Telling the truth, however bitter, speaks volumes about leadership

18Oct 2019
The Guardian
Telling the truth, however bitter, speaks volumes about leadership

THERE is an expression in literature that reality is stranger than fiction – that if one imagines the most bizarre of scenes and puts them down in a story, some real event in life is likely to dwarf that effort.

That was nearly the case on Wednesday when Dr John Magufuli, who has met plenty of strange scenarios in his years as cabinet minister and more recently as President, toured Nachingwea District in Mtwara Region.

After an elderly resident told him of the chaotic situation that leaders were muffling praise words about the Head of State, the president directed police to ensure that the elder was guarded and that he met with no misfortune for having told him the stark truth.

The scenario was an illustration of how difficult it can be to get things done in a non-competitive environment in public sector projects.  The picture that keeps coming up when dirty linen is lined up to dry on finances of a certain district is usually the same: dishonest leaders gang up to make a buck on the backs of the people’s expectations – and nothing can dislodge them from that position.

For, how many times can the president actually visit each district and hear from an elderly resident what is really happening on the ground?

Reports say that this was after the president had addressed a rally where leaders spoke of the good job they were doing to improve service delivery in the area.

It is said that a senior citizen raised his hand and pointed out incomplete projects that were not mentioned, despite their having gobbling up large amounts of public funds. Even in real life it is ludicrous for public officials with a suspicious record to lie to none other than a head of state.

Looking into the situation, it appears that this is not an isolated incident though, to his credit, the president quite often knows the situation and officials are surprised by his mastery of details.  Without a spirited fight against corruption and using all sources of information at their disposal, even the keenest of leaders cannot fully know what is happening around them because officialdom is good in covering it up. See: in Nachingwea even those sources told him nothing. Rather, it was an ordinary elder who did so.

There is one thing that should not be missed in remembering what happened in Nachingwea, and there was also another case where a regional police chief and a district commissioner were ordered to pay a middle-aged widow 15m/- for negligence in a case of livestock theft.

Those fond of braving district and regional officialdom to tell the president the truth are potentially in danger, and if they become numerous and everywhere the president goes another whistleblower turns up, it gets all the more dangerous.

The issue isn’t envy or malice against those officials but real pain and suffering among the people, like people waiting for vital public services but to no avail.

When religious leaders pray that all people should work to guard the peace that we have, can anyone afford to continue misusing public funds and still hope that will fool our leaders and maintain the peace?

Where genuinely good governance reigns, people need not keep coming up to tell a whole head of state the truth in each district, ward or village. When shall all concerned do as good governance dictates?