EVERY five years, Zimbabweans go to the polls in general elections — including the presidential race — to elect their representatives at various levels of government.
However, the most high-profile and important of those elections is the presidential poll as it elects the country’s leader on whom much depends in terms of leadership, policy and governance for the five years ahead.
For the 23 August 2023 presidential election, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) cleared 11 presidential election candidates, according to Zec deputy chair Rodney Kiwa.
But the real fight will be between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his closest rival, main opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, perhaps the most popular politician in Zimbabwe today despite grumbles about his internal party situation regarding leadership, party structures, democratic organisation, the constitution and selection of candidates.
The entry into the race by former Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere has changed the dynamics of the fierce race. Kasukuwere could turn out to be the X-factor in the election, causing a run-off or ultimately determining the winner.
The other interesting issue would be about Douglas Mwonzora who will now officially bury the MDC, a party founded by the late Morgan Tsvangirai, Gibson Sibanda and other key trade unionists, reviving competitive democratic opposition politics in Zimbabwe after Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu and to some extent Edgar Tekere’s Zimbabwe Unity Movement.
After failing to field candidates other than Mwonzora himself, the MDC, in its various manifestations, is now officially dead and will be buried by the coming elections.
The full list of candidates:
1. Zanu PF — Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa;
2. CCC — Nelson Chamisa;
3. MDC-T — Douglas Togarasei Mwonzora;
4. Independent candidate — Saviour Kasukuwere;
5. NCA — Lovemore Madhuku; 6. Free Zim Congress — Joseph Makamba Busha;
7. ZCPD — Trust Tapiwa Chikohora;
8. DOP — Peter Harry Wilson;
9. ZIPP — Blessing Kasiyamhuru;
10. NPC — Wilbert Archbald Mubayiwa; and 11. UANC — Gwinyai Henry Muzorewa.
Now that the candidates are known, what are the main characteristics they must possess for them to be considered the most suitable for election and fit to govern?
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” — Proverbs 29:18.
The ability to visualise where the country should go and how (the roadmap); inspire and mobilise people to follow a leader and their vision to reach the desired destination — national well-being, prosperity and success.
This involves directional change, where openness is critical for blazing a new path: Visionary leaders articulate where a nation is going, but not always how it will get there, although supervision is always needed; tempering the freewheeling spirit, dreams and charisma with grounded reality and action. Visionary leaders can often see what no one else sees.
They see what is not there — or what is not there yet.
A visionary leadership style
Embraces the unknown as a blank canvas for innovation, experimentation and pioneering new possibilities. In order to cast that larger vision for a nation, it often means having the ability to look at the situation in different light, even when there seems to be no light at all.
Visionary leaders recognise that the individual, collective team and even an entire nation must align with the vision, have a clear goal and understand their role in making this vision for the future a reality.
Innovative and inspiring ideas and grandiose vision are meaningless if not followed up by action. Flair and charisma so often associated with the visionary leadership style must be balanced by communication, narrative, discipline, focus and a specific course of action to achieve the vision.
The success of any government rests on its abili ty to define a vision for the country that reflects an electoral mandate and that is typically designed to increase well-being, prosperity and international standing of the country.
Political leadership is essential in articulating and promoting the vision. Leadership, buttressed by charisma and competence, is crucial in driving the policies and programmes that contribute to a strategic vision.
In a complex and challenging policy environment, characterised by low levels of trust and confidence in government — even by cynicism — political leadership is essential.
Effective leadership and stewardship refer to the impact on policies, decision-making and governance outcomes that results from actions by the holder of political office.
Thus, it is connected with leadership style and may be rooted in certain character traits of a leader’s personality.
Political leadership and tenacity are essential in selling the vision and building support to make hard choices regarding the direction of the nation and allocation of resources.
A good leader should be a person of principled, moral and decent standing, willing to sacrifice self and personal interest for the interest of the public and always stand for what is right for the benefit of his or her people even against themselves.
By definition, integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Integrity in leaders refers to being honest, trustworthy, and reliable.
That also implies being ethical and fair. Leaders with integrity act in accordance with their words — they practice what they preach — and own up to their mistakes, as opposed to shirking responsibility, blaming everyone except themselves, or making excuses.
In that connection, leaders with integrity are transparent and take responsibility and liability over their actions and allow others to observe and evaluate their performance. They are answerable for their actions and inactions; which is accountability.
Servant leadership The servant leadership style is based on the idea that leaders prioritise serving people and the greater good. Leaders with this style serve the people and their nation first, not themselves, their families and cronies.
They do not prioritise their own interests above those of their people, while claiming to be representing the people and to be patriotic.
Leaders, better still with humility and without greed, must be a servants of the people they represent and not a master over their people, asserting authoritarian rule.
Competence and capacity
A leader may have all the above qualities, but without organisational capacity, strength of character — better still with charisma — and competence, nothing works.
Without competence and capacity, a country can end up being reduced to kakistocracy — a government led by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state.
Leaders who are open-minded depend on a large team of advisers to help them make informed policy decisions. A good quality for a candidate is the ability to organise an effective team and then get as much as possible out of that team.
The leader should be able and willing to debate with advisers on the merits of a given policy or decision in order to bring in as many different viewpoints to important decisions as possible.
It is an important part of organisational leadership to minimise being surrounded by toadying sycophants and resist the tendency of having subordinates who always tell leaders what they want to hear — flattery, rather than what they ought or should hear.
Naturally, to have capacity and be competent, the leader must be knowledgeable and be informed. A presidential candidate should be knowledgeable about the issues of the day and be able to discuss them freely with the media and the public.
The more informed a candidate is on issues, the more detailed he or she can be in policy choices and making, prescriptions and vision for the future.
Voters often look beyond the issues into the personal moral character of the presidential candidate. They check their integrity, honesty and trustworthiness.
There cannot be perfect knowledge about a candidate’s character, but a voter must make a value judgment based on the information they have.
Voters also judge candidates by their personal characteristics, including the relevant ones, such things as their experience, honesty, morality, compassion, competence, and capacity.
Advice to voters
Do not vote driven by narrow, self-serving interest and intent. Vote for the right candidate with right qualities and high moral standards.
Your vote is your voice and your secret. Your vote is your investment. Speak up for the right candidate. Invest your right where you will reap sweet returns after the elections and into the future.