Tanzanian President John “ Bulldozer,” Pompe Magufuli clocked one year in office on November 5, 2016 and this writer attempts to show the impact that he has made on the Tanzanian society in the twelve months he has been President which has not gone unnoticed in most African countries including Zambia.
The nick name “Bull dozer” comes from his time at the Ministry of Works where he ensured roads and government projects were finished on time and never tolerated indiscipline and mediocre performance. Magufuli has rekindled Tanzanians’ nostalgia for their founding father Mwalimu Nyerere for his leadership ethos of humility, modesty, integrity, personal discipline and public service ethic.
The 57 year old, former Chemistry teacher and University lecturer’s achievements have resulted in the respected and prestigious New African Magazine recently voting him as the “2016 Person of the Year.” for his efforts to root out corruption. Dr. Magufuli is also one of the nominees of the Forbes Magazine prize for “Africa Person of the year” award for boosting the Tanzanian economy. In a recent poll in Tanzania, his approval rating was put at 96%.
The reluctant Presidential candidate
In order to put Dr. Magufuli’s rise to the Presidency in perspective, it is important to give the reader a bit of background about Tanzania’s 2015 elections. The party that led Tanzania to Independence in 1961, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and founded by the late father of the nation, Julius Mwalimu Nyerere was headed for a devastating electoral defeat in 2015 similar to what happened to Zambia’s UNIP of Kenneth Kaunda in 1991.Tanzanians had been fade up with the corruption, inertia, poor government services and so on and so forth and had decided that it was time for change. The CCM brand was damaged badly and the opposition for the first time had united under one candidate and ready to take over the reins of power.
According a SADC diplomat, the elders of CCM including some previous Presidents thought the only way for the Party’s survival was for the immediate rebranding of the Party and decided that the only person who can do that was the young leader with a squeaky clean image and impeccable record of achievements and success in whatever Ministry he had been posted. That person was the Chemical engineer, Dr. John Pompe “Bull Dozer” Magufuli.
The elders of CCM visited Magufuli and tried to persuade him but failed on their first attempt as he warned them that he was not the right person. He argued that they knew what type of person he was and how he operated. He asked them to go back and rethink about their proposal and come back after two weeks. In the meantime, he was also going to think through their proposal. Magufuli, a staunch catholic, who was also a drummer in the church choir, is said to have prayed over the issue and fasted for two weeks.
The Party elders came back after two weeks and Magufuli asked them whether they still wanted him to run as CCM Presidential candidate given his way of operating, they answered in the affirmative and he finally agreed. He went on a campaign trail using his record and not the CCM brand .He promised the electorate to change the country forever and most Tanzanians believed him. He won the Presidency by 58% purely due to his clean image compared to the combined Opposition of 40% whose candidate was former Prime Minister Edward Lowasa , who had defected to the Opposition after failing to be adopted by the ruling party. Lowasa’s past was not so clean.
In his inauguration speech, he vowed to ensure that Tanzanians walked the talk in confronting society’s vices which had encouraged laziness and did not reward hard work and honesty. He vowed to transform Tanzania’s infrastructure by ending Tanzania’s endemic power shortage, improve the railway system, improve the efficiency and utilization of Dar –es- salaam port, industrialize Tanzania through the manufacture of clothes, textiles, edible oils and other agro based industries and ensure manufacturing accounted for 40% of jobs by 2020.
Immediately he took over, Dr. Magufuli’s modus operandi was a hands on management style. One of the tactics he used was undertaking surprise visits to institutions. He thus applied what can be described as “shock therapy” to Tanzanian society which has been immensely successful so far and some of the notable achievements are outlined in this article below.
War on corruption
Magufuli has since taking the reins of power waged a relentless war against corruption which has had a positive impact on Tanzania to an extent that whereas it used to take two weeks to clear a car at Dar es- salaam port, it now takes less than forty eight hours. There are several hundreds senior government officials and private sector individuals who are in prison as he fast tracked corruption trials by setting up a separate special court for corruption suspects from the normal court system to speed up trials.
He has also instilled discipline and accountability in government. The civil servants’ practice of absenteeism and late coming is a thing of the past in Tanzania. Magufuli has fired several senior government officials including a senior railway official, the head of the port authority, the head of the tax authority and the head of the anti corruption body, a hospital head of the main Government hospital after finding patients sleeping on the floor. He has earned a reputation of a no –nonsense man and a man who when he says something, he follows through and does not lie or bluff.
Domestic revenue mobilisation
Tax collection has sky rocketed in Tanzania as the number businesses paying tax has gone up following tax amnesty and ending the ad hoc grants of tax holidays to businesses especially multinationals. There is now widespread compliance to tax laws in Tanzania unlike before.
