The Lord said to Samuel: “How long will you go on grieving over Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. But now get some olive oil and go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, because I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
So Samuel did as the Lord told him to do.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Jesse’s son Eliab and said to himself: “This man standing here in the Lord’s presence is surely the one he has chosen.”
But the Lord said to him: “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”
Then one by one of the seven sons of Jesse were paraded in front of Samuel, but none of them received God’s approval.
So Jesse sent for the youngest son David, a humble shepherd who was out in the field tending to his father’s flock.
The Lord said to Samuel: “This is the one – anoint him!”
Samuel took the olive oil and anointed David in front of his brothers.
This biblical classic story offers some very good insights into the challenging task of choosing visionary and effective political leaders.
The Lord says the task of identifying a good leader requires knowing someone much more deeply than just getting to know their name, qualifications, professional experience or whether they are wakwathu, wakwithu, jwa kumangwetu, oowanihu and so forth.
It is the inherent behaviour embedded in the attitude, principles and virtues of a particular individual which, as noted by Noel Mbowela elsewhere, enables them to exude the late Nelson Mandela’s ‘servant’ leadership doctrine anchored on the three pillars of selflessness, honesty and people-centeredness.
Most Malawians, regrettably, tend to ignore aspiring political leaders’ natural qualities at the expense of some cosmetic attributes like mostly name, place of origin and political party affiliation.
Consequently, the yoke of mediocrity hangs heavy over our nation, sinking it and suffocating it, with each passing day because the leadership is full of it.
Imagine on Thursday President Peter Mutharika during private audience with the United Kingdom’s (UK) Minister of Trade and Industry Francis Maude on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in Valletta, Malta, pleaded with the UK to support Malawi in its public service reforms.
But is it not almost clear that the country’s presidential absolute powers and predatory leadership, which lead to the ruling elite meddling in the management of the civil service, suffocate the public sector reforms?
The main problem with the country’s public service is many people in wrong jobs because of political appointments, transfers or dismissals made through presidential directives or blue-eyed public servants who joined the industry on a ‘know-who code’, which has very little bearing on improving professionalism and the performance of an individual.
Even Vice-President Saulos Chilima, who chairs the Public Service Reform Commission (PSRC), once ‘unintelligently’ singled out political interference as the cause of demoralisation and frustration in the public service.
But when he realised that he is just a rat in the whole well-laid scheme, he got wiser and stopped reminding the powers that be (the cat) the need to tie a bell on him. And Mutharika still holds absolute powers.
PSRC, therefore, has stayed away from the issue and busied itself with addressing its effects.
If Mutharika were David —a leader with inner, hidden qualities like humility, courage, hard-work, patriotism and selfless service to humanity, and that Malawi yearns for — he would realise that he holds the key to successful public service reforms, rather the UK. n