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Leadership Qualities to Foster a Sustainable South African Democracy


A democracy requires leaders who demonstrate skills that will strengthen the dispensation, set an example and gain respect, nationally and internationally. Since 1994, South Africa (SA) has had three presidents, each responsible for shaping the country according to his own unique approach. Their leadership has played a crucial role in determining the future of the country over the past 23 years, some areas have been strengthened, but unfortunately others have become weaker than before. It seems that President Nelson Mandela focused on reconciliation. The approach of Thabo Mbeki, his successor, was strategically different in that it focused on the realization of the importance of economic development and wealth creation. During the consequent Zuma era, the concept of leadership was transformed to focus on charisma and populism.

The aim of this paper is to review the fundamental, prevailing leadership approaches in SA in the period since the country became a democracy in 1994. The challenges facing South African leaders will be clustered in two themes, namely leadership and economy. Against this backdrop, a theoretical, yet practical discussion is conducted in an attempt to answer the following question: What fundamental leadership qualities are required to ensure a sustainable democracy in the Southern African context?


democracy, south africa, leadership, economy, sustainability


Author Biography

Liezel Lues

Associate Professor in Public Administration and Management