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Why leaders need to heal: The danger of a traumatised nation led by traumatised leaders.

Will the sacrifice of the 21 children who died in the Eastern Cape Tavern be enough to sound the alarm of the danger of not addressing the ill of a traumatised nation and traumatised leaders? Will the South African government shut down that tavern and build a community centre in its place? Will we see mass progress and less mass funerals in our communities? SA is in need of presidentially championed action that is trauma informed, decisive, practical and redemptive.


South Africa is experiencing culminating issues that fundamentally highlight a leadership crisis, which is toxic to social development efforts and breakthrough achievements of the past, gradually being undone, manifested through the death of the 21 children at the tavern in East London, just 10 days apart from June 16, 1976 youth day commemoration. Whilst we’ve experienced powerful legislative changes as a country over 20 years ago that benefit the masses, It seems that the man made laws are reaching limits, and so we need to stop pasting bandages over deep wounds and cancers that need a deep treatment if there is going to be a nation of real progress, lead by self-actualised people. There are many layers to this leadership crisis, and in this article I address why leaders need to heal in order to lead consciously for inner and radical transformation.


When leaders are confronted by citizens, with frank statements and questions about realities, they are replied with outbursts and in some cases suspensions that are unrelated to solutions. This is a classic case of how trauma manifests, it doesn’t address the present moment because it still seeks to resolve the past traumatic experience by continuously bringing it into a present moment that resembles the past traumatic moment to redress it and somehow overcome it. Therefore, decision making is stuck and constantly in reactive mode. It is void of progress. It is common to have a season where trauma is all you know after you’ve endured it. Part of the purpose of this article is to raise the awareness of trauma so that it can actively be addressed, and in this awareness, the bringing up of past hurts to escape accountability will no longer hold. It is dysfunctional and dangerous. Healing looks like learning from the past, being present in the now and making new decisions based on that. This is how undesired history won’t repeat itself.


People who are not actively trying to heal are unfit leaders and it’s irresponsible to sustain this approach of avoidance. NEW decisions need to be taken because this is a different and new time. We have sustained problems from the apartheid regime, and others that have accumulated due to the diabolical genius architecture of the apartheid era, however there are shifts that have been made that we really need to maximise on NOW to make an accumulative difference that legislation affords us.


Apartheid is illegal. Laws allow more accessible, open education, inclusive business benefits to help small businesses, mandated CSI initiatives, wider participation in international relations and inclusive opportunity to lead corporate careers and be self-supporting - for now - We will see this being undone in cruel ways if leadership rise, this includes opening up for the grooming young people to serve the public. The natural law of bypassing accountability and healing will take its course, and it will be at the sacrifice of millions more if it is not actively dealt with.


I’d like to see a community centre built in the place of that tarven, and afford children the rights to be in environments that are conducive enough for them to explore. It is that simple and that practical. The trauma response of corruption, grabbing, stealing and eating to feed the emptiness of that trauma will never satiate the real hunger: healing. If this continues, the community once again needs to somehow, with inadequate resources and government intervention, revert to survival mode, which again feeds into the cycle of instant gratification and fear of not being taken care of - hamster on a wheel. It leads to an increase in the aimless wandering of children into other tarvens of life. This should’ve been done in the first place, and this is why the death of the 21 children is a massacre. In a raw way, it’s everyone’s problem. In a constructive way, the government needs to lead.


In other situations, a lot of kids wandering around have no parents. At times, their parents are also kids who had kids. They have sex and get pregnant because they are searching for meaning. Sex offers them a temporary high of enjoyment that is an imitation of a raised consciousness, which is a reasonable desire, however poorly fulfilled. Their granny’s are the ones trying, queuing daily at loan shark buildings, with their Identity documents in ransom to try and feed others. Exchanging ID books for temporary “financial freedom” as the new pass to survival. The irony. They were sleeping when all this went down. They are sleeping because they are tired from the day of nothingness and emptiness. They are also tired because they are 60+ which means they have lived through the worst times in South Africa. This narration is an example of a cycle, a representation of multiple realities. Where there are no parents which means the government must step in. In this case of the 21 that died, they were teenagers with hopeful prospects who were socially, culturally and/or academically flourishing. However, the luring to the tavern promised shots and recreational activities. The government must stop squandering funds for the community centres and build them. “Oh the government won’t do anything for you! You’re expecting too much!” This is one of the statements that let the government get away with their basic mandate. Yes, it is in the people’s hands AND the government must lead better. It’s not one or the other. “It takes a village to raise a child” seems to be used to narrate in the case of success however it seems to be rejected in tragedies. Who is to blame? Blame is a myth. Most people don’t even know they are dysfunctional until someone makes them aware. This is everyone’s problem. An essential part of this article is to raise awareness on trauma so that accountability can follow.



We need to work together. If we are all to serve the same set of people. We can’t be opposing each other left right and centre in political parties and lifestyles. Characteristics of opposition are necessary for a democratic nation, with the driving purpose being to hold each other authentically accountable, and for variety and representation, not for the sole purpose of power, control and to reinstate diabolical systems that don’t benefit humanity - and this is a key reason why opposition parties are unsuccessful. This set of people also need to heal. As smart as the messaging and the speeches may be, rigging this principle of life is impossible. “The ends and the means are the same”.


Alongside my despondency in what the times look like, and with this strange feeling of regression, it helps to ask myself, what is it that I can do, who and how do I need to be NOW? I am reminded to use my resources more wisely, including my voice, my words and my actions, channelling them into something more productive. I admit that this comes with a lot of selflessness that one has to muster, including overcoming the temptation to fold, be selfish and “get mine” because “I deserve it!” and “no one is gonna do it for me”. As much as we hold our leadership accountable, we also need to be accountable for what we know is our very specific, God and life ordained responsibility. And I can assure you that your wholeness, happiness and purpose are all in the same package as taking responsibility and serving where you are appointed to. This piece is not about blame, it’s about raising awareness and making accountability real. I can do more, I can do better.


Those who do not learn from History are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not heal from their trauma are doomed to repeat it. History repeats itself because there is no awareness, being awake to what is needed here and now. Healing and accountability cannot be bypassed. The consequence of this natural law is continuously culminating in tragedy and a planet that is becoming less fit for children to thrive.


21 Lives denied:

  1. Lithemba Velapi, 20

  2. Kungentando Nzima, Grade 12

  3. Lilitha Methuko, 17

  4. Lungile Bekiso, 17

  5. Ovayo Mateyise, 15

  6. Inamandla Wexu,

  7. Oyena Ngoloyi

  8. Sikelela Tshemese, 15

  9. Simele Bolsiki,

  10. Azizipho Zilindile’s,

  11. Esinako Sanarana, 17

  12. Sinothando Mgangala

  13. Bhongolethu Ncandana

  14. Nathi Ngqoza, 17

  15. Aluncedo Monelo, 17

  16. Inathi Nkani, 18

  17. Mbulelo Rangile, 18

  18. Simmamnkele Sobethwa, 17

  19. Asamnkele Thukuthe

  20. Sandanathi Mahlakahlaka, 15

  21. Thembinkosi Silwane, 13




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