How opposition’s voices were harmonised into a Multi-Party Charter – Zanele Morrison 

South Africa is often held up as an example of how opposing political forces can come together despite hate, mistrust, and profound differences in their views on governing the country. However, for many, the concept of South Africa as the “rainbow nation,” as coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is now seen as a relic of the past. Divisions are again deep, and even political parties that in principle agree on how the country should be governed have been at loggerheads, publicly airing their disagreements through the media. The prospect of cohesive action to challenge the ANC, which has held power since 1994, seemed remote. But seven opposition parties—the country’s main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Freedom Front Plus, Action SA, ISANCO, the UIM, and the SNP—managed to overcome the mistrust and agree on a Multi-party Charter for the 2024 elections. Freedom Front Leader Dr Pieter Groenewald told BizNews that the independence of the chair, Prof. William Gumede, and Zanele Morrison, who was brought in as a leadership facilitator, turned the summit into something more than a political meeting. He said their neutrality was valued during the discussions. Morrison shared with Biznews how she guided the political leaders and about her approach to working with business executives. She said that the leadership tools required to lead have fundamentally changed from 10 years or more ago. Linda van Tilburg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:09 – Introductions
  • 00:48 – Zanele Morrison on her role as Leadership Facilitator 
  • 02:28 – How she became involved in facilitating negotiations for the opposition leaders pact
  • 05:19 – If there were any larger than life characters at the negotiations
  • 07:38 – On the lack of belief in leaders and how to get people back to voting
  • 09:37 – If she was surprised by the DA stepping away from leadership during the process
  • 11:05 – How to put differences aside in Business
  • 13:13 – What makes a great leader
  • 15:01 – Conclusions

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Excerpts from the Interview

Bringing in different competencies to get a team to play together 

I think it’s all thanks to Professor William Guemede. He’s seen me at work. He knows that I facilitate and work with a number of senior executive teams. I am what you call a team cohesion and performance coach. So, I come in and just like a coach would for a soccer team. My job is to look at how the team is playing together in order for them to perform well. and he has been very creative about the voices and the people that he’s exposed to the coalition. They said so themselves that one of the things that they love the most is how he’s brought in these different competencies and skills to be able to help them along this journey. 

Finding Unity by Remembering Our Calling

The very first thing that we have to do, or one of the first things that I do when I work with a team is I get them to understand their own personal stories because in any room of leaders, people bring their stories with them, but they’re often not cognizant of what the story is. I do that in various ways. One of the interesting ways that I can pull up from this particular team is that every single person, it doesn’t matter where you are, there was a time in your life where you knew there was a calling on you especially as a political leader. There had to be something that said to you that this is the work that you are meant to do. It did not happen by mistake. Many of us, our lives don’t happen by mistake. So, to go back and to tap into that calling. This is part of Otto Sharmer’s work when he says that you need to deconstruct who you are as a person. Go back to the formation of the person that we see today and then pull out the values that are so important to you in the work that you are doing. Those values are influencing and inspiring you and you need to look at them and see how they are still serving you to shape and deliver for the next generation, for your children and for your children’s children. So, I work with the deconstruction and really work with helping them to look at what they are coming to the table with from a heart perspective, from a world perspective, as well as from a mind perspective. That’s really the work that we gravitate and we move up from and down into and then back up again to clarify how you are contributing to the horizon. 

United by a Call to Citizenry

When you listen to the press conference before and that came before the actual workshop for me already, I picked up a call to citizenry. This basically says that we’re here to serve the citizens, but not by owning the job. Instead, we need to ask ourselves how we can play our part in helping citizens own the change that they want to see. I absolutely saw a shift from self-interest to civic duty in those conversations. A shift from asking ‘what can we get?’ to asking ‘what can we give?’ Not by our might or our own ownership, but by moving ownership to the people. I hope that I’ve managed to speak to one thing that I found quite interesting: that there will always be those who lead ahead in terms of commitment and ambition for the country, and then there are those who will follow.

There is More That Unites Us in South Africa Than Divides Us

I think one of the things we have to be very careful of is to think that we are bringing people together who are fundamentally under the illusion that they are all different. One of the things we absolutely have to do is to call out the illusions that are created by social media, the news, and Twitter. There is an illusion that we are constantly at odds with one another, that we are constantly fighting with one another. But if you actually do the work, there is so much more that we have in common in terms of what we want to do for the country than what we have that is different. So, the work that needs to be done by all of us is to sometimes step away from the illusion of division and look at the fringes. Look at those people who are not speaking loudly. And because oftentimes they are only about 10% of the population, they only represent 10% of the problem. We need to start to change the narrative of how we speak and how we engage. Because I am so sure, I am convinced that there is more that unites us in terms of what we want to see better than that which divides us.

We shouldn’t put leaders on pedestals

I think the biggest challenge we have is that we put leaders on pedestals and therefore leaders think that they are working towards standing on pedestals, and that’s really not true leadership. II did a piece of work at the Tutu Foundation, talking to young Africans across the continent as part of the Tutu fellowship. What is so interesting for me, working with young people as well is we were at the Tutu Foundation. I come from the Tutu era and when he was doing his work, I don’t think for a minute did he ever reflect that he would be the person we revere today. He was just doing what he was called to do. So, we are in an environment and in a society that is waiting for accolades, for positions, for shine. We look at Instagram where it’s really about your profile, how many followers you have, but where’s the substance of the work? So, we need to learn the humility of stepping back as Mandela had and the natural leaders will choose themselves. But we need a leadership that knows how to support without necessarily being at the forefront and that is going to be the biggest challenge that we have. Is that about me versus about what is required of me right now? I need to do just that and the future will take care of it. The future decides who becomes Nelson Mandela. The future decides who becomes Desmond Tutu. It’s not today where the decision is made.”

Business Leadership Tools Have Changed Substantially

The leadership tools that are required to lead have fundamentally changed from what we’ve known and what we implemented ten, 15, 20 years ago. There is such a deep authenticity, humanity, and a really unpacking of the person so that their performance and how they show up inspires others to do the same and works towards a horizon that we can’t even imagine today. So, it’s really such a difficult, different, complex, only because what it requires is the person to surrender themselves to doing what they are called to do. It is very different, very exciting time for leaders.

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