Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Ethical Leadership Workshop - Students of South West Gauteng College

On 5 August, I had  the pleasure of working with 15 students from the South West Gauteng College to explore their ideas around ethical leadership utizling the works of Shakespeare as well as verbatim interviews from the former political prisoners who were on Robben island. 

Although a bit shy at first, they soon began to find their voices when discussing their views on leadership. The same applies to their work on Shakespeare. Once I convinced them that there was no 'right' way of reading it, they began to really engage with the content and wreastled with the meaning and how, what shakespeare says applies to them as young people in South Africa today. 

The most enjoyment and hoots of agreement came with a short reading of an extract of the play from Saths Cooper interview in 2010:

Saths:  The uniqueness that ought, that could have been South Africa after 1994, I think was blocked.  The abuse of power – ah, I think for me what is significant is also is how those today who have been in older leadership just…withdrew from commentary…withdrew from influencing the process.  Maybe in a few years time, there maybe a hindsight wisdom in that.  But I think for the country it is…a…tragedy … it’s a dereliction of leadership responsibility that ought not to have happened.  We could blame those in power, but…. If you leave them alone and don’t engage & create other modalities of intervention, they’re going to do those kinds of crazy things.  So, we have got our backs to the wall and can’t answer the younger generation.  Since we can’t answer the kids who are able to point out the contradiction, we use,

Two of the remaining prisoners (2 & 3) upstage put on expensive suits and turning into ‘Today’s biggest Capitalists’:

Prisoner 2: But you see, you didn’t experience the Struggle.

Saths: And they (indicating the Prisoners) get all defensive and huffy about it – it's almost like a religious belief, 

Prisoner 3:  God exists because the Bible says so.  So, I’m telling you we suffered and therefore this is how it ought to be.

Saths:  And in that you can’t enter an area of religiosity that you can’t get out of and that’s where some of the current impasses happen.  It is a betrayal of everything that has been Noble in our Struggle.  It has created that sleaze factor.  It has led to the ignobility of being associated with demolition of the previous system because people gave their lives.  Today, it is still a fight for dignity for the mass of people that even have not received that dignity.  The Constitution may scream it, but in reality the majority of our people are way beyond even a modicum of participating in an equality that they expected post ’94.  

Theresa: The few who have benefited are the role models for the youth when they say, 

Prisoners 2:  If you want to drink good wine, if you want to go to good restaurants, then you know you need to do X.  

Prisoner 3:  We do it ourselves.  
Theresa:  That is the legacy, if you like, of leadership that has allowed itself to be seduced by personal gain, by the materialism that necessarily must come with power.  They tend to collect the accoutrements of power and whatever else goes with it as privilege and then justify it as 

Prisoners 2 & 3 (revelling in the accoutrements of power):  Entitlement.

Theresa:  They see it as something they have given a certain part of their lives for and
Prisoners 2 & 3:  Sure enough, that is what I deserve.

Saths:  But this milieu for the youth today is one where you create a personal project by getting yourself involved in certain structures so that in five, ten, fifteen years’ time mean you will end up becoming a Cabinet Minister or a multi-millionaire. My two sons, the one is 20 and the other is 22 and my daughter is 16 and all of them know that if you want to get anywhere, if you want to get the lucrative contract, and tenders, then join X organization now so that you will take care of the future in a few years time. 
Sonny: In a sense, this has developed a cynicism amongst youth that is dangerous because youth cannot afford to be cynical about anything. Sceptical yes, because you are questioning. But the cynicism that is developing is the legacy of leadership that has tended to look after itself, has tended to look after those who are close to them and then created a terrible model for youth to follow. 


This striking critique of current leadership certainly struck a chord with many of of the young students.  They spoke about the truth of what Saths says and how they see ways towards leadership only by being crooked.  I am looking forward to fleshing this scene out with the more tomorrow.

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