, there is an early morning thunderstorm growling over the veld outside, out-doing the cries of the Hadidah birds.

There is also an annoyance, we woke up to no electricity due to the electrical cables having been stolen through the night! A hassle when this is the second time this week this has happened…and apparently a practice that continues unabated. The electrical cables make for good resale, and it’s a case of supply and demand, and of survival!

My time under African skies has seen our family traveling from the mega city of Johannesburg to a safari camp, to the extraordinarily beautiful midlands of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Lowveld mountains around Barberton on the way to Swaziland. Breath takingly beautiful scenery along the way, and many moments of connection, reflection and trips down memory lane. I marvel at the miracle of family life. You may not have seen a beloved family member for 5 years, and yet when you reconnect, it seems that not a second has passed since the last time, and you just pick up where you left off.

Tomorrow I will farewell you again, mother Africa.

I leave with joy in my heart, and also sadness. You have experienced devastating leadership in recent times, and you deserve so much better.

I am not a political person, but the devastation caused by your avaricious leaders with self-serving corrupt values has to be called for what it is. Your leaders unashamedly build themselves mansions, whilst accepting that the average number of people living in a room in Soweto is 16! Money siphoned offshore by many of your leaders to boost personal wealth is taken away from health services and students who battle to get a decent education.

Throughout my trip, Nelson Mandela has made his leadership presence felt. We drove past the site on the road in KwaZulu Natal where he was arrested; I walked into the room where he was imprisoned in Constitution Hill in Johannesburg and saw the house in Houghton where he lived post freedom in 1995. All are reminders of leadership legacy – and I couldn’t help but think how he would be so disappointed and even furiously angry with the flavour of leadership tainting South Africa right now! He and South Africa deserve better.

Through the many conversations I’ve had whilst being here, some stick in my mind – highlighting where leadership has gone so horribly wrong in recent times:

  • A young cousin of mine has been failed on several occasions trying to get her driver’s license – her parents know that the driving instructor is waiting for a bribe before he will pass her. It is customary practice, and they’re holding out (not wanting their child to learn that bribery gets you places in life!)
  • Traffic police sit back and watch cars on the national highways driving on the wrong side of the road. Should they be bothered to intervene, a bribe is all they’re after
  • Basic services such as electricity and water supply can no longer be relied upon
  • Homes fortified with security systems to protect against armed invasions
  • Economic stagnation as parliament grapples with laws which will allow acquisition of land with no compensation
  • Books vital for public education being delivered in the October of a school year – leaving students under-resourced for the majority of the year
  • A growing divide between privately and publicly funded education
  • A growing health care crisis

It would be fair to ask when South African leaders will stop letting its people down?

Nearly 25 years after the release of Nelson Mandela from jail, and the birth of democracy with the founding of arguably one of the world’s best constitutions, there has been money meant for education, houses and hospitals – much of which has been squandered and pilfered.

Leaders have lost their true north – their value system. Racism is a card that continues to be played, however this democracy has a fair constitution, and the people show a willingness to move forward. Any light at the end of this tunnel will demand an extraordinary shift in leadership.

The people who live under South African skies are resilient. It’s time for them to be given true leadership – of the kind that lives into honest values, and leads with humility, vision and purpose. Of the kind that listens to multiple perspectives without judgement and reflects carefully, making wiser decisions.

Perhaps it is too late for current leaders? We can only hope and pray that there will be some shining gems currently being educated who will understand what needs to be done, and have the courage to push ahead with positive reform.

With an emotionally intelligent kind of leadership.

It’s never too late to rekindle what Nelson Mandela started!

Cheers

Alison