Leadership and Liberation: Southern African Reflections

  • Chris Saunders
Part of the Palgrave Studies in African Leadership book series (PSAL)


In the aftermath of the death of Nelson Mandela on December 5, 2013, there was much discussion in South Africa and elsewhere of the quality of his leadership. Many contrasted it with that of the present-day leaders of Southern African countries. There was no doubt that Mandela was an exceptional leader, not least for emerging from almost 28 years of imprisonment without bitterness toward those who had imprisoned him and then rallying the nation behind him as the first president of a democratic South Africa. While his age was a factor, his decision to serve only one five-year term as president—the constitution provided for two—was widely seen as an example in the region to others not to cling on to power. Mandela’s leadership in this regard is in obvious stark contrast to that displayed by Robert Mugabe, who became leader of independent Zimbabwe in April 1980 and 34 years later, in February 2014, still in power, celebrated his ninetieth birthday in lavish style and with defiant rhetoric, in a country reduced to a shadow of its former self, with perhaps one third of its population having fled abroad. Such contrasting styles of leadership in Southern Africa provoke reflection on the kinds of leadership displayed, on the one hand, in the liberation struggles waged against colonialism and apartheid, and, on the other, after liberation movements came to power.


Liberation Movement Transformative Leadership Hate Speech Southern African Development Community African National Congress 
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© Baba G. Jallow 2014

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  • Chris Saunders

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