Magufuli introduced free education up to secondary school in January,2016 as promised during his election campaign which has been funded from the savings from government waste. Tanzania has seen tremendous improvements in hospitals and schools services. It is a totally different country.
Reduction in Government waste and curtailed foreign trips
Government expenditure and waste has been stemmed with foreign trips curtailed and cleared personally by him. He has led by example by making only three foreign trips – Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya- in twelve months that resulted in practical deals with Uganda and Rwanda changing their original plans of routing their pipeline and railway projects from Kenya through Tanzania respectively.
He instigated an investigation on the government payroll that discovered over 10,000 ghost workers who have since been removed, saving the treasury $2million dollars per month
Aspiring Petty dictator?
He has had his fair share of critics who accuse him of being autocratic but most supporters believe when you have a country which had been rotten to the core as Tanzania was, with corruption and lack of rule of law, you needed a patriotic democratic dictator to clean up the mess and normalize society.
“People believe sincerely that there is a new sheriff in town,” According to former Prime Minister and OAU secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim. “ But I worry. At some point President Magufuli will have to review his methods. He cannot be a one- man show”.
According to a report by a BBC correspondent, Magafuli has been criticized for his dictatorial tendencies as demonstrated by his introduction of the Cyber law which has resulted in over ten people being charged for insulting the President on social media as well as closing down two radio stations and a newspaper which actions are tantamount to limiting freedom of expression. The US aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation(MCC) cancelled $500 m of funding partly due enforcement of cyber crime law and the limits of freedom of expression.
“ There is no doubt President Magufuli is very popular among many ordinary Tanzanians,’’ Political analyst, Katila is reported to have told the BBC. “ But many are also keen to see him provide civic space for freedom of expression and political gathering and rallies which his government banned a couple of months ago”
The difference between Magufuli and other leaders in Africa is that he leads by example. He means what he says and follows things up and he cannot be lied to. He is a hands on person and does not over delegate. He is a man of action.
In Africa, effective leaders are those who are feared but respected by subordinates and who keep some social distance with subordinates and avoid “ ichibeleshi” (familiarity).They also avoid cosy relationships with business people and never accept gifts from them which may compromise them and lead to State capture.
There is no doubt that President Magufuli has turned around the Tanzanian economy which has attracted massive foreign investments in the twelve months he has been President. He has changed the culture and mindset of Tanzanians although some of his methods are pretty dictatorial and are intolerant of freedom of expression and alternative voices. He should , however, be commended for the achievements in such a short space of time clearly demonstrating that an individual at the top can make or break the fortunes of a country.
There are so many lessons for our President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu to learn from Magufuli. The major ones in general terms include the need for the implementation of pronouncements, leading by example, avoiding populist decisions and wanting to be liked while doing more harm to the country, instilling discipline in the Party and government, being firm but fair, firing those who err regardless of how close and what their political contribution to you will send a clear message to others to be on their toes and not take one for granted.
As a last word, there are lessons for African Presidents including John Magufuli and our own Zambian President, his Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu to learn from the latest satirical article by a blogger on Ghana’s former President John Dramani Mahama’s supposedly “ concession speech”.
Here are some of the excerpts of the widely circulated satirical concession speech which some people have erroneously believed to be the actual speech Dramani delivered.
“When those who opposed us cried foul, we retorted, “Hate can’t win.” Tonight, however, I am the first to admit that some hate can win. This election has taught me that the hate of corruption can win. It has taught me that hate of incompetence can win. Our defeat has taught me that hate of impunity can win. I have learnt that the hate of the obscene display of ill-gotten opulence wins. I have learnt that hate of mediocrity and deception definitely wins. And I have learnt that hating evil will forever triumph over the love of evil. That was what happened on Wednesday.
Another important lesson I have learnt from this defeat is that the success or failure of a leader depends on the kind of people he or she surrounds themselves with. While Rawlings appointed the likes of Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas as deputy ministers, I made the mistake of giving that respectable position to the likes of John Oti Bless. I have now realised, rather too late, that if I had kept the likes of Ben Dotsei Malor and Dr. Raymond Atuguba around me, they would have injected some semblance of sanity into the Presidency and given that high office an aura of respectability and decency. The praise-singing sycophants who act on the dictates of their stomachs are only specialized at telling you what you want to hear. Unfortunately, I did not listen to voices of reason.”
The writer is a Chartered Accountant by profession and a financial management expert. He is an independent and non partisan commentator/analyst. He has lived in the diaspora in England, South Africa and Botswana for over 25 years before returning home three years ago.