Jacob Zuma

Following the resignation of former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, the Research and Media unit, together with the External Programmes unit of the African Leadership Development Centre (ALDC), Covenant University, in serving as a think-tank, captured and brought in diverse thoughts with a view to drawing leadership lessons from Jacob Zuma and the legacy of Mandela in South Africa. In monitoring the external context by way of thoughts, points of reason and briefs, addressing themes on leadership from our conversations which the lunchtime conversations represent, we’ve pulled these threads together to come up with a statement.

Nelson Mandela

Jacob Zuma, 10pm on Wednesday, 14th February, 2018, officially resigned from his office as President of South Africa. This was met with much press reaction and responses from diverse local and international quarters. From the Covenant University context, ALDC followed up with a number of Faculty and Students, interviewing them to situate Zuma’s resignation by way of identifying some significant threads from the entire saga.

The following persons participated in the ALDC interviews, responding to the interview questions flagged:

  • Professor Amos Alao, Dean of the College of Leadership Development studies
  • Dr. Oluyemi Fayomi, Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations.
  • Professor Sheriff Folarin, Faculty of the Department of Political Science and International Relations.
  • Esther Ozordi, second year student of Political Science.
  • Mojiega Ngwero, second year student of Political Science.
  • Alaode Olaoluwa, second year student of International Relations.
  • Thomas Harry, final year student of Civil Engineering
  • Osita Uwam, final year student of Civil Engineering.
Professor Amos Alao
Dr. Oluyemi Fayomi
Professor Sheriff Folarin
What would you say is the role of personal values, convictions and character in the evolution of Zuma’s leadership, in terms of him going through a similar mill/crucible as Nelson Mandela?
Professor Amos Alao

They were both freedom fighters who fought for the freedom of South Africa. So they felt as of right, they (blacks) should be given this leadership. They started by arguing that the Blacks should occupy their rightful place.  The apartheid policy delegated the blacks to the backside. The difference is this: Zuma accumulated wealth, but Mandela came to relate, not looking at the juicy parts of Government which Zuma was willing to grab. Mandela came to serve humanity and the people of South Africa. So they had the same background of being freedom fighters, and then jailed and along the line, Zuma felt there should be compensation for what he has done for the people for their freedom. They both started well, but there was a difference in attitude to wealth. Mandela lived a clean life before he died, with no trace of looting or embezzlement; he was a man of the people. Zuma on the other hand, had a controversial personal life. Mandela manifested a mindset of contribution while Zuma appeared to have come on the scene manifesting a sense of entitlement. It could be said that he saw power as an opportunity to grab compensation for previous services rendered in the pursuit of the African National Congress (ANC) ideals and goals.

Dr. Oluyemi Fayomi

When you look at the trajectories of leadership in Africa, it is different, due to different settings and cultural background. We can see leadership in Africa is different from that in the Western world. It could also be due to the colonialization. We see that those in the Western world uphold their values more than themselves and they believe in sacrifice, giving their all to any assignment given. But here in Africa, we see that our backgrounds form a kind of set back to us; this ‘inferiority complex’. Some persons may manifest inferiority complex imposed by a colonial mentality and mindset where we are made to believe we are inferior. In the context of South Africa, I believe this was what happened; former President Zuma got into power and was distracted. He could not focus on the ANC mandate, uphold nor sustain the values because of so many negative things and he could not uphold the values of the ANC as he ought to. A useful lesson from here is that parties should be able to recall erring members who fail to act in line with party expectations. Zuma however was able to scale through 8 attempts of impeachment. He could not scale through the last one and he figured that this was the time to call it quits and he tendered his resignation letter. Zuma being called to order by the ANC by way of demanding his resignation is a lesson that should run clear to a number of African nations, drawing lessons from history.

Mojiega Ngwero

Personally, I feel Zuma was not in control, because during his regime we could see that the Whites currently in South Africa controlled majority of the economy even though a black man was the President. His resignation is seen as a good step portraying Africans as not being power hungry as previously presumed. I commend him for his resignation.

Esther Ozordi

Mandela had ample opportunity to be released with the condition that he would not pursue the rights and freedom for people and he refused because he wanted to help the people. He once said “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” That was one of the major things that characterized his life. He got free to free others. He was patriotic about his country and people. He wanted all the people to be freed from the apartheid system.  In the case of Jacob Zuma, I would stay he was a bit patriotic though ambition and other sentiments collided with his plans. For his leadership, I would say he did not follow to the core what he set out to achieve.

