Tanzania President John Magufuli - The Hero of the Hour

Africa Diary

President John Magufuli, born in north-western Tanzania’s Chato district along the shores of Lake Victoria, became known as ‘The Bulldozer’ for driving a programme to build roads across the country. He has an eye for details and ensures that whatever assignment he takes it gets completed. He upholds traditional family values and loves singing at the church choir besides playing traditional drums. He had performed push-ups at rallies to refute allegations by the opposition that he was physically unfit for the top job.

Tanzanian economy is expected to expand by about 7 percent in the current fiscal year, and to maintain stable growth in the future. This may be the outcome of the negative impact of low commodity prices that are offset by strong manufacturing. The inflation rate rose to 6.8 percent in December 2015 from 6.6 percent, driven by increase in food prices that account for about half the weighting in the consumer price basket. Tanzanian Central Bank Governor Benno Ndulu says that inflation is a challenge now in East Africa across the board, mainly food-driven, but they will try to maintain it below 10 percent.

The economy expanded 6.3 percent on an annual basis in the third quarter of 2015 compared with 7.9 percent the quarter earlier. Growth in agriculture slowed to 2.7 percent from 4.2 percent. Agriculture is the biggest component of the Tanzanian economy, accounting for about a third of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Economic diversification from this agrarian economy would help propel the growth in future. The Focus Economics panel of economic analysts expects GDP to expand 6.8 percent in 2016. For 2017, panellists expect GDP to increase to 6.9 percent.

Nicknamed as ‘The Bulldozer’, a former mathematics and chemistry teacher with a corruption free reputation is what John Pombe Magufuli is known for. He went on to become an industrial chemist and was awarded a doctorate in chemistry from Dar es Salaam University in 2009. He won the election to become Tanzania’s next president on his 56th birthday. With the backing of the formidable Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) machinery, Magufuli won the October 29, 2016 poll with 58 percent of the votes to Lowassa’s 40 percent in a fiercely contested election. He has earned the reputation of no-nonsense, results driven politician besides being criticised for auctioning off state owned homes to government employees and the public.

President John Magufuli, born in north-western Tanzania’s Chato district along the shores of Lake Victoria, became known as ‘The Bulldozer’ for driving a programme to build roads across the country. He has an eye for details and ensures that whatever assignment he takes it gets completed. He upholds traditional family values and loves singing at the church choir besides playing traditional drums. He had performed push-ups at rallies to refute allegations by the opposition that he was physically unfit for the top job.

John Magufuli was elected MP in 1995, and worked as minister for works, supervising execution of mega projects. He has promised to tackle the power shortages in Tanzania and to exploit its gas resources. He does not tolerate corruption and this drove many voters towards him. Many analysts say that he has become more popular than the party.

John Magufuli made his intentions clear in his first speech to parliament, when he said, “I’m telling government officers who are lazy and negligent to be prepared. They were tolerated for a long time. This is the end.” He has declared war on corruption and waste and undertook several measures -

• Slashing the cabinet from 30 to 19 posts, merging some ministries and dispensing with others;

• Firing tainted officials such as Ports Authority Director General Awadhi Massawef and anti-corruption chief Edward Hoseah;

• Banning inessential foreign travel for politicians and business class flights for all but the most senior figures;

• Personally visiting ministries to ensure that staff are at their desks;

• Cracking down on lavish state events, he even banned Independence Day celebrations in favour of leading a street cleaning campaign to address the nation’s cholera outbreak;

• Suspending two senior immigration officials following allegations of impropriety and financial malfeasance, in a move to ensure accountability in all public institutions;

• Sacking the head of the Dar es Salaam ports authority and suspending the chief of the revenue authority, after being found that thousands of containers had been cleared without the taxes being paid;

• Asking how engineers were given V8s when a pick-up is more suitable for their jobs;

• No more sitting allowance to MPs;

• All individuals/firms that bought state companies that were privatised but haven’t done anything (20 years later) were to either revive the industries immediately or hand them back to the government.

Magufuli’s anti-waste measures have already started to pay off, with the state’s monthly revenues rising from 900 billion shillings (R6.4 billion) to 1.5 trillion shillings (R10.6 billion). He is a result oriented leader and has supporters drooling over him, but some Opposition leaders are of the view that Magufuli has displayed authoritarian tendencies such as the banning of a weekly tabloid, halting of live television broadcasts of full parliamentary sessions and demolitions of illegally-built houses countrywide.

Magufuli has vowed to fight incompetent government officials and to use the government’s money more effectively. He has openly criticised acts of corruption and mismanagement by his own party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which has been in power since 1977. Even the Opposition admits that this has been a good start for the president. However, there are fears that Magufuli is running a one man show and making decisions, even positive ones, without regard to existing laws. “We, as the parliament, have to support his efforts of increasing accountability in the country, but we have to make sure that all this happens on the base of our rules and regulations,” says Zitto Kabwe, one of the leading Opposition parliamentarians.

Kate Hixon, Africa program officer at Freedom House, is of the opinion that despite the initial achievements, upon closer examination, the negative aspects of Magufuli’s performance to date outweigh the positives. She specifically points to new restrictions on media freedom, the failure to restart the constitutional reform process and the lingering political crisis in Zanzibar, where the general election was annulled in suspicious circumstances.

Magufuli got his presidency off to a flying start. There is no denying that things have slowed down a little since then. While there are a few things Magufuli could have done better, viz. Zanzibar is a political mess that he has failed to address. Some other less popular measures undertaken by him are the expulsion of slum dwellers and cracking down on the migrants who were in the country illegally.

Tanzanians seem to be very optimistic about the direction in which he is taking the country.

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Author

Surbhi Arora

Ms. Surbhi Arora has over twenty-three years of rich experience in Finance, Project Management, Company Secretarial work and Academics. She did her masters’ both in Economics and Law, and is UGC NET qualified in Economics and has the prestigious Accountant Technician Certificate from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. She has the Lifetime Membership of Indian Accounting Association. Presently, she is working as an Assistant Professor (Senior Scale) in the Academic Unit, CCE, at the University of Petroleum & Energy Studies.

References

1. John Magufuli - Tanzania’s ‘Bulldozer’ president in profile, by Ruth Nesoba, BBC Africa, Dar es Salaam, 24 November 2015, From the section Africa

2. Tanzania Central Bank Sees Strong Economy, Higher Inflation, by Joseph Burite, January 8, 2016 — 10:30 AM IST, Updated on January 9, 2016 — 2:07 AM IST

3. John Magufuli, the no-frills President who declared war on waste, by Kieron Monks, for CNN, Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT) January 14, 2016

4. Tanzania: Hundred days later, what has Magufuli done?, by Simon Allison, Africa, 14 Feb 2016 09:50 (South Africa)

5. https://www.lusakatimes.com/2015/11/26/new-tanzanian-president-john-magufuli-makes-radical-changes/

6. http://allafrica.com/stories/201512081466.html

7. http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/tanzania-presidents-reforms-raise-hopes-of-better-african-leaders-20160114

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