Leaders must uphold image of public life

Friday January 11 2019

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The Constitution spells out values and ethical standards required of national leaders and public officers. These include integrity, common decency, honesty and accountability.

Underlying these are self-restraint, personal discipline and trustworthiness. The upshot is that leaders must be moral standard bearers, paragons of virtue and beacons of hope. They have to lead by example.

However, this largely exists on paper. We have leaders who cannot pass muster. This is because the electoral process is, itself, deficient.

People who should not be anywhere near public office are allowed in through manipulation and deceit.


Hence, we have a crop of reckless and indisciplined leaders; those with the penchant for spewing vitriol and toxic utterances. Unfortunately, they thrive and even get support from undiscerning individuals.

In the past few days, we have been assaulted by insults and offensive utterances from some political leaders, bringing to shame the positions they hold and, subsequently, raising questions as to their suitability for the offices.

They become impudent when they take to the rostrum and throw caution to the wind as they churn out venom with reckless abandon.

Such leaders cause hatred, ethnic tensions and divisions and undermine national cohesion and integration.


Yet, when confronted, they turn around to blame the media for misreporting or quoting them out of context.

Still, they accuse imaginary enemies for plotting their downfall.

Some even have the effrontery to play victim and feign threats on their lives — which are simplistic theatrics for seeking public sympathy.

It is because of the potential for such chicanery that the drafters of the Constitution included a clause on recall: That voters can petition to pull out elected leaders if they fail to live up to the public expectations.

Hardly, however, has this clause ever been invoked. But increasingly, it is becoming pertinent that voters consider this option.


Better still, parties ought to rein in the reckless leaders in their ranks.

There ought to be a system through which rogue and errant leaders can be tamed. Discipline in public life is paramount — never is it a show of meekness.

Freedoms of speech and expression are etched in the Constitution. Everyone, irrespective of station in life, has the liberty to criticise the government and its leaders.

Democracy thrives in an environment where citizens express themselves freely. Even so, it is a cardinal principal that freedoms come with responsibilities.

Public pronouncements have to be measured, respectful and not in any way calculated to antagonise or offend others.

We hereby call for discipline in public life. Leaders must desist from making repulsive and antagonistic statements. Those who cannot control themselves should be forced out.