Zuma emerged President on the platform of massive tribal support, his role in ending apartheid and affiliations with Mandela, and he was generally regarded as a good follower. How would you say these factors translated into his leadership?


Professor Sheriff Folarin

If you know the leadership paradigms, I cannot place him anywhere. Why? First and foremost he had no clear cut vision for South Africa, and if any at all, it should have been the vision of the ANC “To take the land back from the white minority rulers and give it back to the black people. To liberate the black people and make them have a sense of belonging.” If at all he had any vision, that should have been it, but under Zuma, that vision was lost because under Zuma for the first time, no sign of restoration or liberation of the black people or a sense of belonging was seen. The ANC vision was not confined to South Africa but was an African vision. From the time of Herbert McCaulay to Nelson Mandela and others, it has always been about an African vision. So ANC wanted to see a totally liberated and bonded Africa. When they eventually got the power, it was expected that the African vision would be more visible and go beyond the borders of South Africa.  However, during Zuma’s era, blacks became strangers in their own continent, and if you were not a South African, you were not welcome there. Therefore, we can see that there was no flow along the line of the vision of ANC during Zuma’s time. If Zuma had continued with the presidency, it would have been a disastrous end for him.

Mojiega Ngwero

People had this expectation from Zuma because of his affiliation with Mandela as regards ending the apartheid system. I guess he fell under pressure because Mandela had already set the pace as well as Thabo Mbeki, so he was not expected to perform less. But surprisingly, he fell short of those expectations. He had a lot of controversial issues surrounding his regime and people were complaining because it seemed like he was doing nothing about it. Mandela and Thabo Mbeki set a blueprint but Zuma was unable to follow through and failed to live up to expectations.

What steps need to be in place to ensure proper leadership succession, using lesson learned from the South African example of Nelson Mandela’s leadership precedence and legacy?


Mojiega Ngwero

One thing I would love African leaders to emulate with respect to Mandela is the disposition to the call to serve. One thing I love about Mandela was that he served for one term and declined to run for another term, this is one thing I would love all African leaders to emulate, i.e. the knowledge of being called to serve and not to be served. Mandela saw he could serve the people even without being in power and he did that through other means, one of which is the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He made it clear that it was not about being in power and doing nothing about serving the people. To me, Nelson Mandela is the best African President we have ever had and if all African leaders would emulate this, I believe Africa would be a better place.

Professor Sheriff Folarin

The upcoming president, with all of the things his predecessor has done, would want to be much more cautious and careful to follow on with the vision of ANC, to correct the wrongs done and continue on with a good legacy. Owing to the fact that Zuma is not leaving on a note of heroism, he would want to be careful not to follow on his tracks.

Dr. Oluyemi Fayomi

Mandela had values and that is why he was celebrated till death as a symbol of freedom. He lived up to his values till death, some being discipline and uprightness. We see after his first term, he allowed others to lead, and that is one of the attributes of a great leader; you lead by example; you allow others to follow suit. And background affects it all. We cannot all be subjected to exactitude, meaning that human beings are dynamic and their attitudes cannot be predicted. Zuma presented himself as a true follower of Mandela but he couldn’t live up to the expectations of the values Mandela lived with till death, and as a result, could not sustain the legacy. The thought of transition is a question of dynamism embedded in the human nature; you cannot predict humans. This is why the Bible tells us to look unto God and not man (Hebrews 12:2), because man can disappoint you. Politicians should learn not to be selfish but selfless in service.

In a case like Zuma’s, how should a leader handle follower’s rejection, and how could the case of “living in denial of facts” have been better handled before things got irreparable, to the point of losing goodwill?


Professor Amos Alao

Any leader that senses he is not receiving the followership of the people should step aside. It is not a matter of life and death. I think it is a good sign we are seeing in African leadership. Some leaders want to stay tight, which is not good if the people are saying “We are not interested in your leadership”. Politics aside, it is better for him to resign than being pushed out. A leader when he/she senses he is not receiving support should step aside to avoid confusion. Leadership is an opportunity, and once the followers say “We are fed up”, one should step aside.

Alaode Olaoluwa

In the case of Zuma, he should have carefully assessed the situation and realized he could have gotten better personnel that could have helped him handle such a problem instead of letting it escalate as it did. If he decided to run in the next two years or so, it would still reflect he was a bad leader.

