Journal of
African Studies and Development

  • Abbreviation: J. Afr. Stud. Dev
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2189
  • DOI: 10.5897/JASD
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 195


African nationalist transformational leaders: Opportunities, possibilities and pitfalls in African fiction and politics

Jairos Gonye1 and Thamsanqa Moyo2*
  1Curriculum Studies Department, Great Zimbabwe University, P O Box 1235, Masvingo, Zimbabwe. 2Department of English and Performing Arts, Great Zimbabwe University, P O Box 1235, Masvingo, Zimbabwe.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 29 August 2013
  •  Published: 31 October 2013



The paper studies selected African writers’ dreams and fears, the way four novelists have been diversely excited by the topical issue of African leadership and discerns that artists dig into past history and tradition to reconstruct epic leaders, while fictionalising contemporary history and behaviour to critique modern African political leadership. The paper examines how African leaders have been portrayed in literary works of art, (Sundiata, Nehanda, Man of the People & Last of the Empire), how they have behaved on the ground and suggests theory for those kinds of behaviour. The purpose is to argue that the lack of transformational leadership is the bane of African politics. A cursory look at the relationship between the current crop of African political leaders and their nations’ citizens prompts effective performance and good governance enthusiasts to question the apparent absence of important transformational leadership tenets among most African leaders. That relationship is often marked with a literal cordoning off of the masses from the person they made leader; the leader and the led seem not to share a vision, yet the leader professes to champion a national vision towards which he pulls the followers. The paper argues that Nkrumah and Nyerere’s separate calls for African leaders to be weaned from foreign ideologies attest to the perennial lack of a home-grown vision in the African leaders by dint of their disregard for the needs and conditions of their followers. Hence, the conduct of national politics in post independent Africa has been fundamentally antithetical to the tenets of transformational leadership maybe because after independence most liberation movements either failed or refused to transform themselves into governing movements with all that goes with statecraft. To appreciate the behaviour of African leaders we turn to Mazrui’s tribal theories of leadership: the elder, the warrior and the sage traditions. The research suggests that African politicians could benefit from borrowing leadership styles from Burns’ (1978) and Bass’ (1985) transformational models of leadership. It contends that Africa needs transformational political leaders able to personify, articulate and defend a national vision, and thus garner voluntary support from the diverse masses, but, instead, has lately been ‘blest’ with inconsistent leaders, those who rule by quid pro quo and, at worst, outright dictators.


Key words: Transformational leadership, charismatic leadership, Short termism, rainbowism, gerontocracy, saladization, Machiavelianism, warrior tradition.