A good leader should be a good shepherd

Tony Zakaria

You know why many people find something to like about the religion they used to love but are no longer practising it? Because there are a lot of good lessons for everyday life in the scriptures.

Doubting Thomases may abound in our societies but they still find time to hate their neighbours as they do their own self. They learned scripture backwards.

A good shepherd is loved by his sheep, so says the bible. This shepherd comes through the front door to guard and protect his flock. The sheep hear his voice and when he calls they answer willingly. He leads them to feed in good pastures. He walks ahead and they follow him.

When did you ever see such a shepherd in Tanzania? We have millions of sheep, goats and cattle in Tanzania. Few families keep just sheep, unlike some of our middle eastern and south Asian brethren. We mistreat our sheep the same way we beat and kick our cattle from the grazing grounds to the boma.

I heard of the story of the good shepherd back in my young and reckless days, but I had never actually seen one. It is only later I understood the shepherd refers to people other than the lamb herder. A father is a shepherd in his home. But the fathers we knew growing up in Moshi district Kilimanjaro province were like German colonial masters. Literally.

They ruled their houses like an army barracks. The father’s word was law, any deviation was met with stiff punishments. You were lucky to get off with a slap and a curse word such as ‘demfuu’ and ‘shuweni’.

Few mothers escaped the wrath of such dads. So when the father made an appearance, everybody vanished like magic. Men were taught to whistle or hum a tune as they approached their homesteads so children knew when daddy was coming.

Time to vanish or face untold scolding or punishment for wrongs yet to be identified. It was tough being a kid and even tougher being the wife of Baba Pilato. Kids have it easy these days, but that is a story for another day.

A teacher in the classroom is shepherd of biblical proportions. The old teachers who drilled pupils in middle and extended primary schools were feared by their flock and well respected by local communities. You did not follow the teacher but did what was demanded of you unless you liked to trouble troubles.

Good shepherds they were not but they were strict disciplinarians. If you saw a teacher even after school in the village, you made yourself scarce. And if you were playing with friends and saw daddy coming, you ran home as fast as you could.

Some pupils vowed they would one day become teachers so they could make a whole school tremble without saying anything. To this day some teachers are lion kings. Leaders are shepherds too, in the context of scripture. Their flock can be massive, stretching over several districts in a province.

Or perhaps a company, state department or private factory. You can find a hotel manager or company director who instills fear in his subordinates, so much they make unnecessary mistakes out of panic. You could have a damaging director who unilaterally decides every path the company takes even if there are no benefits for what she is imposing.

This is the traditional shepherd who knows where the pastures are green and which roads pose a danger to the flock. Is this the shepherd whose voice the sheep hear and follow willingly? Maybe if she is willing to lay down her life to protect the sheep from wolves.

Where am I going with this? At this time in the history of Tanzania, the world is the pasture and every country is looking for the best grazing grounds for its flocks. America or Britain cannot protect our interests. America is quite clear about going where there are American interests.

And President Trump has vowed to put America first. Britain wants the best deal for its citizens hence Brexit negotiations with the European union. I can bet when world leaders visit our countries, they bring huge delegations of traders/ business persons to negoti- ate favourable trade agreements with our countries.

Sometimes foreign aid is tied to implementing agencies from donor countries. They are just looking out for their own sheep. Who is looking out for our own companies which make products and services that can be traded outside Tanzania?

This is something our leaders should do or keep doing. Some eight years or so ago a group of Ugandan visitors told me how much they liked Azam flour which was readily available in their shops. Since then I never heard of any leader publicly praising such products. Do we even know we have products that are highly sought after outside Tanzania? Who is saying good things about our own traders both major and minor?

Because nationals of other countries won’t sing their praises. The government has been doing a good job taking care of the basic needs of ordinary people in terms of providing education, clean water and health services.

And modernising the transport and communication infrastructure. Leaders from district to national level can become good shepherds by promoting, supporting and protecting private sector actors and agencies. If Tanzania wishes to succeed in the private-public partnership, it has to sing praises of its private sector.

Is being rich a sin? If it is we would not hear so many preachers urging their flocks to pray for wealth and prosperity. I think Tanzanians are still struggling with leftover sentiments of the Ujamaa era when poverty was equitably shared.

Rich Tanzanians are only described in foreign magazines like Forbes. Perhaps in Tanzania we are obsessed with what wealthy citizens may have done wrong. A good shepherd looks after all sheep even though all families have black sheep. There was a time when almost every sheep in the Bongo family was black.

That is how the system was then. Now we have cleaned house, it is time to move on and let the past stay in the past. From this point forward, businesses must operate according to the new norm by paying taxes and following laid down regulations. But national interests must come first when dealing with the rest of the world. We must lead our sheep to graze near restful waters.

Otherwise who will shepherd them?

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