Dr. Oluyemi Fayomi

Everything boils down to the question of Integrity. It is a major core value in Covenant University for instance. When you are integrity driven, there is nothing wrong with you saying the truth and admitting you are corrupt. This all comes down to background; how well a person is brought up. In foreign policy, that is the idiosyncratic nature, if a leader is corrupt, that is the face of the country and the party will be seen as such. In terms of denial, it comes down to integrity and background. If a leader is upright, it will reflect in his actions and inactions. It is not something that can be hidden, the Bible says “Wherefore by their fruit we shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). Many leaders are corrupt because of the background of poverty and the like. If you worship and fear God with all your heart, of course you would not want to do anything negative or contrary to His will for your life and you will be conscious of the fact that you will give account of your stewardship. Zuma scaled through 8 impeachments, after the first one, he should have addressed himself and learned his lesson but he did not. This is where history comes in; the people forgot about where they came from, their struggles, and the reason for their struggle, and this affected them.

What critical qualities need to be added to great followership to produce a template for successful leadership?


Professor Amos Alao

Looking at South Africa, they are very critical of their leaders; if they are doing well or not. Followership should be such that it enables leaders to check themselves, be open, and not be castigated or repressed when saying their mind. Followership varies from country to country. In South Africa, leadership is very much criticized and in terms of saying it as it is, it is very prominent in South Africa. The followers should ensure their leaders do the right thing and not just enjoy the office, but be called to order to keep their leadership in check.

Alaode Olaoluwa

The responsibility is usually placed on the leader. As in the case of a group presentation, the group leader handles majority of the responsibility for the presentation. The followers need to be responsible, resourceful, accept their faults and be willing to improve.

What other leadership lessons can be learned from this outcome and how can they be adapted to the Nigerian context?
Professor Sheriff Folarin

Jacob Zuma has been accused of multiple cases of corruption with clear facts against him. So of course it was expected that he retired. There is nothing sparkling or worthy of emulation in what he did, even though we appreciate his retirement. Why did he not resign when he used billions to build his estate? If he retired during the time he was first caught red handed, there would have been honor in that. Instead, he continued on. His misdemeanor had reached a head and he had no other choice. From the African perspective, he has not done us any good. He has not displayed any leadership quality by resigning from being accused of corruption.

Osita Uwam

I think the ANC have made a bold move by asking for Zuma’s resignation because his style of leadership was a primitive way of leading, which most African countries have been using for a while. Many countries have moved their leaders out because of corruption, meaning there is a revolution taking place in Africa. Things like this inspire other countries. Something this little could inspire Nigeria to take the next bold move in the upcoming 2019 election.

Thomas Harry

Over the years, we have seen bad leaders stay in power for a very long time refusing to step down. The people complain only on twitter and endure the process, never really acting. In recent years, we see in Gambia and South Africa for instance, people acting. We all want change and we are actually acting for it. Concerning South Africa, it was clear that Zuma would lose. He knew this due to the vote of no confidence and the fact that impeachment was looming over him. He knew there was nothing he could do, and so, wanting to feel like the bigger man, he resigned. Bad management has really derailed Africa over the years, because everything in government all boils down to bad management or management in general. When we have bad leaders there is no chance of progress happening. So far, the trend (of Zuma’s resignation) is really good.

Alaode Olaoluwa

Zuma’s regime was really corrupt and there were still traces of apartheid in his regime. Why? It controlled most of the economy of South African administration. Nigeria still has corrupt leaders but the resignation of Zuma shows that not everyone has this ‘Sit-tight’ syndrome, but some Africans still have some goodwill for the people who actually resign even though corrupt. Personally, I feel it makes no difference since the 2019 elections are upcoming, but it still shows that he, that is Zuma, is willing to battle corruption. In some other African nations, there are cases of national leaders who, being unfit to continue in public service, still stay put in office at the expense of the people and nationals. But having the “Sit-tight” syndrome here and lacking the conscious effort the South Africans have, I guess the next set of leaders should adapt such ideas. Zuma’s goodwill to resign puts me on a neutral ground with him, despite his corrupt administration.

Bringing it all together ...

As has been mentioned by a number of the contributors, Jacob Zuma was not all bad. Some notable successes of his leadership in South Africa include steady growth in tourism, youth employment incentive, ARV treatment (Anti-Retroviral life-saving extension for AIDS patients), among several others. Although things could have been different if he had amended his ways, it is commendable that he resigned from office in a dignified manner, albeit after much pressure and several prior attempts at impeachment. The emergence of Cyril Ramaphosa as South African President has released some optimism in the air, being one who has been highly successful in the private sector and is viewed by many as Mandela’s ideal successor. South Africa can therefore be at a turning point towards a new dawn breaking over in the horizon to mark the turn of a new phase in African leadership dynamics for other nations to learn from. Other states in Africa may want to draw some lessons from this.